Location & Description
This 2,202-acre controlled hunting area is located 17 miles west of Port Clinton on State Route 2, and 10 miles north of Oak Harbor on State Route 19.
History & Purpose
The Lake Erie marshes gained fame during the late 1800s as some of the best waterfowl hunting areas in the United States. Wealthy sportsmen vied to purchase choice hunting sites, and as early as 1890 much of the wetland area was being operated for private shooting. By the end of 1951 the entire 30,000 acres of remaining marshland along Lake Erie, from Toledo to Sandusky, was under private club ownership. Today, the region still supports some of the most intensively developed and managed waterfowling clubs in the Midwest. The Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, purchased by the Ohio Division of Wildlife in August 1951, lies in some of Ohio’s finest remaining wetlands. The marsh complex has historically been inhabited by large numbers of waterfowl, waterbirds, shorebirds, and songbirds. The primary responsibility at Magee Marsh is the development and maintenance of high-quality wetland habitat for a diverse array of wetland wildlife species. During the 1960s, a small flock of Canada geese was released and goose nesting tubs were erected at Magee Marsh as part of Ohio’s Canada goose reintroduction program. Other goose management areas included Killdeer Plains, Mercer, and Mosquito wildlife areas. Between 9,000-11,000 goslings are produced on these areas annually, making Ohio’s goose production program the most successful program in the nation.
During fall migration, thousands of Canada geese, mallards, black ducks, widgeon, and green-winged teal will use this portion of Lake Erie’s Western Basin marshes. Other common species found in Magee Marsh include pintails, gadwalls, shovelers, blue-winged teal, wood ducks, ring-necked ducks, and red-breasted mergansers. Lesser numbers of redheads, scaup, buffleheads, ruddy ducks, and canvasbacks also frequent Magee Marsh during migration. Fall duck populations usually peak around mid-November. These shallow marshes usually freeze over during the third week of November, but Sandusky Bay and Lake Erie normally remain open until mid-December. This open water, combined with an abundance of waste cereal grains in nearby fields, tends to hold relatively large populations of ducks in the area until late in the hunting season. Spring flights of migrating waterfowl become apparent after the frozen marshes begin to thaw in February. Early flights of pintails, mallards, and black ducks follow the freeze line. Local giant Canada geese, along with a small population of wintering migratory geese, will stay through the winter in the vicinity of Magee Marsh. Flocks of migrating tundra swans, sometimes numbering 2,000-3,000 appear in late March and remain in the area until the end of April. Spring and fall migrations are spectacular at Magee Marsh, with more than 300 species of birds being recorded on the area. Bald eagles, peregrine falcons, osprey, and a large variety of hawks can be seen at Magee Marsh during the spring. A forested beach ridge located on Magee provides a critical feeding and resting habitat for more than 150 species of migrating songbirds, including 36 species of warblers, as they rest and refuel before continuing on their journey. An accessible boardwalk that meanders through this beach ridge provides some of the best bird-watching opportunities in the Midwest. During the summer, herons, egrets, pied-billed grebes, ducks, and Canada geese can be seen in the marsh and along the waterways, and a variety of migrating shorebirds can be spotted as they feed in the mudflats during late summer and early fall. Always remember to keep your eyes open for a glimpse of the bald eagles that frequent the marsh. The most common furbearers found in the wetland include muskrats, raccoons, skunks, mink, and foxes. Cottontail rabbits, fox squirrels, coyotes, and white-tailed deer are also present.
Waterfowl and deer hunting on Magee Marsh Wildlife Area are done on a controlled, hunt-by-permit basis. Youth waterfowl and deer hunts are also offered, by permit, during the special youth hunt weekends and the first Saturday of waterfowl season. Application forms for these controlled hunts are available at WildOhio.com. Controlled furbearer trapping and special youth trapping opportunities are allowed on Magee Marsh by permit. Information and bidding requirements may be obtained by contacting Magee Marsh Wildlife Area. A small boat ramp at the Turtle Creek fishing access provides access to Lake Erie, and a parking lot for anglers is also located there. Located at the beach, there are several parking lots available for anglers looking for ice fishing opportunities on Lake Erie. The Sportsmen’s Migratory Bird Center, built in 1970, houses a comfortable lounge with a fireplace, various displays depicting the history of Magee Marsh, and is surrounded by a display pond full of fish, frogs, turtles, and snakes. A walking trail and 42-foot observation deck near the bird center gives a commanding view of the display ponds, marsh, and lake. The accessible Sportsmen’s Migratory Bird Center is open year-round, Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday during the spring and summer from 8:00 am - 3:00 p.m. Extended hours on Saturdays in April & May 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. The accessible boardwalk bird trail and entire wildlife area are also open year-round from dawn to dusk. Restricted hours do apply during the controlled waterfowl hunts that are carried out on Magee Marsh from early October through early December.
