Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge

Tips for Birding

Please be safe. It is never safe to stop your car on OH-2 in this area. State and local police ticket drivers pulled over to the side of this highway.

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge spans two counties. The northern part of the refuge is in Lucas County and the southern part is in Ottawa County.

The main division of the ONWR complex has 4,683 acres managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service from a headquarters building located adjacent to a public parking lot located at the end of the entrance road from OH-2. This area has nine miles of improved stone-base public trails. A kiosk in the parking lot has maps and bird checklists. Walk north on the trail from the parking lot and you will eventually reach Crane Creek and its estuary. Ducks, shorebirds, marsh birds, wading birds, and some perching birds can be viewed in the impoundments along the way. The Crane Creek estuary is the best place to see both adult and immature Bald Eagles. Although woodlands are scarce there are two woodlots that provide warblers, vireos, and other perching birds during migration. There are grasslands accessible between the parking lot and OH-2, which can provide members of the blackbird and sparrow families. A newer trail runs east/west and connects ONWR with the Magee Marsh causeway. Look for it on the east side of the driveway to the headquarters building.

From Oak Harbor go north on OH-19 for 6 miles to OH-2. Turn west and drive 3 miles to the Refuge entrance.

Sunrise to sunset throughout the year. Headquarters and bookstore open Monday through Friday 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. The bookstore also has gifts and toys.

The main parking lot is at the end of the entrance road off of OH-2.

There are two good ways of entering closed areas legally without a permit. 1. Attend the monthly bird survey on the first Sunday of every month at 8:00 a.m. starting from the Refuge main parking lot. 2. Attend the monthly Refuge auto tour through the closed areas. See the ONWRA website for the schedule.

The Visitor Center, nearby trail, and bird viewing blind are handicap accessible. The Wildlife Drive provides an opportunity to view birds from a vehicle.

Submitting eBird checklists at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and Magee Marsh

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge is a stop on the Lake Erie Birding Trail.

Birds of Interest

Northern Shrikes, Tundra Swans, Snow Geese, Bald Eagles.
Ducks (including Eurasian Wigeons), Snowy Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Bald Eagles, migrating raptors, and marsh birds.
Common Moorhens, Common/Black Terns, Snowy Egrets, Bald Eagles, shorebirds, bitterns.
Bald Eagles, most duck species, and shorebirds.

About this Location

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge provides valuable habitat for a diversity of waterfowl and other migratory birds, resident wildlife, and endangered and threatened species. It provides a place for people to enjoy wildlife-dependent activities and learn about the complexities of the natural world through education and interpretive programming.

Ottawa Refuge is located in northwest Ohio. The entrance is located 15 miles east of Toledo, Ohio, or 16 miles west of Port Clinton, Ohio on OH-2. The entrance road is located on the north side of OH-2.

Visitors should stop at the visitor center which opened in 2007. This beautiful lodge-style building welcomes you and tells the refuge story. The building is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

There are ten miles of hiking trails. These trails travel through a variety of habitats and start behind the visitor center or from the trailhead parking lot.

The refuge wildlife drive is open on scheduled days from 8 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The wildlife drive allows vehicles to travel through areas of the refuge not otherwise open to the general public. See the calendar of events for open dates.

Notable Trails

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Trails
There are ten miles of hiking trails. These trails travel through a variety of habitats.

Visitor Center parking lot:
Walking Trails Woodland
from boardwalk trail behind Visitor Center

Trail Head parking lot near the Show Pool:
Walking Trails Pools
from the west side of the dike by the Show Pool
Pool 1 Trail
from the east side of the dike by the Show Pool

From Magee Marsh:
Crane Creek Estuary Trail
from the west end of the Boardwalk parking lot
Gallagher Trail
adjacent to the Black Swamp Bird Observatory office
Woodies Roost Trail
from the Bird Center parking lot on the east side of the road to the Causeway
Ottawa-Magee Marsh Partnership Trail
from south of the Bird Center parking lot on the west side of the road to the Causeway

From Metzger Marsh
Metzger Marsh Partnership Trail
from the outer dike – this is an out-and-back trail


  • Restrooms on site

Content from Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge website, Friends of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge webpage, and Ohio Ornithological Society