Greenlawn Dam

Greenlawn Dam

Greenlawn Avenue Columbus, Ohio 43223

Also, see all the hotspots at:
Scioto River-Greenlawn Important Bird Area

Tips for Birding

The entire Scioto Greenway Trail is 18 miles long, but this guide covers only the section from Frank Road on the south to the meadow north of the Greenlawn Dam, about 3 miles or so. There are diverse habitats along this riparian corridor, making it favorable to a wide variety of birds: a reservoir, islands, floodplain woods, mature wooded paths, and a meadow.

1. Marina, reservoir, and dam off Whittier Street: This is a good point to scan the reservoir and its islands from the benches – or even your car – located on the high ground near the boat launches. Scopes are recommended. The small island at the western end of the reservoir is a regular roosting spot for Great Egrets and Black-crowned Night Herons from late summer to early fall. The lower end of the long island or peninsula in the middle of the reservoir has a mudflat during lower water and should be checked for gulls, terns, and shorebirds in season. This was the location of a Great Black-backed Gull a few winters ago. During spring and fall, migrant ducks, grebes, and cormorants can be found. Watch for migrant Ospreys fishing the waters as well as large flocks of swallows and, occasionally, a Peregrine Falcon from the downtown nest. Be sure to check the south end at the dam for Yellow-crowned Night-Herons in the summer and wintering Common Goldeneyes, Buffleheads, and Hooded Mergansers in the open water below the dam in season.

2. North Bike Path: Reach the paved path at the north end of the parking lot. This leafy trail hosts warblers and other songbirds during spring and fall migrations, and provides nesting habitat to House Wrens, Gray Catbirds, Warbling Vireos, Yellow Warblers, Baltimore Orioles, and other local residents. Proceed along the path until it opens out on the left above a storm sewer outlet. This is often a good place to check birds on the north end of the mudflat. All the common shorebird species can be seen here in the fall along with some less common ones such as Stilt Sandpiper and Black-bellied Plover. American Pipits may be found on the mudflat, too. Don’t be surprised if you see evidence of beavers working on the trees as they have been seen recently making a comeback along the river.

Shortly, the path opens out on the right to a grass-covered ridge. Watch for tracks on the left and follow the third or fourth on the left to the cove. Look for migrant dabbling ducks and resident Green Herons. Return to the bike path and continue to the meadow on the left. A dirt path follows the perimeter of the meadow and during migration can be very productive in the morning for songbirds, Most of the sparrow species (including Clay-colored) have been found here as well as many warblers (including Golden-winged and Yellow-throated). Eastern Bluebirds and Eastern Meadowlarks have been seen and you might flush an American woodcock in March or April.

3. South Bike Path: The paved path begins south of the dam and west of the river. Either drive to the access point (the driveway just west of the Scioto River bridge on Greenlawn Avenue) or walk there south along Front Street. While the habitat is similar to the north path, the woods are wider and denser and include a wide wooded flood plain that can be very productive for migrant songbirds including Olive-sided Flycatcher, Worm-eating Warbler, and Connecticut Warbler. In addition to those found on the north path, nesting birds have included Yellow-crowned Night Herons, Wood Ducks, Prothonotary Warblers, and Indigo Buntings. In winter an assortment of ducks feed in the open waters.

Approaches to birding are more varied here than on the north path. One may stay on the paved path, walk along the western edge adjacent to Berliner Park, and/or follow the dirt tracks in the flood plain woods. All of these provide excellent habitat and at the right time can reward the patient birder with great views of good birds.

From I-70, exit at Greenlawn Avenue, and turn east. Proceed about .25 mile to Scioto River bridge. Just before the bridge, enter the lower bike path at the Columbus Fire Department training area and maintenance garage on the left, west of the Scioto River. To reach the upper bike path and Greenlawn Dam and Marina, cross the Scioto River bridge to Front Street (about .3 mi.). Turn north (left) to the first street light at Whittier Street (less than one mile) Turn west (left), cross the railroad overpass to the entrance on left immediately ahead.

There is a lot at the marina/dam area. For the lower bike trail, limited parking is available in the fire department training area. More parking on the south side of Greenlawn Avenue at Berliner athletic facility/park.

Birds of Interest

Ducks (dabbling and diving) and grebes in open water, gulls, Carolina Chickadee, Golden-crowned Kinglet, White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows.
Nearly all migrating Ohio ducks, herons, and grebes; osprey, Broad-winged hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Bald Eagle; common shorebirds if water levels are appropriate; Black-billed and Yellow-billed Cuckoos; all Ohio flycatchers, including Olive-sided; swallows, including Purple martin; Winter Wren; vireos; most of the Eastern wood warblers, including Orange-crowned, Worm-eating, Connecticut, Golden-winged, and Prothonotary; both Scarlet and Summer Tanagers; Rusty Blackbird, Orchard Oriole, Baltimore Oriole; Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo bunting, Rufous-sided Towhee, Fox Sparrow, Harris’s sparrow, Purple Finch. Nearly all of these less common birds are seen at least once each spring.
A much quieter season, but commonly seen birds include Great Blue and Green Herons, and Yellow-crowned and Black-crowned Night-Herons; Cooper’s and Red-tailed Hawks, American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon; Spotted Sandpiper; Ring-billed Gull; Common Nighthawk; Eastern Wood-Peewee, Willow Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe; Carolina Chickadee; Warbling and Red-eyed Vireos; Yellow, Black and white and Prothonotary Warblers; Baltimore Oriole.
Most of the same birds are seen in the spring, with large concentrations of swallows and swifts.

About this Location

The Scioto River-Greenlawn Important Bird Area (IBA) includes a relatively intact three-mile riparian corridor in a heavily urbanized area within the city limits of Columbus, Ohio, from the I-70/71 bridge south to the southern end of Berliner Park. Along the river corridor, it includes a dam-produced basin, a seasonal mudflat, and rocky riffles downstream of the dam. The Greenlawn Dam (built in the 1930s) is the last dam on the Scioto south to the Ohio River, more than 100 river miles distant. The 360-acre Green Lawn Cemetery and Arboretum are disjunct — one mile west — but included in this IBA. Public bicycle paths provide access to the area, and also make convenient walking paths for birders. The Grange Insurance Audubon Center is located within the 80-acre Scioto Audubon Metro Park at the north end of the Whittier Peninsula.

Restrooms on site.

Content from Ohio Ornithological Society and Ohio Audubon Important Bird Area webpage