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Division of Natural Areas & Preserves


The Division of Natural Areas and Preserves was statutorily established in 1975, it is the smallest and the newest of the land-managing divisions within the Department of Natural Resources. The Division operates a statewide system of state nature preserves, natural areas and scenic rivers, protecting the best remaining examples of Ohio's natural heritage. There are three programs in the Division -  nature preserves, scenic rivers, and botanical inventory and monitoring. The Division administers the Natural Areas Act, Endangered Plant Law, Cave Protection Act and Ohio Scenic Rivers Act.

What is a State Nature Preserve? 

Today, 141 State Nature Preserves and natural areas have been dedicated in Ohio. These diverse areas of land contain remnants of Ohio’s pre-settlement past, rare and endangered species, and wondrous geologic features. While the majority of preserves are owned and managed by the State, some preserves are leased to local park districts for management. Other preserves are owned by non-governmental agencies. Even private landowners have dedicated their lands as preserves in order to be protected by the State. Some preserves are accessible by permit at no charge from the Division. 


What to expect when visiting a preserve 

Most State Nature Preserves contain small parking lots and a trail system. Some contain no user access facilities. Restrooms, picnic facilities and areas for active recreation are generally not available. Each preserve is managed to allow user access with the least amount of physical impact. To experience particularly fragile habitats like bogs and fens, boardwalks are often provided. Interpretive signage explaining the natural and cultural history of each site is present at many preserves. 

Prepare for harsh conditions when visiting a preserve. Trails are often unimproved, narrow paths that can become muddy and slippery during harsh weather. Poison ivy, ticks, mosquitoes and deer flies can be problematic during the appropriate seasons. Please plan ahead and dress accordingly to enjoy the natural beauty Ohio’s State Nature Preserves offer. 


State Nature Preserves are dedicated to the State of Ohio to be held in trust for the people of the state and future generations. A nature preserve is established when articles of dedication have been filed at the direction of the owner of land, or a governmental agency having ownership or control thereof, in the office of the county recorder of the county in which the land is located.

Articles of dedication must contain terms restricting the use of the land that adequately provide for its preservation and protection against modification, encroachment or other use that would destroy its natural conditions. Nature preserves must not be taken for any other use except after a finding by the Department of Natural Resources of the existence of an imperative and unavoidable public necessity and with the approval of the Governor. Ohio’s State Nature Preserves are truly the best examples of Ohio’s natural heritage.