Old Woman Creek is protected as a State Nature Preserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) because it is one of Ohio's best remaining examples of a natural estuary. The estuary serves as a field laboratory where scientists can study this naturally functioning system and as a place where visitors can learn about estuarine ecology in a natural setting.
An estuary is traditionally defined as that place where the land's fresh waters meet and mix with the saltwater of the sea and where water levels are affected by tides. Although salt concentration or salinity is not a factor here, the waters of the lake and Old Woman Creek combine in the estuary to form a third type of water, chemically different from that of either the creek or lake.
Old Woman Creek features a variety of aquatic and terrestrial habitats: marshlands, open water, a barrier sand beach, upland forests and old crop fields in early plant succession. Attracted by the water supply and abundance of food and shelter, birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects are drawn here. Lake Erie and its coastal zone are among Ohio's most valuable natural resources. As many of Ohio's once expansive coastal wetlands have disappeared, the preservation of these natural features is critical.
- No swimming or fishing allowed.
- No pets, alcohol, or bicycles are permitted.
- Open sunrise to sunset.
- Canoeing/kayaking and off-trail access are only permitted by first obtaining an Access Permit from the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves. Permit applications must be submitted two weeks in advance of visit.
- Access Permits can also be obtained in-person at the Visitor Center during open hours and are valid for a ten-day period.
- Note: Canoeing/kayaking permits are not available from December through March
Spend a day exploring the interactive exhibits. Discover valuable Old Woman Creek habitats featuring bird watching, microscopes, webcams, estuary monitoring gear and live animals. Utilize an interactive trail map and play a virtual water choices game. Other exhibits include talking timelines, a Lake Erie shipwreck kiosk, games to help demonstrate current research concepts, and Lake Erie Legacy movies.
Visitor Center Hours:
- Monday: Closed
- Tuesday: 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
- Wednesday: 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
- Thursday: 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
- Friday: 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
- Saturday: 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm (April through September only)
- Sunday: 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm (April through September only)
Click here for environmental education resources at Old Woman Creek.
Trails and Barrier Beach
Nearly three miles of hiking trails wind through an oak-hickory forest to an observation deck overlooking the estuary and through several other habitats. A barrier beach is also located at the north side of the Reserve. Separating the estuary from Lake Erie, the wind-swept barrier beach is a dynamic environment, continually being altered by pounding waves and shifting sand. Shorebirds and migratory waterfowl are common visitors. Only walking/hiking is permitted. Swimming and fishing are not permitted.