Aurora Audubon Sanctuary

About this Location

Located 2 miles east of Aurora off East Pioneer Trail. The preserve does not have any road frontage but is accessible through the Bretschneider Park parking lot. Sunny Lake Park is to the south across East Pioneer Trail.

The Aurora Audubon Sanctuary provides a diversity of habitat types for breeding and migrant birds. A variety of hawks and owls have been observed here, such as great-horned and barred owls, as well as other raptors, such as osprey, bald eagles, red-shouldered, Cooper’s, and sharp-shinned hawks.

The preserve features several miles of hiking trails providing access to a wide variety of habitat types– mature and second-growth hardwood forest, three ponds, river floodplains, and fields. Seasonally, there is an abundant diversity of native wildflowers as well as excellent birding opportunities. The Preserve acquired in 1941 by the Greater Cleveland Audubon Society’s predecessor, The Cleveland Bird Club, is the oldest bird sanctuary in Ohio.

The Aurora Preserve, owned by the Audubon Society of Greater Cleveland, is the oldest bird sanctuary in Ohio, acquired in 1941 by the Greater Cleveland Audubon Society’s predecessor, The Cleveland Bird Club.

Aurora Sanctuary is located north of Pioneer Trail Road, near Page Road in Aurora. It was purchased in 1941 by The Cleveland Bird Club. It is the oldest bird sanctuary in Ohio. The former owner of the property, the Smythe family, intended to develop it in the 1920s, but the depression forced the abandonment of the plan, and The Cleveland Bird Club bought the property from the Cleveland Trust Co.

Biological Assets: The bulk of the 165-acre preserve is in a mature beech-maple forest, although two field areas are preserved from an earlier time when the property was partially farmed. Approximately half of the property has been left in an entirely natural state, without trails or other alterations of any kind. A trail system on the western portion of the property is about two miles in length and lends access to a large variety of habitat types. The sanctuary is a State Nature Preserve dedicated in 1999, that is open to the public.

There are four ponds on the property. The largest, James Fulton Pond, is currently 10-15 acres in size. An observation blind overlooking Fulton pond was constructed in 2003. An original smaller pond was expanded in the early 1950s by the addition of a cement dam, and it grew further in the 1960s and ’70s as beaver returned to the area and raised the dam. Beaver have also created a small pond adjoining Fulton Pond on its east side, and the area of this pond is noted for its population of both Closed Bottle Gentian and Smaller Fringed Gentian, the latter of which is State listed as an endangered wildflower. A smaller pond at the northwest corner of the preserve, the Hamann Pond, is about 3 acres in size and was built by Society members in the early 1950s. A fourth small pond is entirely natural, the result of glacial activity.

Due to the many habitat types in this sanctuary, it clearly has great potential as an educational resource. Management problems in the Aurora Sanctuary include protecting its integrity from growing development pressures on neighboring land and dealing with one invasive plant, in particular, the European Buckthorn.

A central feature of the Aurora Sanctuary is a deep glacial gorge that carries a stream called Hickory Creek that drains the wetlands associated with our Blanche Katherine Novak Sanctuary to the north and merges with the Aurora Branch of the Chagrin River at the western edge of the property (see maps). Hickory Creek is noted for its purity, accounted for by the fact that it has historically been isolated from farming or development activities.

The Aurora Sanctuary is also noted for historical artifacts that have recently caused the Aurora Landmark Commission to seek to landmark the property. They include an 1820’s wagon road that forms the sanctuary’s western boundary, bridge artifacts from the same period, and a substantial ditch, originally intended as the right-of-way of a never-completed railroad, dating from the 1850s known as “The Clinton Airline”.

Notable Trails

Aurora Audubon Sanctuary Trails
A trail system on the western portion of the property is about two miles in length and lends access to a large variety of habitat types.


  • Restrooms on site

  • Wheelchair accessible trail

  • Entrance fee

  • Roadside viewing

Content from Aurora Audubon State Nature Preserve webpage and Aurora Audubon Sanctuary Greater Cleveland Audubon Society webpage