Gilmore MetroPark

Tips for Birding

Gilmore MetroPark is about 200 acres in size. The trails are mostly along dikes and through fields. Seasonal flooding sometimes makes sections of the dikes, particularly the northern dike along the Miami-Erie Canal, impassible. Depending on water levels, the Cattail Marsh area can be good for waterfowl, herons and egrets, or shorebirds.

During spring and fall migration, the trails around South Pond are good for passerines. Cattail Marsh is often good for sparrows, with a chance of seeing LeConte’s or Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrows in the fall, again depending on water levels. It is not a very large area, so birders can get around the entire area fairly quickly. There are approximately two and a half miles of trails and two parking areas: one along Gilmore Road, and one along Symmes Road, opposite Berk Boulevard. For birders, the Symmes Road parking lot is recommended.

From Dayton: Take I-75 south to OH-129. Go west on OH-129 to Bypass OH-4. Turn left (south) on Bypass OH-4, then right (west) on Symmes Road. The parking lot is on the right side of the road, approximately one-half mile from Bypass OH-4, at the intersection of Symmes Road and Berk Boulevard. This parking lot is shared with Quality Publishing. If you drive another half mile west on Symmes to Gilmore Road, you can turn right (north) onto Gilmore and go to the Gilmore Road parking lot, approximately three-quarters of a mile or so down Gilmore Road.

Open all year during daylight hours.

There are two paved parking lots; one on Gilmore Road and the other on Symmes Road.

Also, see Cincinnati Audubon website

Birds of Interest

Typical southern Ohio wintering species can be found here. Gilmore Ponds has been the regular wintering site for one or two Saw-whet Owls since the year 2000.
Waterfowl, waders, rails, and shorebirds can be found when conditions are right. Passerine migrants and breeders, including Prothonotary Warbler, are usually regular during this season, regardless of water conditions.
Look for breeding Prothonotary Warblers, Yellow Warblers, and the expected species found in shrubby, second-growth woodlot, and field habitats. When conditions are favorable, Black-crowned Night Herons and other wetland species may breed at Gilmore Ponds. During late summer, regionally significant numbers of Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons, and Snowy Egrets can be found here, depending on water levels. Shore-birding conditions may range from poor to very good, depending on the weather and water levels.
This is an excellent area for the fall songbird migration. There is usually a good variety found here, with some species in abundance. Exploring the fields in the West Pond / Cattail Marsh areas has, in recent years, produced Virginia rail, LeConte’s and Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrows. As in the summer, shore-birding varies from poor to very good, depending on weather and water levels.

About this Location

Gilmore MetroPark, formerly known as Gilmore Ponds Preserve, is a 200-acre wetland nestled in the midst of an industrial park within the city limits of Hamilton, Ohio. Recently added to Ohio’s “Watchable Wildlife” list, Gilmore Ponds is bordered by two tributaries, Walker’s Run to the east, and the historic Miami-Erie Canal to the north. There is one permanent body of water, Old Ice Pond, which is just that–an old ice pond used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to provide ice for use in Cincinnati-area breweries–and three larger ponds that flood seasonally and provide the best habitat for breeding and migrating waterfowl, shorebirds and long-legged waders such as Great Egrets, Black Crowned Night Herons, Green Herons and Great Blue Herons.

A motor vehicle permit is required to enter the park site. Butler County residents may receive a permit fee-free. Other guests may purchase an annual permit for only $10.

Numbers are greatest in the spring and fall during migration, but if the spring is wet enough Gilmore Ponds is sure to be host to a number of wetland birds, some of which even breed there from time to time. Among the usual visitors and sometime-breeders are Pied-billed Grebe, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Green Heron, Black Crowned Night Heron, Least Bittern, Prothonotary Warbler, and Willow Flycatcher. Rusty Blackbirds are often seen in season, while a walk along the Symmes Road dike in late February and early March evenings is almost guaranteed to offer an excellent opportunity for observing the aerial courtship flights of Woodcock.

To reach Gilmore Ponds, take the OH-4 Bypass to Symmes Road. If you are traveling north on the bypass, turn left onto Symmes; if traveling South, turn right. There is limited parking off of Symmes Road across from the entrance to Beck Boulevard, but this could disappear any time now when the city of Hamilton widens Symmes Road. Therefore, you are better off continuing west on Symmes Road until you reach Gilmore Road, the first intersection. There is a National Guard building on the right side of the road. Turn right onto Gilmore Road and travel about a quarter mile. Look for a park sign and a paved parking lot on the right side of the road. You can’t miss it.

Notable Trails

Gilmore Ponds Trails
There are three loop trails for hiking at Gilmore Ponds, as well as an observation tower and two raised decks that provide good vantage points in any season, particularly when water conditions are good. Beware, though, that if the water is up, portions of the trails are inaccessible, to say the least!
Highlands Trace – 1.1 miles
Night Heron Trail – .9 mile
Wetlands Trail – 1.8 miles
There is a trail that circles all the ponds sharing the perimeter sections of the three trails.
Great Egret Trail – 2.4 miles

The AllTrails website has descriptions and maps of hikes at Gilmore MetroPark.


  • Restrooms on site

  • Entrance fee

  • Wheelchair accessible trail

  • Roadside viewing

Content from Ohio Ornithological Society and Cincinnati Audubon website