Most of the Fernald Preserve is located in Hamilton County south of the Butler-Hamilton county line. A smaller section, the North Woods, is in Butler County. (See the map below for the location of the county line.)
The Fernald Preserve was opened to the public in August 2008 and is the property of the federal government. The site is operated by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Legacy Management. Once the location of a uranium foundry that served as the first link in America’s nuclear weapon’s production cycle, the Fernald property has undergone a $4.4 billion environmental cleanup and ecological restoration. The ecological restoration of the property was accomplished using plants and grasses native to southwestern Ohio that were identified in an 1819 land survey of the area.
The Fernald Preserve features 140 acres of wetland habitat, 400 acres of forests, and 360 acres of grasslands including tallgrass prairies. The preserve currently has about 2.5 miles of trails with additional trail construction planned for 2009. Lodge Pond trail, located along the site’s access road approximately 0.12 miles from the Willey Road entrance, provides access to wetlands and prairies. In addition to a wide range of migratory waterfowl, this area provides excellent viewing opportunities for a variety of prairie species including dickcissels, bobolinks, grasshopper sparrows, and eastern meadowlarks. Shingle Oak trail primarily spans woodland habitat and is a good choice for viewing neo-tropical migrants as well as a variety of summer nesters. The Weapons-to-Wetlands trail features an overlook that provides excellent viewing for migrating waterfowl in the spring and fall as well as a variety of raptors in the winter months. The 3.5-mile Trestle Trail, completed in September 2009, spans prairies, upland forests, open water, and a riparian corridor.
From downtown Cincinnati, take I-75 North to I-74 West (toward Indianapolis) to Exit 7, OH-128 (Hamilton-Cleves Highway). Travel north on OH-128 through Miamitown for 7 miles to Willey Road. Turn left on Willey Road for 0.25 miles to the Fernald Preserve access road.
Visitors Center: Wednesday through Saturday
9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Preserve Site: Monday through Sunday
7:00 a.m. to dusk
There is a large parking area next to the Visitors Center and a small parking area located at the Lodge Pond trailhead and overlook.
For individuals who might be concerned about visiting a former uranium foundry, be assured that the property has been cleaned to standards established by site neighbors and nearby communities. These standards were approved by both the U.S and Ohio Environmental Protection Agencies as being protective of human health and the environment.
The Fernald Preserve Visitors Center, which depicts the history of the site through a series of exhibits, is located at the end of the main access road. The Visitors Center is the only building in the State of Ohio and one of one hundred worldwide to receive platinum-level certification from the U.S. Green Building Council through its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.
Also, see Cincinnati Audubon website
Winter is raptor season at the Fernald Preserve. Short-eared Owls and Northern Harriers are reliable visitors and Rough-legged Hawks are also routinely seen.
The mud flats attract a variety of shorebirds and the ponds and wetlands host a mix of waterfowl. Snow and Greater White-fronted Geese and a variety of diving and puddle ducks visit the site during the spring migration.
The site hosts breeding populations of a number of prairie nesters including Dickcissels, Bobolinks, Henslow’s, Grasshopper and Savannah Sparrows and Eastern Meadowlarks.
A good mix of waterfowl and a variety of out-bound passerines use the preserve during the fall migration.
The Fernald Preserve Visitors Center is a 10,000-square-foot green building that celebrates the rich and varied history of the Fernald site. Restrooms and drinking water are available.
The Fernald Preserve features 140 acres of wetland habitat including three lakes, 400 acres of forests, and 360 acres of grasslands including tallgrass prairies. The bird field checklist includes 215 species. In the short amount of time this site has been open to the public (since 2008), it has hosted a fair number of rarities. Garganey, Eurasian wigeon, black-necked stilt, Wilson’s phalarope, and golden eagle are all on the site species list. The Lodge Pond trail, located along the site’s access road approximately 1/8 mile from the Willey Road entrance, provides access to wetlands and prairies. In addition to a wide range of migratory waterfowl, this area provides excellent viewing opportunities for a variety of prairie species including dickcissels, bobolinks, grasshopper sparrows, eastern meadowlarks, and occasionally northern bobwhite. Shingle Oak and Sycamore trails primarily span woodland habitats and are good choices for viewing neotropical migrants as well as a variety of summer nesters. The Weapons-to-Wetlands trail features an overlook that provides excellent viewing for migrating waterfowl in the spring and fall as well as a variety of raptors in the winter months. The wetland has been good for shorebirds during migration when water levels are favorable. The 3.1-mile Hickory Trail spans prairies, upland forests, open water, and a riparian corridor. Blue grosbeaks, dickcissels, grasshopper sparrows, savannah sparrows, bobolinks, and even the occasional Henslow’s sparrow can be found along the first section of this trail. Migrant songbirds, as well as breeders such as catbirds, white-eyed vireos, and yellow-breasted chats, can be found along the back loop of this trail.
Restrooms are available in the Visitors Center.
Fernald Preserve Trails
There is 1 hiking trail in Butler County:
Hickory Trail – 3 miles
There are 4 hiking trails in Hamilton County:
Lodge Pond Trail -1.4 miles
Biowetland Trail – 0.1 mile
Shingle Oak Trail – 0.7 mile
Sycamore Trail – 1.9 miles
The AllTrails website has descriptions with maps of hikes at the Fernald Preserve on the Lodge Pond, Hickory, Shingle Oak, and Sycamore trails.
Restrooms on site
Content from Official Website and Ohio Ornithological Society