Stone Quarry Road Albany, Ohio 45710Vinton Furnace State Forest website
Vinton Furnace State Forest is several thousand acres of contiguous forest in various stages of succession. It is owned by a timber company, and consequently is managed for timber production, so a visitor can expect to see all classes of the forest, from new clearcuts to mature stands. Much of the woodland is characterized by upland oak-hickory associations, but more mesic forest types occur on lower slopes and along stream bottoms. The site is quite undeveloped and remote, and there really are no formal hiking trails. However, access is easy due to the gravel forest roads, and due to the lack of traffic, birding is quite easy and enjoyable along the roads. Good maps that depict these roads are hard to find, though; the best bet might be to obtain the most recent map of the county from the Vinton County Engineer’s Office.
Vinton County is one of Ohio’s least populous and least developed counties. The largest village is McArthur. There are only about 13,000 people living in the county. So, it’s best to take food and water into the forest, as there are no nearby convenient fast food places or restaurants. Dundas has a small general store, and there are a few stores and small restaurants in McArthur.
Vinton Furnace State Forest is several thousand acres of contiguous forest in one of the most remote and least populated parts of Ohio. A number of unmarked, and unmapped, gravel roads bisect the area. It is owned by MeadWestvaco Corporation, and embedded within the forest is a 1,200-acre research area known as Raccoon Ecological Management Area, which is run by the USDA Forest Service. To access the forest from McArthur (county seat of Vinton County), take State Route 93 south to Dundas and OH-324. A short distance to the south on OH-324 – still in Dundas – take TR-6 east. This route leads into the forest and its web of forest roads. The forest is roughly bounded by CR-24 on the west, OH-324 and OH-160 on the south, TR-8 on the east, and TR-7 on the north.
Open all year during daylight hours.
Because of the very sparse traffic, parking along roadsides within the forest should be no problem.
To get to Vinton Furnace from Zaleski State Forest, continue on OH-278 south of the Will Tract until you hit US-50 at Prattsville. Go west on US-50 toward Mac Arthur. There is one short road that enters from the north off US-50, Stone Quarry Road. It goes through a good sample of what much of Vinton Furnace looks like before dead-ending at a gate. To get to the longest route through Vinton Furnace, head all the way to Mac Arthur then turn south on OH-93 again to the tiny town of Dundas. At Dundas head east on Sam Russell Road into Vinton Furnace. There are good signposts along the way. Mac Arthur has convenience stores and restaurants.
The area gets few birders in the winter, so bird life during this season is not well known. However, most of the normal winter residents of forested habitats would be expected, and winter would be a good time to observe Pileated Woodpeckers, which are common. Also, some of the half-hardy species should be south, like Eastern Phoebe and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. With a bit of searching, Hermit Thrushes should be located. A good tip for finding those is to “pish” in the vicinity of sumac trees in brushy areas; this thrush is fond of the sumac’s fruit, which persists well into winter. Also, this is one of Ohio’s best areas for Ruffed Grouse and Wild Turkey, and they are often easier to find in the winter after a snowfall.
As Vinton County is southerly, this would be a good place to get a start on the early spring arrivals, such as Pine Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, and other early returnees. As in any large Ohio forest, the spring migration of returning neotropical migrants can be fantastic, but because the forest is so large and relatively unbroken, it may take a bit of luck to find concentrations of birds.
Just about all of the forest birds that breed in southern Ohio can be expected here, and many of them will be found in good numbers. Because of the broad range of forest types and successional conditions, many interesting species can be located. The scruffy clearcuts harbor Prairie Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Blue-winged Warbler, and other early successional species. Blue Grosbeaks, while not common, might occur anywhere that suitable open habitats are found. This is also an easy place to find Summer Tanager; they occur along dry oak-hickory ridges, but knowing the song will greatly increase the chance of detection. Broad-winged and Sharp-shinned hawks, our true forest hawks, should also be watched for, as they are relatively common breeders in the area.
Like spring, fall migration of passerines can be quite good. Also, be alert for migrating raptors taking advantage of the thermals created by the rough ridge and valley topography.
The forest is home to the state’s largest known population of bobcats and is also home to timber rattlesnakes, cerulean warblers, and several rare plant species.
The forest is one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the United States and is home to more than 50 years of ongoing forest research. Data collected at the forest has been cited in hundreds of scholarly papers on forest ecology, forest management, and wildlife.
The site is home to research dedicated to restoring oak trees to Ohio’s forests. Oaks are some of Ohio’s most important wildlife species and a valuable part of the state’s multi-billion dollar wood industry. Since 1952, land at the Vinton Furnace has been dedicated to forest use and sustainability research, an agreement formalized between previous owner Mead Corporation and the USDA Forest Service in 1965.
Restrooms on site
Content from Vinton Furnace State Forest website, Ohio Ornithological Society, and Robert Royse