Black Hand Gorge

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Black Hand Gorge Nature Preserve is a 956-acre preserve in eastern Licking County. The primary feature of the preserve is a gorge that was created by the Licking River’s erosion of the Black Hand sandstone formation in the park. Black Hand Gorge Nature Preserve also includes four miles of bike paths, making it the only park in the Ohio Parks system to have bike trails. [1]

Although the gorge was created by the erosion of the Black Hand sandstone by a glacier nearly 200,000 years ago, that is not the origin of the park’s name. Before the construction of the Ohio-Erie Canal necessitated the dynamiting of portions of the sandstone, a petroglyph in the form of a black hand could be seen on the gorge’s northern wall. To this day, the origins behind the mark have been a source of discussion. Some legends claim the petroglyph was the hand of a thwarted lover who fell to his death. Others believe it served as a warning from area Native Americans to other tribes to pass in peace. Today the nature preserve continues to be a major destination for Licking Valley residents and visitors alike. [2]


Phillip Barrack was the first settler in Black Hand Gorge, making it his home in 1798. Most of the area that is now encompassed by the preserve was privately owned until the late 1960’s. In the 1960’s, much of the privately owned area was a mess; the natural beauty was marred by discarded refuse. According to a June 30, 1962 article in The Newark Advocate, many of the private citizens who owned the littered land said they would gladly give the property away to an organization that would clean it up. The push to create a nature preserve on the land began in the mid 1960’s, with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources purchasing 580 acres in 1973.[3] On September 20. 1975, the (then) 732-acre area received official recognition at Ohio’s 21st nature preserve. [4]

Monster of Blackhand Gorge

An article from October 12, 1973, reports a “creature” or “monster” being sighted in the Black Hand Gorge and Claylick area.[5] This article was followed up with another article by a resident who believed the creature that was spotted was nothing more than a bear and she was more scared of armed hunters searching for the creature.[6] However, there is an account from 1965 which tells of two terrifying encounters with the “Monster of Blackhand Gorge." The author classifies the creature as an “Ohio Grassman," or a Sasquatch-like creature. To read the full story, click here.



  1. “Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve,” Ohio Department of Natural Resources, 2017. accessed November 7, 2017
  2. “Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve,” Ohio History Connection, accessed November 19, 2017.
  3. Paula Massa, “Black Hand Gorge Holds Local History,” The Newark Advocate, May 3, 1973.
  4. “Black Hand Gorge to Get Official Recognition,” The Newark Advocate, September 19, 1975
  5. Bill Bern, “Chimerical Creature Terrorizing Claylick,” The Newark Advocate, October 12, 1973.
  6. “‘Monster’ Stories Persist,” The Newark Advocate, October 15, 1973.