Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve

Tips for Birding

This 460-acre state nature preserve contains upland fields in various stages of succession, hedgerows, pine plantations, mature upland forest with an abundance of edge, swamp forest, cattail marsh, open marshlands, a barrier beach, and Lake Erie shoreline beaches. This superlative mix of habitats provides for one of Ohio’s premiere birding locations. A walking trail runs through the hardwood successional plantings on the west side of the old Cedar Point roadway from the parking lot to the south edge of the mature woodland, or you can walk the old roadway through several distinct habitats on your way out to the lake. This area also features some observation platforms overlooking the marsh and a boardwalk, further north, that will take you west and out to the barrier beach. There is also another roadway along the east side of the preserve that provides excellent birding in the early morning. It is a full mile, south to north, from the parking lot to the Lake Erie shoreline.

If traveling east on OH-2 from the Sandusky area, take the Rye Beach Road exit.

Open all year during daylight hours.

The parking area is near the entrance.
From Ohio Ornithological Society

Sheldon Marsh is a stop on the Lake Erie Birding Trail.

Birds of Interest

Rare sightings for Sheldon Marsh include Snowy Owl, Golden-winged Warbler, Piping Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Black Tern, Purple Sandpiper, Harris’ Sparrow, Chuck-will’s Widow, American Woodcock, and Kirtland’s Warbler.
In addition to the expected winter residents, Long-eared and Saw-whet Owl may be found here
This is a very good location for warblers and other spring migrants. A good variety of migrating waterfowl can also be seen here from along the Lake Erie shoreline. Bald Eagles, Osprey, gulls, and terns are frequently seen in the area of the marsh.
Many species of woodland passerines are resident in the area during the nesting season.
Expect to see a good variety of migrating warblers here at this time of the year. When lake levels allow for the exposure of extensive mudflats, the northwestern portion of this preserve is one of the premier areas in the entire state for observing migrating shorebirds.

About this Location

Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve is a barrier beach with associated unusual plants that offers excellent bird watching during spring and fall.

  • Barrier beach and associated unusual plants
  • Excellent bird watching during spring and fall
  • Parking lot
  • 1-mile paved trail
  • Accessible by wheelchair

Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve and contiguous wetlands comprise some of the last remaining undeveloped stretches of shoreline in the Sandusky Bay region. As Ohio’s once expansive coastal wetland habitat continues to disappear in the face of encroaching development, the importance of Sheldon Marsh increases immensely. Preservation of habitat is seen as the key to the survival of wild plant and animal communities, and this preserve contains many types of habitats such as old field, hardwood forest, woodland swamp, cattail marsh, barrier sand beach, and open-water lake. All are relics of the lake-marsh-forest ecosystem which originally encompassed thousands of acres along Lake Erie’s western basin.

This preserve is known to attract nearly 300 bird species and provides habitats for many kinds of wildflowers. Spring is one of the best times to visit the marsh. From the middle of April into June, the woodland floor is covered with blooming wildflowers. Dutchman’s breeches, cut-leaved toothwort, and spring beauties are followed by trout lilies, trilliums, wild ginger, and wild geraniums.

Spring migration brings a variety of neotropical and shorebirds to Sheldon Marsh. Before crossing Lake Erie these birds stop briefly to rest and feed in the lush vegetation of the forest. Along the barrier sand beach, numerous shorebirds are frequently seen searching for food at the water’s edge. Summer residents include great blue herons, red-tailed hawks, black-crowned night-herons, wood ducks, common terns, woodcocks, great horned owls, and numerous songbirds.

Perhaps the most spectacular summer event is the blooming of the cardinal flower in the woodland swamp. Often described as America’s most beautiful wildflower, its tall and brilliant red spikes are a magnificent sight.
From Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve webpage

Notable Trails

Sheldon Marsh Trails
Walking is the best way to see birds at Sheldon Marsh. It is a 2-mile round trip or more if you take all the trails and walk out on the beach.

Old Cedar Point Road – .8 mile (main trail)
NASA Road – .4 mile (returns to parking lot)
Boardwalk – .1 mile (at end of Old Cedar Point Road, out to beach)
Butterfly Meadow – .2 mile (south of Pond Loop)
Pond Loop – .1 mile (around pond)
Woods Trail – .4 mile (trail behind office)

Restroom on site, portable toilet.

Wheelchair accessible trail.