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Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve
Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve

NOTE: The Visitor Center is temporarily closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. The trails and barrier beach are open.

Located in Huron on the south-central shore of Lake Erie, Old Woman Creek is one of Ohio's few remaining examples of a natural estuary. As a transition zone between land and water, the site contains a variety of habitats including marshes and swamps, upland forest, open water, tributary streams, barrier beach and near-shore Lake Erie. The Reserve supports a diverse assemblage of native plants and animals representative of freshwater estuaries.

About the Reserve

Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) is managed as a cooperative partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Old Woman Creek NERR is managed by the ODNR Office of Coastal Management; it is also a dedicated State Nature Preserve, managed by the ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves.

The Reserve’s administrative offices and Visitor Center are located in the Mike DeWine Center for Coastal Wetland Studies, which serves as a focal point for public visitation and education programs. The Center provides laboratories for ecological research, a classroom for education, and a variety of interactive displays.

Designated in 1980, Old Woman Creek NERR is part of a national network of 29 State-Federal partnership coastal reserves that address state and regional coastal management needs through research, education, and stewardship. The NERR System is administered by NOAA in collaboration with State partners and uses its network of living laboratories to help understand and find solutions to crucial issues facing America’s coastal communities. Each of the 29 reserves, including Old Woman Creek, is comprised of four common sectors: Education, Research, Stewardship, and Training.

Education

The Old Woman Creek NERR education program seeks to enhance people’s willingness to make informed decisions and take responsible actions to benefit Lake Erie coastal ecosystems and communities. Programs emphasize hands-on scientific learning for a range of audiences in our outdoor classrooms.

Community Education

Estuary Explorations Community Programs: Free educational programs open to the public include guided hikes, canoe tours, nature art classes and hands-on rain garden and rain barrel workshops.

Brown Bag Series: We bring in guest researchers to discuss their research and how it can impact the Old Woman Creek watershed. You bring lunch and curiosity and we provide discussion topics and dessert. Generally scheduled from Noon to 1pm on the first Friday of the month, April through October.

Opportunities for K-12 Students

Programs upon request focused on wetland ecology, watersheds and water resource stewardship. Suitable for teachers, schools, colleges and universities. Programs meet Ohio Academic Science Standards and resource materials are made available to educators prior to on-site programs. Three months advance notice required for planning and staff scheduling.

NOTE: The Friends of Old Woman Creek offers a grant to support K-12 environmental education field trips to Old Woman Creek. 

See Environmental Education at Old Woman Creek

Research

The Research and Monitoring Program of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System performs two primary functions:

  • Facilitate and coordinate scientific understanding of estuaries
  • Monitor baseline conditions of estuarine ecosystems at all 29 NERR sites

The monitoring program (known as the System-Wide Monitoring Program, or SWMP) provides long-term data on water quality, weather, biological communities, habitat, and land-use and land-cover characteristics. SWMP data can be accessed from the NERR Centralized Data Management Office at cdmo.baruch.sc.edu. When downloading data from this site, please examine the metadata.

Reserve research is focused on how environmental factors (including nutrient loading, climate change, invasive species and habitat) impact coastal ecosystems. This research, coupled with the monitoring data, provides a strong, science-based foundation for addressing coastal management challenges.

See Research on Old Woman Creek NERR

Stewardship

Old Woman Creek takes an active role in stewardship, working within Reserve boundaries as well as in surrounding watersheds. The Reserve has a 2.75-mile trail system including gravel trails and 1,960 feet of boardwalk, which are maintained in partnership with the ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves.

Ongoing stewardship efforts include identifying target areas for invasive species control, promoting conservation through community engagement, and evaluating changing conditions in and around the estuary.

See Stewardship at Old Woman Creek NERR

Training

Helping communities and the nation address coastal issues is what drives the National Estuarine Research Reserves’ training efforts. The Coastal Training Program provides technical training for professionals that advances national coastal management priorities, addresses local needs and ensures the effective use of reserve-based science.

Audiences served include professionals who make decisions about coastal resources. These might include elected officials, local government staff members (e.g., county, city, and town managers or planners), state agency personnel, business professionals and organizations, or state and regional professional associations. Topical areas include coastal habitat, water quality, stormwater management, land use, nature-based shorelines and coastal development.

See Ohio Coastal Training Program