Preserve Rules and FAQ

Red-tail’s nature preserves are sanctuaries for wildlife and special places where people enjoy a wilderness experience.

Following our preserves’ rules allows plants, wildlife, and unique natural landscapes to exist for generations to come.

Before visiting, please review the nature preserve rules and Frequently Asked Questions. If there are maintenance issues, please contact us.

Frequently Asked Questions

The top priority of a nature preserve is supporting and preserving the health of an ecosystem and the plants and wildlife within. The habitats in nature preserves are protected so plants and wildlife can live in an undisturbed sanctuary. Preserves offer a visitor a wilderness experience. By comparison, the priority of a park is generally recreation and often has more visitor amenities.

The trail map which shows Red-tail’s nature preserve trails is available for viewing and download on our website. Copies of the trail map can be picked up at our office or requested to be mailed. Most nature preserves have trailhead signs with a map of trails.

Visiting a Red-tail preserve is a taste of wilderness. Nearly all of Red-tail’s trails are natural paths with no paving or alteration. Trails are regularly trimmed or mowed to keep the path clear, though some remain narrow. Plants may droop onto paths. 

Dutro-Ernst Woods and Red-tail Nature Preserve are the only public nature preserves which have graveled trails. These are wide, generally flat paths. 

Red-tail protects vital, biodiverse habitats which include wetlands and wetland forests. After rain, trails may be muddy or temporarily submerged in water. Whenever possible, please use boardwalks. To protect sensitive plants you may not see, do not walk off trail. Walk through the puddles.

Parking options vary at Red-tail preserves and can be found by viewing the trail map. Red-tail Nature Preserve, McVey Memorial Forest, Stout Memorial Woodland, and Fall Creek Woods have gravel parking lots. Other preserves have packed soil parking areas.

If you can step over blockage, we welcome you to continue your exploration. Going off trails to walk around blocked areas can create unplanned paths which may crush sensitive native plants and increase soil erosion. 

If the trail is impassable or the blockage results in dangerous conditions, please call our office (765) 288-2587 or take a photo and email

Dogs are welcome at Red-tail’s nature preserves, but must be leashed at all times. This protects plant and wildlife communities and helps other preserve visitors feel safe. All dog waste must be picked up and packed out. Red-tail does not have staff that pick up poop bags left on the side of trails.

All of Red-tail’s public preserves are free and open to the public daily from dawn to dusk. 

Hunting, fishing, or collecting is prohibited on all Red-tail nature preserves. This includes picking plants, mushrooms, rocks, or removing any wildlife from the habitat (including insects). All parts of the ecosystem are critical to habitat health. 

There are limited hunting permits available for select sites. No permits are available at this time.

Youth groups, school classes, walking groups or any other non-commercial groups are welcome to hold activities. Reservations or fees are not required. All groups and activities must follow visitor guidelines and preserve rules. Additionally, sections of a trail may not be closed off, even temporarily, to other visitors.

No. Releasing domestic or wild animals into our nature preserves is not permitted. Introducing new animals, even wild ones you caught in other areas, disturbes the balance of a healthy ecosystem. If you have possession of wildlife, visit

To minimize impact on habitats, there are no restroom facilities of any kind of water fountains at any public Red-tail nature preserve.

Visitation Guidelines:

Please help maintain these sanctuaries in their natural state. Please contact us if there are management issues.

  • Open from sunrise to sunset
  • Always stay on the trail
  • Pets must remain on a leash
  • All trash and dog waste must be packed out
  • Plants and wildlife must be left undisturbed
  • Placement of geocaches by permission only
  • Hunting, fishing, trapping, camping, horseback riding, cycling and vehicles of all kind are strictly prohibited
  • No releasing domestic or wild animals