ANDERSON — Along the banks of the White River across from Mounds State Park is a new 50-acre nature preserve.
The Hidden Canal Nature Preserve, so named for the Hydraulic Canal that passes through it, protects just over a third of a mile of riverfront.
“We’re protecting it because of the river corridor,” said Julie Borgmann, executive director for Red-tail Land Conservancy.
Wildlife use the natural corridor along the river to move and migrate.
Mike and Lynda Smart purchased the land to build a retirement home. When their plans changed they decided they wanted to see the land preserved.
Red-Tail purchased the property for below market value using private donations.
Borgmann credits the Mounds Greenway’s efforts to raise awareness of conservation of a free-flowing White River with helping to preserve the land.
The Hydraulic Canal was started in 1869. Eight miles long, it was designed to use the 44-foot drop in elevation between Daleville and Anderson to power mills.
Opening in 1874 the canal was an engineering failure and later abandoned.
About 4 miles of the original canal remain, according to Stephen Jackson, Madison County historian.
“There is so much history along our river ... for future generations to be assured that some of this history will be preserved and people will be able to see it in its raw natural state is exciting for me,” Jackson said.
“And that’s a great spot,” he said. “They’re right across from Mounds State park so both sides of the river are not going to be developed and will remain in a natural state, and people can enjoy it for what it is.”
The preserve is currently closed to the public, but there are plans to open it and add hiking trails, wildlife observation areas and educational signs.
But before that can happen the invasive species need to be removed, including bush honeysuckle that dominates the understory.
“It will be a couple of years. To do it right you have to be methodical with invasive species,” said Kelley Phillips, communication and outreach manager for Red-Tail.
This is the first preserve for Red-Tail in Madison County. They currently have four conservation easements along the river in Madison County and 10 public nature preserves in east central Indiana.