Magee Marsh Guidelines
- Magee Marsh is a pack-in, pack-out facility.
- Dogs are permitted on the area but must be kept on a leash that is 6ft or less (unless on the dog training grounds). Only service dogs are permitted on the boardwalk.
- Wheelchairs, walkers, electric wheelchairs are permitted on the boardwalk.
- There is no overnight parking at Magee Marsh. The area closes nightly at sundown and reopens at sunrise.
- Parking is only permitted in designated locations. Do not park along the roadway or in the grass.
- Roads and parking lots become very busy during the spring. Drive slowly and patiently to ensure everyone has an enjoyable visit.
Additional information to help you enjoy your visit:
- Portable restrooms are located near the west and east entrances of the boardwalk and near the Sportsmen’s Migratory Bird Center. A small number of flush toilets are available in the Bird Center. All restrooms are cleaned daily.
- Weather on the shores of Lake Erie can be unpredictable. Dress in layers and be aware of any approaching storms.
- Tread carefully on the boardwalk as it can become very slippery when wet.
- A list of the birds that are being seen in the area can be found on eBird.org (Explore Hotspots – Magee Marsh) and at the entrance of the Sportsmen’s Migratory Bird Center.
- Many wildlife species are active during the spring. Be on the lookout for turtles, snakes, and other animals crossing the roads and parking lots. Allow them to pass unharmed.
Birding Along Lake Erie
The southwest shore of Lake Erie has many prime birding locations that can be explored this spring. Here are just a few that shouldn’t be missed:
Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge (Ottawa County): Scattered woodlots provide viewing of migrating songbirds, and several owl species are frequently seen on the area. The popular wildlife drive is open daily from April 30 to May 16 and allows visitors to traverse the expansive wetlands and is perfect for viewing waterfowl, shorebirds, and eagles. The ONWR visitor center will not be open during the spring birding season, however outdoor restrooms will be available.
- How to get there: (2 minutes) Turn right onto State Route 2 and travel for approximately a half mile.
Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area (Ottawa County): The open water marsh is a prime spot to see swans and diving and dabbling ducks. A small woodlot at the northern end of the road can hold a spectacular array of migrating warblers and songbirds.
- How to get there: (10 minutes) Turn right onto State Route 2 and travel approximately 7 miles. Turn right onto Bono Road (just as you come out of the second big curve). Follow road along causeway to parking area.
Howard Marsh Metropark (Lucas County): Shallow marshes and mudflats in the park provide fantastic viewing of wading birds and waterfowl. Eagles and other raptors are often seen flying over, as well as swans and sandhill cranes.
- How to get there: (10 minutes) Turn right onto State Route 2 and travel approximately 7 miles. Turn right onto Howard Road (just after the second large curve). Entrance to park is ahead on the right.
Maumee Bay State Park (Lucas County): The park contains a variety of habitats, including swamp forests, open meadows and beach areas and is a great place to view everything from wading birds to raptors and warblers.
- How to get there: (20 minutes) Turn right onto State Route 2 and travel approximately 11 miles; turn right onto N. Curtice Road (CR 202) and travel 3 miles; continue onto the Maumee Bay entrance road from the intersection of Curtice Road and Cedar Point Road.
East Harbor State Park (Ottawa County): Hosting a variety of habitats, the park draws in a wide range of species including waterfowl, gulls and terns, and numerous songbirds. Wooded areas around the campground and the swamp forests along the lakefront are most productive for warblers.
- How to get there: (30 minutes) Turn left onto State Route 2 and travel approximately 22 miles. Take exit 125-B for OH-269 N toward Lakeside/Marblehead. Continue on 269 N then turn right onto OH-269 N/W SR 163 E (at the light). At the next light turn left onto OH-269 N (park entrance is ahead 1 mile on the right).
Note: Directions for each area are written as if driving out of the Magee Marsh entrance road, facing State Route 2.
Additional birding locations can be found by visiting the Lake Erie Birding Trail page.
Support Wildlife Conservation in Ohio
Birders can support wildlife conservation by purchasing an Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp. The 2021 stamp features a northern cardinal and can be purchased through the Wild Ohio Store. Proceeds from the sale of the Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp are used to support endangered and threatened native species, habitat restoration, land purchases, conservation easements, and educational products for students and wildlife enthusiasts.