Newsroom Midwest Region

Celebrating the future and appreciating the past

55 years protecting a migratory bird oasis

Sunset over the wetlands of Cedar Point
Sunset over the wetlands of Cedar Point. Photo by Chris Kanipe/USFWS.

We at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are celebrating Cedar Point National Wildlife Refuge, which was established 55 years ago this week. Located in Lucas County, Ohio the refuge contains the largest remaining contiguous Lake Erie coastal wetland and Cedar Point, a stopover oasis for migratory birds. Take a moment to learn about this secluded refuge and plan a trip to experience it first-hand. 

In 1964, the Cedar Point Shooting Club was donated to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, creating the refuge. Today, the 2,445-acre refuge is recognized as a Globally Important Bird Area by the American Bird Conservancy and is a Regionally Significant Site in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Network. Birds - and birders - travel internationally to northwest Ohio or “the warbler capital of the world” as this premier birding location is known. 

A Wilson's warbler perched in a tree
Wilson’s warbler. Photo by Grayson Smith/USFWS.

In the spring, the coastline funnels returning birds to the refuge’s productive marshes and forests where they rest and recuperate before continuing their journey over the open waters of Lake Erie. In the fall, these birds return to the point, making the shortest journey possible over the lake. Birders flock to Cedar Point National Wildlife Refuge for the tours during the Biggest Week in American Birding Festival each May. 

Refuge tours remain popular with wildlife watchers through the summer. Some lucky visitors may even see black terns in courtship display, where elaborate flights can last for 20 minutes. Wildlife observation tours are offered through the visitor center at sister refuge, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, including specialized tours that focus on wildlife photography or bald eagle viewing.

A black tern perched on a floating log
Black tern. Photo courtesy of Mick Thompson/Creative Commons.

Along the lakeshore, the refuge protects one of the rarest Great Lakes’ ecosystems - cottonwood dunes. These woods make Cedar Point National Wildlife Refuge a hotspot for both land and aquatic migratory birds. The refuge is also home to rare and protected species, such as the federally endangered eastern prairie fringed orchid. These woods, wetlands and beaches are suitable habitat for a variety of imperiled animals like piping plovers, Indiana bats and Northern long-eared bats. The refuge continues to support the conservation of the bald eagle with three active nests.

A northern pike underwater
Northern pike. Photo courtesy of A.S. Kers/Creative Commons

With opportunities to fish and hunt, visitors can enjoy more than spectacular birding. From June to August, the refuge is open for fishing, with bass and sunfish the most common catch. Anglers should note that the fishing parking lot is also a local favorite for June birdwatchers! Life jackets are recommended even when fishing from shore due to steep banks. Wetland restoration efforts have reconnected the marshes to Lake Erie, which benefits Northern pike that use the area for spawning and nursery habitat. Regulated and permitted hunting help keep white-tailed deer in check, allowing the refuge to maintain habitat for a variety of species. Youth deer hunts and adult archery permits are selected through a lottery. Below the high water mark, waterfowl hunting is allowed but is only accessible by boat. 

Thanks for taking some time to learn about Cedar Point National Wildlife Refuge as we mark 55 years of conservation, excellent recreation and fun adventures. Learn more about Cedar Point National Wildlife Refuge and plan your visit today! 

Celebrating the Future and Appreciating the Past

This series of articles is inspired by the long history of land managers and biologists who protect, restore and conserve our National Wildlife Refuge System lands. As our midwest refuges reach milestone anniversaries, we will highlight what makes them special. Look for historic photos, lesser known biological and geological tidbits and reflections from the people who know them best - refuge field staff.

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