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 Their Home

Eastern hellbender map. Hellbenders inhabit rivers and streams throughout the eastern United States, including Indiana's Blue River. They require clean, cool, swift-flowing water containing high levels of dissolved oxygen. Because they require high quality water and habitat, their presence can indicate a healthy stream ecosystem. 

 

These interesting creatures are quite secretive and spend most of their time underneath large, flat rocks. They also utilize woody snags, debris, and bedrock for shelter. They are primarily nocturnal and forage for crayfish at night, returning to their shelter rock/object before dawn.Hellbenders live in clear, fast-flowing rivers and streams.

 

Hellbenders are most active during their breeding season, which occurs in late or early fall. During this time period, males will choose suitable nest rocks for reproductive purposes and will defend it from other males. They prefer gravel and cobble substrates due to their importance in providing habitat for larvae. These substrates also offer hiding places for food items (macro-invertebrates) consumed by younger individuals.

 

Eastern hellbenders are currently found across Appalachia, parts of the Midwest, and across the northern tips of several southern states. Their range occupies an area from southern New York to sections of northern Georgia through Tennessee, and west to central Missouri (see distribution map). The eastern hellbender has experienced significant declines throughout its geographic range resulting in various levels of protection among state agencies.

 Blue River Watershed Map

The Blue River

Hellbenders are found in only one place in Indiana: the Blue River watershed. This area comprises roughly 125,000 acres of land in Clark, Crawford, Floyd, Harrison, and Washington Counties that all drains into the Blue River. This part of the state is widely recognized for its scenic beauty and its expansive network of caves. A significant portion of the watershed has been set aside for recreational use and natural protection within the Harrison-Crawford State Forest and Obannon Woods State Park.

 

The main stem of the Blue River runs nearly 60 miles before it falls into the Ohio River near Leavenworth. Because much of the flow comes from springs and underground sources, water temperatures remain lower than many other Indiana streams, even during hot summer months. Many of the banks are shaded by large trees, providing additional cooling and structure for fish habitat. The river drops approximately 4 feet per river mile, a gradient that is perfect for canoeists and swift enough to keep many sections relatively free of sediment. The limestone bedrock in the area also provides many crevices for hellbenders and their prey to hide and to thrive. All of these characteristics help provide a suitable living environment for the hellbender.