Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area

Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area

US-6 Vickery, Ohio 43464

Official Website
Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area map

Tips for Birding

Some of the best natural wetlands along Sandusky Bay can be found at Pickerel Creek. The majority of the 2,814 acres have been restored to wetlands with the remainder in woods, brush, and native grassland. Pickerel Creek flows through the western half of the area forming a high-quality, fresh-water estuarine habitat. The northern part of Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area lies in the center of some of the finest habitats still in existence along Sandusky Bay. The habitats you’ll find here today are but a small glimpse of what Sandusky Bay must have been like before man drained and cleared much of the swampland, once so prominent in this part of the state, but the remaining and restored habitat still hosts good numbers of bird species throughout the year including Bald Eagle, Red-winged Blackbird, Willow Flycatcher, Marsh Wren, Swamp Sparrow, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Black-crowned Night Heron, Ring-billed and Herring Gulls, and many of the more common shorebirds. Rarer sightings here include Yellow-headed blackbird, Sandhill Crane, Eurasian Wigeon, King Rail, American and Least Bittern, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Tri-colored Heron, and a White-faced Ibis in 2003.

Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area is maintained largely as a public hunting and fishing area, so controlled hunting occurs here throughout the year. You may want to check with the area’s headquarters, at the north end of CR-256, regarding regulations concerning access before your visit, but generally, it is safe for birders to come and go here at any time, other than during the hunting season. A “permit only” system has been established for most of the area, and so the amount of hunting here may be less than for other public hunting areas.

An observation deck is open all year for viewing the abundant wetland birds and other wildlife. It is located along SR 6 on the north side of the highway, just east of Pickerel Creek and very near the largest parking area. Other accesses to the wetlands are from several parking areas along the north side of SR 6 and also along the east side of the wetlands on TR-280. The best birding strategy for the area is to view it from the observation deck and/or by walking the many dikes throughout the area. These dikes are accessible from most any of the parking areas and a map, available at the headquarters (when open) or from the above website address, is helpful in planning your walking route. Another popular “improved” walkway is along “old Vickery Road”, now abandoned and which can be accessed from the second parking area east of the observation deck. This old roadway bisects the marsh and will take you out very close to Sandusky Bay. In the fall, some of the impoundments to the northeast of this road provide very good shorebird habitat. Perhaps the best strategy for finding out about the location of the best shorebird habitat, though, is to stop at the headquarters. The people who work here have been helpful in the past. They know the area very well and can provide you with a map, tell you where they are seeing shorebirds, and tell you which units have been “let down” or will be lowered in the next few weeks.

From Fremont, drive about 7 miles east on US-6. To reach the headquarters, turn left (north) on CR-256. Follow this road to the headquarters parking area. From the west side of Sandusky, take US-6 west about 9 miles to this area. From Castalia, take OH-269 north to US-6, then take US-6 west to this area; a total distance of about 8 miles.

The area may be closed, on occasion, during the hunting season.
Parking areas are identified on the wildlife area map.

Pickerel Creek Wildlife is a stop on the Lake Erie Birding Trail.

Birds of Interest

The water here is usually frozen, but Bald Eagles can usually be found in the area; often perched in trees to the north and east of the observation deck.
This is a great season for migrating waterfowl and other migrant bird species. It would not be uncommon to see 15 or more species of waterfowl here on any given day. Other common and expected species include herons, egrets, rails, bitterns, terns, and gulls. Occasionally a rare Ohio species such as Eurasian Wigeon, King Rail, or Tri-colored Heron is reported here.
In the last couple of years, summer reports have included Killdeer and Spotted Sandpiper, Wood Duck, Mallard Duck, Hooded Merganser, Ruddy Duck, American Coot, Double-crested Cormorant, Black-crowned Night Heron, Marsh Wren, Red-winged Blackbird, and Swamp Sparrow.
Some years, this area can be one of the best shorebird areas in the entire state. Shorebirds reported from here in the last couple of years include Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Marbled Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Baird’s Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Ruff, Short-billed Dowitcher, Common Snipe, Wilson’s Phalarope, and an extremely rare Red-necked Stint. Other fall birds that are frequently reported here include Caspian, Common and Forester’s Terns, Snowy and Great Egrets, Belted Kingfisher, most swallow species, plus resident and migrating duck species.

About this Location

During the spring and fall migrations, large numbers of waterfowl are attracted to the area. Mallard, wood duck, black duck, blue-winged teal, and green-winged teal are the most abundant species, with wigeon, pintail, gadwall, and shoveler appearing in smaller numbers. Canada geese also use the area. Other bird species include the trumpeter and tundra swans, common tern, great blue heron, great egret, black-crowned night heron, woodcock, snipe, sora, Virginia rail, and mourning dove. Bald eagles nest in the area and both adults and immature are frequently seen year-round.

The geographic location of Pickerel Creek, along the southern shore of Lake Erie, also accounts for high numbers of songbirds, shorebirds, and hawks during the spring and fall migrations. Upland game animals and furbearers are also plentiful including cottontail rabbit, white-tailed deer, woodchuck, muskrat, raccoon, and mink.

Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area lies between the south shore of Sandusky Bay and US-6 in Townsend and Riley townships, Sandusky County. The area totals 3,200 acres. The majority of the area has been restored to wetlands with the remainder in woods, brush, and native grassland. Pickerel Creek flows through the western half of the area, forming a high-quality freshwater estuarine habitat.

The northern portion of Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area lies in the center of some of the finest wetland habitats still in existence along Sandusky Bay. Early records reveal an extensive wet prairie in this vicinity. Wild rice and other waterfowl foods grew in abundance in the clear waters of Sandusky Bay. As the surrounding land was cleared and drained for agricultural use, wetland habitat was seriously damaged. The turbid water no longer supported the huge beds of wild rice and other high-quality aquatic vegetation, and waterfowl numbers decreased.

The Division of Wildlife acquired Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area in 1987. Since this region continues to support a good waterfowl population, Pickerel Creek is presently managed as a public hunting, fishing, trapping, and wildlife observation area with an emphasis on waterfowl and other wetland wildlife.

Notable Trails

Pickerel Creek Dikes
The dikes at Pickerel Creek Wildlife Refuge are open to entry with two exceptions. The designated wildlife area on Pearson Road is closed to entry. During the hunting season the dikes are used for controlled waterfowl hunting. When they are open, there are many miles of trails throughout the refuge on the tops of the dikes. Access the dikes from any of the parking areas.

Pickerel Creek Pump House Dikes
Park near the Pump House for walking access to the dikes and impoundments which form the “Pump House Wetland.” This area can be good for shorebirds when the water level is drawn down. A spotting scope is helpful for observing distant birds.

It is a hike of 2-3 miles to circle the wetland. The best place to go will depend on the water level and the weather. You can walk north toward Lake Erie, passing a dike trail that goes east, to get to the wetland impoundment nearest Lake Erie. Go east at the Lake Erie end of this impoundment and circle back south toward the Pump House Wetland. When you reach the east-west dike on the north side of the Pump House Wetland, circle the wetland, going east, then south, then back west to the Pump House parking. All of the dikes in this wildlife area are available for walking.


  • Restrooms on site

Content from Official Website and Ohio Ornithological Society