Ottawa NWR--Crane Creek Estuary (Ottawa Co.)

Tips for Birding

Please be safe. It is never safe to stop your car on OH-2 in this area. State and local police ticket drivers pulled over to the side of this highway.

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge spans two counties. The northern part of the refuge is in Lucas County and the southern part is in Ottawa County.

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge is a stop on the Lake Erie Birding Trail.

About this Location

The Crane Creek Estuary can be good during any season. It has breeding birds in summer and attracts migrants in spring and fall. It can be productive when there is open water in the winter. Visiting the estuary requires hiking.

The easiest hike is to use the Crane Creek Estuary Trail, a joint project of the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and Magee Marsh Wildlife Area. This trail leaves from the west end of the parking lot at Magee Marsh and is an easy .5 mile walk along the lake shore Crane Creek. During migration and when water levels are appropriately low, this section of the estuary can host shorebirds. A spotting scope is helpful. This section of the estuary is in Lucas County.

To reach the Lucas County section of the estuary, drive straight north from the refuge entrance to the lot marked “East parking for trails” on the map, and hike north from there for about a mile on the dike road alongside the impoundments labeled MS 8b, Pool 2c, and Pool 2b. In about a mile the dike road angles northwest and then southwest, and the estuary becomes visible on the right (north) side, while the open areas of Pool 2b are visible to the left.

The Ottawa County section of the estuary can be reached by hiking from the parking lot at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.

The hiking trails at the National Wildlife Refuge are open most of the year. Some sections may be closed during breeding season or while there is hunting in progress at the refuge. Observe all “area closed” signs. The Visitor Center staff can tell you which trails are closed to hiking

About Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge

See all hotspots at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge provides valuable habitat for a diversity of waterfowl and other migratory birds, resident wildlife, and endangered and threatened species. It provides a place for people to enjoy wildlife-dependent activities and learn about the complexities of the natural world through education and interpretive programming.

Ottawa Refuge is located in northwest Ohio. The entrance is located 15 miles east of Toledo, Ohio, or 16 miles west of Port Clinton, Ohio on OH-2. The entrance road is located on the north side of OH-2.

Visitors should stop at the visitor center which opened in 2007. This beautiful lodge-style building welcomes you and tells the refuge story. The building is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

There are ten miles of hiking trails. These trails travel through a variety of habitats and start behind the visitor center or from the trailhead parking lot.

The refuge wildlife drive is open on scheduled days from 8 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The wildlife drive allows vehicles to travel through areas of the refuge not otherwise open to the general public. See the calendar of events for open dates.


  • Restrooms on site

  • Wheelchair accessible trail

  • Entrance fee

  • Roadside viewing

Content from Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge website, Friends of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge webpage, Kenn Kaufman, and Ohio Ornithological Society