Portland Arch Nature Preserve

Portland Arch Nature Preserve takes its name from a sandstone arch carved by Spring Creek, a small tributary of Bear Creek. While not the largest arch in Indiana, this National Natural Landmark is certainly the best known.

Portland Arch

The property has seen many uses over the years, and building foundations are still visible in places. There are two parking areas and trails, north and south; the arch lies along the former. Brochures are sometimes available at the trail entrances.


North Trail: After passing through the entrance stile, turn right. Youíll descend gradually at first, then veer left and descend dramatically into the bottom of the ravine formed by Spring Creek.

Bear Creek

A cliff face rises to your left, sometimes overhanging the path, while the creek is to your right. Soon Spring Creek takes a sharp left and cuts straight through the cliff face, quickly joining Bear Creek on the other side.


The arch is tall enough to walk through, and on the other side the trail turns left and begins to follow Bear Creek upstream. Bear Creek canyon is very scenic; high cliffs tower overhead, first on the left, then the right, then the left again.


The view of the bluffs between markers 16 and 17 is especially impressive; exuberant fern colonies occupy deep fissures in the rock face.

Swallows nest in these cliffs, and while they ceaselessly patrol for insects over water that alternately runs swift or backs up in clear quiet pools, mosquitoes still prosper. Eventually the trail makes a hard left toward a cliff; check the dry sandy soil under overhangs for the conical traps of ant lions that metamorphose into improbably beautiful and delicate adults.

From here, the path makes another hard left and begins climbing out of the valley, thence back to the parking area.


The South Trail explores a section of the Bear Creek canyon further upstream, passing at times through areas only recently acquired and now reverting to forest. It does not have the same scenic appeal as its companion, and receives many fewer visitors.

Youíll approach Bear Creek a couple of times, but most of the tread is through woods, including a rather long level stretch like an old railroad bed. Look here for fire pink in early summer.

Bear Creek

After approaching Bear Creek for the second time, the path climbs left and drops into, then quickly climbs out of, another ravine with an intermittent stream. From there itís a short walk back to the parking area.


Fountain County. From I-74 Exit 15, north 6.7 miles on US 41 to CR 650N, then west 4.8 miles to Walnut Street in Fountain. Left one block on Walnut, then left again onto Clay/Scout Camp Rd. The north entrance is 1/3 mile on the right; the south entrance is another quarter mile, also on the right.

North Trail: N 40 12.985 W 87 19.987

South Trail: N 40 12.866 W 87 19.856

DeLorme 36:A5

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Nearby Natural Areas

Fall Creek Gorge Nature Preserve
Rock Creek Nature Preserve


Bloom: Hiking Indiana; Page 87
Habeck: Wild Indiana; Page 68
Indiana Department of Natural Resources
McPherson: Indiana Best Hikes; Page 195
Nature Conservancy: Guide to Indiana Preserves; Page 216