Oliver’s Woods Nature Preserve on the northside of Indianapolis is truly an urban oasis. You can see and hear the vehicles roar by from I-465, just a short distance away. You can walk through tall grasses as you walk past billboard signs. This place is a great place to experience the natural beauty of central Indiana and the progress of the city of Indianapolis.
Situated along the White River about a half mile from The Fashion Mall at Keystone, it’s easy to miss the entrance to this nature preserve. There isn’t a sign that tells visitors they’ve come to the right place — it’s one of those “if you know, you know” type of Indy hidden gems. But if you enter the address into your maps app or GPS (8825 River Rd, Indianapolis), it should take you to the right place.
Oliver’s Woods Nature Preserve is made up of 16 acres of woods, 37 acres of prairie-savanna restoration, and a mile of White River banks. The land, which is owned by the Central Indiana Land Trust, includes walking and hiking trails, native plants and trees, and boat access to the White River. As you explore the tree-shaded trails, you’ll see lots of native species along the way, like wild ginger, Virginia bluebells, waterleaf, wild hyacinth and trillium.
The southern half of the popular Town Run Trail Park is located within the property boundaries of Oliver’s Woods. The trails are used by mountain bikers, joggers and walkers.
History of Oliver’s Woods Nature Preserve
The name of the nature preserve comes from Oliver Daugherty, the man who owned the property previously. Developers offered to buy the land for millions of dollars, but Daugherty refused. He wanted to preserve the little piece of Indianapolis nature where his family had lived for generations.
When Daugherty died in 2009 at the age of 73, he did not have any heirs to pass the land onto. So, he left the property to the Central Indiana Land Trust. Since then, Oliver’s Woods Nature Preserve has been in charge of preserving the land and restoring it. The restoration efforts have continued through today thanks to support from donors, including the Glick Family Fund, Central Indiana Community Foundation and PK Partners, as well as thousands of hours of volunteer support from businesses like Charles Schwab, Eli Lilly, REI and other local community businesses and groups.
Visiting Oliver’s Woods Nature Preserve
Parking at Oliver’s Woods is located in the lot adjacent to I-465. Handicapped accessible parking is located by the Daugherty House.
For those visiting the nature preserve with a canoe or kayak: The canoe launch is available for any craft legally allowed on the water in the city of Indianapolis that you can carry to/from the river from the drop-off area in front of the Daugherty House.
Guided tours are offered on select days by volunteer docents. Tour guides will be available at Oliver’s Woods from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to help visitors learn more about the nature preserve. You’ll find docents at the nature preserve on the following days in 2022 (days subject to change):
- Tuesday July 12
- Saturday July 30
- Tuesday August 2
- Saturday August 27
- Tuesday September 6
- Saturday September 24
- Tuesday October 4
- Saturday October 22
- Tuesday November 1
- Saturday November 19
Oliver’s Woods Nature Preserve is located at 8825 River Road in Indianapolis. For more information, visit conservingindiana.org/preserves/olivers-woods.