Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve

Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve

Lake Shore Boulevard and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive Cleveland, Ohio 44103

Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve webpage
Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve map

Also, see all the hotspots at:
Cleveland Lakefront Important Bird Area
Cleveland Lakeshore East Birding Drive

Tips for Birding

The nature preserve is adjacent to Gordon Park and accessed from the northern terminus of Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive.

The 88-acre Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve is one of the top hotspots for Lake Erie birding in December. Once a sunken barge, then a site for dumping river-bottom dredge sludge, the urban wildlife haven grew up as a land where none existed before.

Parking and restrooms are available. Walking is flat but not wheelchair accessible. Great views of downtown Cleveland from the west side overlook.

Follow the wood chip trail from the parking lot to a high turnstile-type gate at the fence. This, in turn, provides access to a 1.75 mile Perimeter Loop Trail that travels west along the fence, heads north to overlook the lake and then loops back upon itself, passing through most of the habitat types in the preserve. The turnstile prevents access by bicycles and other wheeled vehicles; rules prohibit pets on the trail. Signs here and there credit the Port Authority and Cuyahoga County with the establishment of the preserve.

The Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve is a stop on the Lake Erie Birding Trail.

Birds of Interest

Expect to find abundant waterfowl species and gulls out on the lake, always with a chance of a rarity. In the diverse mix of habitats inland, winter visitors like finches, siskins, juncos, red-breasted nuthatches, and white-throated sparrows flit among the young trees. In the dense pines, Northern Saw-whet Owls are fairly regular winter visitors. Warblers visit the preserve to rest and refuel during the spring and fall migrations.

About this Location

The wild, green oasis in downtown Cleveland is 4.7 miles east of the mouth of the Cuyahoga River – a river to which the preserve traces its existence. Dike 14 was created in 1976 and used until 1999 to hold the spoils from dredging Cleveland’s harbor and the river.

The mud and silt have metamorphosed into a haven for plants, animals, and birds. Plants have colonized the preserve creating fields, wet meadows, shrub communities, and stands of mature trees. Wildlife including deer, fox, raccoons, coyotes, and dozens of species of butterflies, reptiles, amphibians, and a host of other organisms call the preserve home.

The preserve is an important staging area for migrating birds with more than 290 species recorded. In 2004, it was recognized as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society. The same year, a grant from the Ohio Coastal Management Program funded, in part, a feasibility study for safe public access to the preserve.

The restrooms are located at the parking lot. 

Notable Trails

The 88-acre Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve, commonly known as Dike 14, has three trails:
Perimeter Loop Trail, 1.75 miles
Monarch Trail, 0.25 miles
Northern Harrier Trail, 0.5 miles
The shorter trails bisect the park allowing for hikes of varying distances.

A description with a map of a hike at the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve is on the AllTrails website.


  • Restrooms on site

  • Wheelchair accessible trail

  • Entrance fee

  • Roadside viewing

Content from Diana Steele, Ohio Ornithological Society Northeast Regional Director, Dick Hoffman, and Lake Erie Public Access Guide