Nearly 16,000 acres of contiguous forest in southeastern Ohio will be purchased and permanently protected by the state, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources announced last week.

Fantastic Forest

Nearly 16,000 acres of contiguous forest in southeastern Ohio will be purchased and permanently protected by the state, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources announced last week.

The state expects to complete the purchase by July 2010 and manage the land as the Vinton Furnace Experimental State Forest. The forest lies in Vinton County, about 75 miles from Columbus.

"This acquisition saves one of the last great remnants of Appalachian forests left in Ohio," said Josh Knights, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Ohio, in a recent release. The organization secured financial and logistical support for the project.

Vinton Furnace is one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the United States. It provides habitat for bobcats, black bear and migratory birds, including the rare cerulean warbler.

The land also has hosted significant research for more than 50 years. When the owner announced plans to sell in 2005, its acquisition was deemed a priority by The Nature Conservancy, ODNR and other conservation groups.

"Vinton Furnace represents one of the most important forest research and demonstration sites east of the Mississippi River," said Sean Logan, ODNR's director. "This agreement will forever protect this forest [and] assure that its use serves the public."

Web: ohiodnr.com

Wild Winter

With colder weather afoot, wildlife fans can experience a new side of The Wilds, one of the largest conservation facilities in North America. Some animals are hibernating, but things are just as adventurous out in Cumberland, southeast of Zanesville.

Winter Safari Tours will run Nov. 7 and 14 and continue on select Saturdays through March. The four-hour tours start at 11:30 a.m. and include a light lunch, short presentation and guided tour through open pastures to see Sichuan takin, Pere David's deer, Przewalski's wild horse, American bison and other animals roaming in their winter coats.

Tours also include a stop at the Rhino Management Center for an up-close look at resident rhinos in winter quarters.

Cost is $35 for adults, $25 for children 12 and younger. Seating is limited. Reservations and pre-payment by phone are required.

Web: thewilds.org

Hollowed Out

The Columbus Outdoor Adventurers will lead an excursion to Tar Hollow State Park, Laurelville's woody treasure trove, Friday-Sunday, Nov. 20-22.

About 15 miles of hiking and tent camping at a secluded shelter house await on what's likely to be the group's final camp of the year. The COA website makes an even better sell: "Expect hot chocolate and apple cider at night, hiking by day."

The trip costs $10. Advanced registration is required.

Web: meetup.com/columbus-adventurers

Weekend Warrior

Tangible relics of another time, American Indian mounds dot Central Ohio. Guides will discuss the Fort Ancient culture, responsible for many local earthworks, during a three-mile hike at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

Meet at the Indian Ridge bulletin board. Dress warm and wear sturdy shoes.

Web: metroparks.net

Outdoor Tip of the Month

If you're camping anywhere in Ohio this month, you'll need a tent, sleeping bag and pad rated for frigid conditions. Here's another tip for surviving cold nights outside, courtesy of TheOutdoorSource.com. Consume high-calorie treats before you sleep - carbs for initial warmth and proteins and fats for the long haul. Wash these down with large doses of warm beverages before you hit the sack, which will help maintain healthy blood pressure.