Indiana, Jefferson County, Madison
river mile 560
Clifty Falls is a wonderful State Park. It has accommodations to suit everyone, from primitive camping to the hotel with conference center and restaurant. In addition to classic State Park activities such as hiking and birdwatching, it is right next to the town of Madison, which offers 19th century architecture, several small historic museums, and antique malls and restaurants.
Yet from the viewpoint of a fan of the Ohio River it falls quite short. The winding road up the steep bluff from the riverside is charming, and the view of the Ohio from the Inn at the top of the cliff is outstanding. The Nature Center is in a handsome building, but its exhibits are meager and outdated. There is one panel of information about coal on the Ohio, and with a handful of historic photographs. It also offers an informative pamphlet about the geology of Clifty Falls. Yet — there is no connection to the River! View, yes, but no way to access it except by looking.
This is unfortunate because the state park is created by the river. Without the high bluff it would not be here. The Nature Center would be an excellent location —- the premier location in the Ohio River Parks Project system — for a complete exploration of the geology of the Ohio River — and its social and economic role. Start with the Teays River, discuss the archaic and Mississippian peoples who lived along it, explore why Madison thrived and then declined. Follow the history up to why this river is now a road for the transport of coal and chemicals, and no other purposes, and why the coal-fired power plant that dominates the view from the Inn, is located here. Because of its prominent location and the excellent facilities it already offers Clifty Falls could be the literal high point of the journey along the river for understanding its geology. Get on it, DNR!