Pipe Creek Wildlife Area

Tips for Birding

Formerly known as the Big Island Wetlands, Pipe Creek Wildlife Area was originally developed to mitigate for loss of adjacent wetlands to private development. The 97-acre site was acquired by the Ohio Division of Wildlife in 1991. Three seasonally-flooded diked marsh areas and one open water area are surrounded on three sides by Sandusky Bay. A pumping station has been installed to enable moist soil management.

Water varies in depth between one and three feet, except for water-level control channels that can be as deep as eight feet. Flat-topped dikes surround and delineate each of the four areas. A short trail through a small wooded area leads to these dikes. Walking on the dikes may be somewhat difficult in places due to the large size of the gravel. Hiking boots might be a good idea.

Turn north off Cleveland Road (US-6) at Cedar Point Drive. Turn right at River Avenue (just after McDonald’s restaurant). River Avenue ends at unmarked F Street, where Pipe Creeks’ small grassy parking lot is on the right hand side. Many roads in the Sandusky area have signs directing visitors to Cedar Point amusement park. Most of these signs direct visitors to the Cedar Point causeway (Cedar Point Drive) and can be helpful in finding Pipe Creek Wildlife Area. Be aware that a few signs farther east direct visitors to the older entrance to Cedar Point, near Sheldon Marsh, which is known as the Cedar Point Chaussee.

Pipe Creek is closed to all activities except hunting and fishing at night. It is also closed during teal season (early September) and again during waterfowl season (mid-October through December). Check regulations for annual dates.

Pipe Creek is located near the main entrance to Cedar Point Amusement Park. During summer weekends morning traffic approaching the park may be very heavy.
From Ohio Ornithological Society

Pipe Creek is a stop on the Lake Erie Birding Trail.

Birds of Interest

Pipe Creek is closed to everyone except waterfowl hunters with a permit during fall waterfowl hunting seasons. When open, over-wintering sparrows can be found in the marshy areas and short-eared owls and harriers are occasionally present. During mild winters, waters around the perimeter remain open and a diverse number of diving ducks are often present including canvasbacks, redheads, lesser and greater scaups, common goldeneyes, buffleheads, and common and red-breasted mergansers.
Early spring at Pipe Creek is a great season for migrating waterfowl of all varieties. In late February, as the ice starts to break up in the backwaters of Sandusky Bay, diving ducks become rather abundant. Canada geese are also present in larger numbers. Dabblers of all sorts move in toward the beginning of March. with gadwalls and northern shovelers in large numbers. Snow buntings and horned larks can also be found along the dikes. In April, warblers and other spring migrants may be found along the entrance trail and along the area between the water plant and the impoundments. Spotted sandpipers are often found in fairly large numbers along the outside of the dikes.
The westernmost area of Pipe Creek (open water area) is closed to the public during much of the summer and into fall to protect a colony of nesting common terns. Their floating nesting platforms can be viewed at a distance from areas open to the public. Signs are posted when restrictions are in effect. Some wading birds feed in the area and their numbers grow later in summer as young disperse from nesting colonies. Common nighthawks nest on the rooftops at Cedar Point and often can be seen. Shorebirds may also be present, depending upon water levels.
Good numbers of migrating passerines can be found along the entrance trail and other wooded areas in the fall. Large numbers of great blue herons and common egrets along with snowy egrets and occasional little blue herons are sometimes present.

About this Location

The Pipe Creek Wildlife Area is located within the city limits of Sandusky, behind the Big Island water treatment facility. It overlooks Sandusky Bay. The area can be reached by following US-6 to Sandusky, turn north onto Cedar Point Causeway, then east onto River Avenue; or follow OH-4 to Sandusky, turn northeast onto Monroe Street, then east onto First Street, then south onto F Street.

The 97-acre area is situated on the former Big Island Wetland Complex on the southern shore of Sandusky Bay. Most of the area is a diked marsh, with the remaining acreage comprising flat-topped dikes. The marsh areas are shallow, varying from one to three feet in depth, with the exception of channels up to eight feet in depth which were created for efficient water level control of the area.
From Pipe Creek Wildlife Area webpage

Notable Trails

Pipe Creek Wildlife Area Trails
Trails at Pipe Creek Wildlife Area include:
Woods Trail – .5 mile
Unit A Dike – 1.25 miles
Unit B Dike – .75 mile
Unit C Dike – .9 mile
Unit D Dike – .7 mile
Perimiter Dike – 1.7 miles

A description with a map and photos of a hike at Pipe Creek Wildlife Area is on Jim McCormac’s blog.

Restroom on site, portable toilet.