Independence Dam SP

Tips for Birding

This park is straight, narrow, and linear; basically a road with seven miles of wide Maumee River on one side, and seven miles of a narrow canal on the other side of the road. Obviously, there is very little chance of getting lost here. The first four miles of the park are paved and suitable for walking and driving. Sometimes (especially in winter) it is better to drive; not only to save time but to use the car as a blind, lessening the chance of frightening the waterfowl along the river. The last three miles of the park is a dirt, hiking trail lined by tall sycamores, black locusts, beech, and maple trees. This walking trail starts at the campground and ends near a Bald Eagle’s nest.

Present all year are sixty or more Wild Turkeys and a pair of Bald Eagles which nest at the east end of the park near the Florida Bridge but could be found anywhere in the area, especially on the opposite shore near the dam.

From US-24, between Napoleon and Defiance, turn south on Independence Road. Continue through the small town of Jewell and on to Independence Dam State Park, where the road ends.

Birds of Interest

The best time of year for water birds is after the river freezes (Jan-Feb), leaving only a small section of open water under the dam itself and concentrating hundreds of Canada Geese, Mallards, and Black Ducks, as well as Great Blue Herons, Swans, Common and Hooded Mergansers, small numbers of Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Redhead, Canvasback, Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Ducks, Gadwall, Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Pintail, and American Coot. Surf and White-winged Scoters were found here in 2004. Bluebirds, Golden-crowned Kinglets, and Yellow-rumped Warblers are also plentiful.
This area provides for easy viewing of migrating warblers, thrushes, and Osprey.
Nesting Cliff Swallows can be found at the Florida Bridge. Also, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Red-headed Woodpeckers, and a wall-to-wall quadraphonic sound of Warbling Vireos and Orioles.
Migrating warblers, Osprey, and usually hundreds of Ring-billed Gulls. Herring and Bonaparte’s Gulls can be seen here in November.

About this Location

The Maumee Valley is but a mere shadow of what it used to be prior to settlement. This area was in the midst of the Great Black Swamp which was 120 miles long and 30 to 40 miles wide. This heavily forested area was an extension of the immense forest that covered 95% of Ohio. This great forest contained huge sycamores often used for temporary barns or even homes when they became hollow. Towering oaks and giant tulip trees became intermixed with walnut trees–some over six feet in diameter.

As vast as this mighty forest once was, nearly every tree had been cut in less than 100 years after the settlement of Ohio began. Settlers cut, sawed, burned and girdled most of the 24 million acres of woodlands leaving only four million by 1883. The Maumee Valley in the Great Black Swamp was the last stronghold of Ohio’s great forest. The boggy soil made passage into the area nearly impossible until a great system of ditches and drains were installed between 1859 and 1875 to drain the swamp. During that time period, nearly 2.5 million acres of the Maumee Valley were cleared. By 1885, the region looked much as it does today–endless farm fields dotted here and there with small woodlots. The Maumee Valley today supports only six percent of the land in forest cover. Fortunately, much of that forest cover lies along the banks of the Maumee River. It is still possible to see great sycamores, black locusts, beech and maple trees lining the river through the park. The river is very scenic and is the largest in northwest Ohio. In fact, it is the second largest stream flowing into Lake Erie at 4,700 cubic feet per second. The river’s banks support an abundance of woodland wildflowers including jewelweed, violets, and spring beauties.

Songbirds such as the scarlet tanager, Louisiana water thrush, and yellow-throated warbler enjoy the wooded canopy draping the river. The fox squirrel, raccoon, skunk, and woodchuck find the riparian habitat suitable.


  • Restrooms on site

  • Wheelchair accessible trail

  • Roadside viewing

  • Entrance fee

Content from Independence Dam State Park webpage and Ohio Ornithological Society