Ottawa NWR--Crane Creek Estuary Trail

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.

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

About this Location

The Crane Creek Estuary can be good during any season. It has breeding birds in summer and attracts migrants in spring and fall. It can be productive when there is open water in the winter. Visiting the estuary requires hiking.

The easiest hike is to use the Crane Creek Estuary Trail, a joint project of the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and Magee Marsh Wildlife Area. This trail leaves from the west end of the parking lot at Magee Marsh and is an easy .5 mile walk along the lakeshore to Crane Creek. During migration and when water levels are appropriately low, this section of the estuary can host shorebirds. A spotting scope is helpful. This section of the estuary is in Lucas County.

This half-mile loop trail is located at the mouth of Crane Creek right along Lake Erie. The Crane Creek Estuary trail offers great views of migrating waterfowl, songbirds, and wading birds as you explore lake shore, beach, estuary, shrub, scrub, and wetland habitats.

You can easily turn the half-mile loop trail into a longer hike by following the trail around Pool 1. During migration, this will provide a more open view of the estuary and additional opportunities for migrating warblers in the cottonwoods and willows. Blackburnian, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Palm, Pine, Northern Parula, and Yellow warblers frequent the area in April and May. You might even spot a Cerulean or Kirtland’s here. Sora, pelicans, or gallinules wouldn’t be out of the question.

Directions from Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge: There are two ways to access this trail from the refuge. Those looking for the easy route should drive east (left) on oh-2 to the Magee Marsh entrance on the left approximately a mile down. Drive all the way to the last parking lot, park, and look for the Crane Creek Estuary Trail sign. Those looking for an adventure may opt for the seasonal trail making this a 3-mile hike. Park at the refuge’s trailhead parking lot, and walk down the Pool 1 trail to connect with the Estuary.

About Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge

See all hotspots at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge

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

The AllTrails website has a description and map of a hike on the Crane Creek Estuary Trail.


  • Restrooms on site

  • Wheelchair accessible trail

  • Entrance fee

  • Roadside viewing

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