Report from the Land Trust: Meltzer Woods: A national natural landmark for 50 Years

By Bridget Walls, Central Indiana Land Trust communication and outreach intern

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Meltzer Woods’ National Natural Landmark designation. This beloved old growth forest near Shelbyville is the legacy of the Meltzer family. The late Brady Meltzer, who owned a sawmill during the Depression, left his own acreage uncleared.

In 2014, the late Phil Meltzer, Brady’s son, worked with the Central Indiana Land Trust to protect the woods forever. This protection encompassed the 50,000th acre protected by the Nature Preserves Act of Indiana.

Because of the Meltzer family’s dedication to keeping the land natural, it has been left as a forest for over a century or more. Some trees date back to the 1600s. The land is one of Indiana’s last remaining fragments of old-growth forest. It is a piece of living history that showcases the natural character of Indiana as it would have looked prior to European settlement.

Within a short drive of Indianapolis, Meltzer Woods is a place of solace. In the fall, the old-growth forest provides you with a bright yellow and orange canopy above your head. You will also see fall flowers like black-eyed susans and purple coneflowers. At any time of year, it is the perfect place for an awe-inspiring hike under majestic trees.

Within the preserve, you can also see a plaque embedded in a boulder, designating Meltzer Woods as a national natural landmark. This plaque reminds us that the woods was a site of national significance long before it became the state-dedicated nature preserve it is today.

Selection for an national natural landmark is based on a site’s rarity, diversity, illustrative character, and scientific and educational importance. Honored for its outstanding biological and geological features, Meltzer Woods is worthy of celebration and conservation.

Places such as this are a gift left to us by previous generations who were as passionate about protecting land as we are today. Because of the Meltzers’ wishes for the land, the mammoth trees can forever be studied by academics, exalted by poets, and loved by all who encounter them.

The Land Trust is proud to carry on this legacy of land protection and is honored to steward the national treasure of Meltzer Woods.

Headquartered on the Old Northside, the Central Indiana Land Trust stewards nature preserves throughout the central third of the state. For more information on Meltzer Woods and other land trust-owned preserves, visit

PHOTO ABOVE: Meltzer Woods has had national natural landmark status now for 50 years. PHOTO by Kyle Doles