Friday, August 12, 2011

Portland Arch

Doug and I took off on a little pre-anniversary getaway on Thursday. On the agenda was a visit to the Portland Arch Nature Preserve and National Natural Landmark, near Fountain, Indiana.

This is the natural sandstone arch, carved by a small tributary of Bear Creek, which is the focal point of the Nature Preserve.

This area has a special significance to me, not only for its beauty, but because it was once owned by my mother's family.


In its heyday, Portland Arch was a resort area, apparently drawing boatloads of people and the big bands of the day. I don't know a great deal about the history...just fragments that I've heard through the years. But, as I understand it, Mom's family borrowed $3,000 against the property to build a dam, apparently for the purpose of generating electricity for the resort. Shortly after that, the Great Depression hit our country, and the family lost the property.

After that, it was a Boy Scout camp, until accidents on the cliffs caused the Boy Scouts to close their camp. Since then, it has been a Nature Preserve.

The loop trail through the preserve is heavily wooded. This spider's web caught my eye, with the sun glistening on it.

A view of part of the trail.

Wildflowers along the trail.

Next to the Portland Arch Nature Preserve is an old cemetery, where several members of my mother's family are buried, including her parents and a brother. Several of her father's family members are also buried there. So the cemetery was also on our agenda to visit.

We were saddened to see that some of the huge oak trees had been cut down since our last visit.

Here, you can see the size of one of the stumps. We're estimating that they would measure about six feet across.

A pair of turkey vultures were sunning themselves in a tree at the cemetery, apparently an adult and a juvenile. The adult stretched its wings in preparation for flying as I snapped this shot.

This is the juvenile, just taking off. Unfortunately, I didn't get a clear shot. Operator error.

There was a second trail, through another part of the Nature Preserve, which we walked after our visit to the cemetery.

Along that trail, we found this colony of honeybees busily going about their work. I know it's hard to see them in the picture, but there were so many of them that the sound is what first caught our attention.

This butterfly posed just long enough for one shot. Fortunately, it was a pretty good one.

This cicada was too lethargic to have been healthy. He wasn't dead, but he wasn't exactly lively, either.

One last photo for today...
My grandmother may have taught school in this old schoolhouse in Fountain, Indiana. It has now been converted to a residence, and a very pretty one, at that.


  1. Now that must be a very special place for you.The pictures show a beautiful place,full of nature's best pictures.

  2. Wow Linda, I'd love that home (last picture)... What a neat old school --made into a home... Love it!!!!

    Love seeing the arch also. That looks like a fabulous area. Thanks!

  3. Fabulous enough as is, but the fact that your family once owned it and some are still (buried)!

    That spider web pic is possibly the best I've ever seen...looks like finely woven silver strands.

    Okay, this is another place on my bucket list!

  4. It's always a pleasure to your beautiful photo's, such a wonderful place ... and amazing that your family owned it at one point!

  5. I love visiting our old family cemetery. Even though I hardly met anyone buried there, I always feel a somber connection to my past relatives. Beautiful pictures. I love walking trails and looking for special things to photograph. Loved reading about this place and your family's history with it.

  6. Ruth - It's a long enough drive that we don't get there often, but it IS a special place for me.

    Betsy - The last time we had visited Fountain, the old school was painted red and appeared to have been set aside as a historical structure. I was surprised to find someone living in it this time, but I agree that they've made it into a beautiful home.

    Ethelmnae - That spider's web was indeed a work of art, and the sun was hitting it just right to make it glisten in the dark woods. I thought it resembled a CD. Can you see it?

    Deborah - Thanks kindly for the encouraging comment. I wish I could learn more about the history of the place when it was a resort. My mom and her brothers were the last generation that had any sort of first-hand knowledge of it.

    Elizabeth - I know what you mean about family cemeteries. As a Christian, I know that the grave is just a depository for the body and that the spirit lives on. But the burial spot does help us to keep a sense of connection to those who have gone before.

