East Harbor State Park

East Harbor State Park

1169 North Buck Road Lakeside-Marblehead, Ohio 43440

East Harbor State Park website
East Harbor State Park map

Tips for Birding

Situated on a peninsula of land stretching into the waters of Lake Erie, the park encompasses 1152 acres. Beach Ridge habitat, similar to that at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, is an attractive magnet for migrating songbirds, in the spring and fall. Wetlands, wooded areas, and .25 miles of beach front provide habitat for many other bird species.

From OH-53 in Port Clinton, travel east along OH-163 one mile to OH-269, turn left, entrance to East Harbor State Park is .5 mile on the right.

Open daylight hours.

Many parking areas throughout the park.

East Harbor State Park is a stop on the Lake Erie Birding Trail.

When water levels are low, Middle Harbor can provide excellent habitat for viewing shorebirds. Birders reported good views of birds from the Middle Harbor trail along the south edge of Middle Harbor. There is an observation deck which may be accessed from the picnic area at the southwest corner of Middle Harbor. Birders also reported good views from the trail at the parking lot at the end of North Buck Road. (See the state park map below.)

To access this area, continue on Buck Road past the park entrance, and then past the park marina until you reach a small parking lot at the end of the road. You can walk out along the dike and view the harbor. You will be looking eastward, so you may wish to plan your visit according to the sun’s angle.

Continuing down the dike you will reach a wooded area that can be a nice migrant trap.

East Harbor is about a half hour east of Magee Marsh, just a few miles off OH-2. Other productive areas for migrants are

  • the southern edge of Middle Harbor. Park in the small lot near the pond.
  • the South Beach trail, especially on the path along the beach ridge. The ridge is not shown on the map, it is along the area labeled “storm-damaged area, no swimming”.
  • the old roadway that parallels this path.

The tall trees along the two-way road that connects the entrance and exit roads can also be good. These roads are opposite the park office building entering and just past the pond exiting.

About this Location

Encompassing 1,831 acres, East Harbor is one of the hidden jewels of lakefront birding hotspots. Its varied habitats include sandy beaches, sheltered bays, open waters of Lake Erie, marshes, shrubland, and swamp forest. Many rarities have been found, including Western Tanager and Magnificent Frigatebird. Songbird fallouts can be spectacular both spring and fall, with nearly every regularly occurring warbler appearing annually, and often in good numbers. The beach attracts a diversity of gulls and terns, including Great Black-backed Gull, Caspian, and Forster’s terns. The protected harbors can teem with waterfowl in March and November. Northern Goshawk has been seen regularly in winter.

East Harbor State Park is situated on a peninsula of land stretching into the waters of Lake Erie–one of the largest freshwater bodies in the world. The history of Lake Erie began with the glacial period when massive sheets of ice gouged and scoured the bedrock of Ohio. Evidence of the force of the ice is found throughout the lake area. Small scratches in the rock surface known as glacial striations are common while major grooves are rare but awesome. The deep depressions left by the glaciers were filled with meltwater forming the series of lakes we know as the Great Lakes.

East Harbor lies on the fringe of Ohio’s prairie marsh zone. These wetlands are remnants of the Great Black Swamp which once covered an area 120 miles long and 30 to 40 miles wide. After a period of intense lumbering and draining in the late 1800s, the swamp was nearly destroyed. Only ten percent of Ohio’s original wetlands now remain. These wetlands produce more wildlife than any other type of habitat in Ohio. Reptiles and amphibians are numerous including the green frog, American toad, water snake, fox snake and painted turtle. Large numbers of ducks, geese, gulls, terns and other migratory waterfowl delight birdwatchers. Middle Harbor is a game sanctuary where black-crowned night herons, egrets, great blue herons and other shorebirds find refuge. Furbearers in the park include muskrat and red fox. Hundreds of migrating songbirds rest here before winging north across the lake.

Notable Trails

East Harbor State Park Trails
East Harbor’s trail system leads through the many different habitats within the park. There are multiple trails throughout the park totaling over 10 miles. All trails are multi-use, which allows hiking, biking, snowmobiles, etc. Eleven named trails can be found in the park:
Middle Harbor Trail – 0.75 miles – Moderate
Middle Harbor Extension – 0.5 miles – Easy
Meadow Trail – 0.75 miles – Easy
Blackberry Trail – 0.5 miles – Easy
Red Bird Trail – .0.25 miles – Easy
Rock Garden Loop – 0.3 miles – Easy
Wetlands Trail – 2 miles – Easy
South Beach Trail – 2.5 miles – Easy
Water’s Edge Trail – 1 mile – Moderate
Channel Dunes Loop – 1.2 miles – Easy
West Harbor Trail – 0.75 miles – Easy


  • Restrooms on site

Content from Ohio Ornithological Society, Sheryl Young, and East Harbor State Park webpage