  7. Wow.. that your family once owned this land is just amazing and how incredible it must be to walk around the area. It's beautiful and I'm glad you were able to visit.

    Happy Anniversary to you.. or is it still "pre?"

  8. Hilary - It's so nice that the area has been preserved for people, including me, to enjoy. Thanks for the happy anniversary's still pre-...until tomorrow. :)

  9. I know you've told me this story before, but it was so interesting to hear it again. It's so neat to think that your grandmother might have taught in that school. A great guided tour for your readers. :)

  10. Thanks, Sandra. I've heard conflicting stories about Grandma and that school. One was that she taught there in Fountain, and that's where she met her husband. Another was that she boarded in Fountain with her husband-to-be's parents while teaching in the nearby town of Rob Roy. Either way, both of my mother's parents grew up in the area, and there's a lot of family history there.

  11. Hi, we visited and enjoyed the trails at arch. I wonder if you could shed any light on a few questions from the visit.

    At the trailhead was a large square foundation - was this a house or theboyscout camp?

    There was another foundation further on along the trail, right on the edge of the stream. Finally there was a significant concrete structure on thestream bed was this for.the power gen idea?



  12. Hi, mgg. Thanks for stopping by. I'm afraid I don't know enough to speak with any authority about the questions you asked, and all my family who would have had personal knowledge of those days are gone now.

    I don't believe there was ever a home on the site, so the first foundation you mentioned was probably related either to the resort or to the Boy Scout camp.

    The second foundation may have been from the hotel. The concrete structure on the stream bed may have been from the original dam; or, as I understand it, the Boy Scouts also tried to build a dam which was also washed out.

  13. Hello, I enjoyed reading your posts. I travel to Portland Arch often and have done quite a bit of history on it. The foundation you see at the trailhead is what is left of the Boy Scout Dinning Hall. The foundation at the lower level was also a dinning hall, when the Piankeshaw Boy Scouts purchased the land, in 1938. It was a dance hall and saloon many years before that. I have also made some patches for the scouts, after they have hiked both trails. The truth is the Boy Scout Council, did not close the camp because a scout was killed there. Stanley J Baldwin was killed there in 1944 and the camp was closed in 1962. The Council needed to update the camp with new wells and they also needed a nice swimming area, instead of using Bear Creek or the area that was known as the Ice Box. This was an area in Turning Mill Branch, the creek that runs through the Arch into Bear Creek. Most people do not know the name of the creek, but that is the correct name. I have many stories and have collected many items from Portland Arch ScoutReservation and I love going there. If you want to venture out, you can also find the Portland Hotel. I only have a couple of bad photos of the hotel, but I have measured the foundation and also have a great sketch, given to me by a boy scout, which drew it in 1944.

  14. Linda,
    If you ever read this, I would really like to talk to you about your family when they lived at Portland Arch. If you can please write me at, Thank you, Michael

  15. Michael - Thanks so much for your addition to some of the history of this place. I would enjoy learning more from you and have sent you a separate e-mail with some of my family information.

  16. Hi Linda,
    Just checked back on this site and see where you said you sent me an email ....... I checked but I did not get anything.. unless it was put into spam. Please send it to me again, and I will be sure to look in both places
    Thank you,

  17. Michael - I just sent the e-mail again. Hopefully, it will make it past your spam filter this time. You can also e-mail me directly at

  18. I lived across from the school house. I remember It being red. I used to sit and play in the rocks right at the opening to the lane to the school. I remember being able to take a tour through it and it was really cool. Even as a teenager. I have lots of memories. My son and I drove thru there today. School a home now. Our house torn down. Roundhouse and big odle walnut tree still there. Too much to put in here, but just many memories came flooding back.

  19. Anonymous - Thanks for sharing your memories of the town of Fountain. I, too, remember when the schoolhouse was red. I also remember, before that, when it and and the grounds around it, suffered from neglect. I think the building was white back then. And I think I remember your house and worrying that someone there would think I was up to no good as I parked my car and walked around a little.

    If you have more memories you'd like to share, you can e-mail me at


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