Visit Us

National wildlife refuges offer us all a chance to unplug from the stresses of daily life and reconnect with our natural surroundings. Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to connect with nature, whether it’s the woods that draw you or the open marshes. If you are looking for birds or mammals you are sure to find them here. 

Driving Directions

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge is located in northwest Ohio. The entrance is located 15 miles east of Toledo, Ohio or 16 miles west of Port Clinton, Ohio on State Route 2. The entrance road is located on the north side of State Route 2.

Address:
Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge
14000 West State Route 2, Oak Harbor, Ohio 43449

When using GPS to navigate to the refuge, some will direct you to Krause Road on the west end of the refuge. This is three miles west of the refuge entrance. Continue east on State Route 2 past the intersections with SR 579 and SR 590 to the main entrance.

Fees

There is no charge to visit.

Restrooms

Restrooms are available inside the visitor center, behind the visitor center and a comfort station is available at the trailhead parking lot. 

Points of Interest

Visitors should stop at the visitor center at 14000 West State Route 2, Oak Harbor, OH 43449. The visitor center opened in 2007. This beautiful lodge-style building welcomes you and tells the refuge story. The building is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. It is closed some federal holidays, but open on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day.

There are 10 miles of hiking trails. These trails travel through a variety of habitats and start behind the visitor center or from the trailhead parking lot.

The refuge wildlife drive is not open every day, please check the calendar of events to see if the wildlife drive is scheduled to be open before you travel. On the days that it is open the wildlife drive travels through areas of the refuge not otherwise open.

What To Do

If you have 15 minutes

  • Take a stroll on the boardwalk behind the visitor center. This one-third mile loop takes you over a wetland, through shrubs and into the woods, reminiscent of the Great Black Swamp. This short walk has benches if you have an extra minute to sit and relax. A variety of birds can commonly be seen along the route. 

If you have one hour

  • Stop in the visitor center for an introduction to the refuge then venture out onto the trails, you can choose the short walk behind the visitor center or extend it further into the woods.
  • You could also take a hike on the larger section of the trails. A loop around Pool 2C gives you a view of the most variety of habitats. If you are there on a day that the wildlife drive is open and have more time you can travel the first few miles and exit at Krause and Stange Roads. 

If you have half a day or more

  • Spend time learning the fascinating history of the refuge complex. Watch the video to learn how the refuge was started and more about the Great Black Swamp.
  • Visit all three floors, including the third-floor observation deck and the Bob Hines gallery.
  • Check out a pair of binoculars, field guide, explorer’s backpack and get deeper into the natural wonders available on the refuge.
  • Or spend some time reading children’s books and doing some activities.
  • You can take advantage of the 10 miles of hiking trails available through a variety of habitats.
  • If you are there on a day that the wildlife drive is open and have more time you can travel the first few miles and exit at Krause and Stange Roads or travel all seven miles. You may also want to visit some of the satellite properties to see a wider variety of birds. 

Know Before You Go

When planning a trip to the refuge, it is important to be aware that our weather conditions are often affected by Lake Erie. It can be much colder and windier here than 10 miles inland. Consider dressing in layers, even in the summer. Also consider bringing water, food, binoculars, field guides, a hat, sunscreen, insect repellent and anything else that might make the outdoor experience more enjoyable. Except for the boardwalk, the trails are gravel or grass covered and sometimes muddy, sturdy shoes are recommended.

When using GPS to navigate to the refuge, some will direct you to Krause Road on the west end of the refuge. This is three miles west of the refuge entrance. Continue east on State Route 2 past the intersections with SR 579 and SR 590 to the main entrance.

Visitor Tips

  • Morning and evening are best times to see wildlife
  • There is an eBird kiosk in the visitor center
  • Weekdays are less busy
  • There is fishing equipment available at the visitor center
  • Binoculars, field guides and activity backpacks are available to borrow
  • Some trails are seasonal these are marked on the map
  • The wildlife drive is not open every day, please check the schedule for dates 
  • Late April through mid-May are the best times for spring migratory birds
  • July through August are the worst months for bugs in the woods
     

Activities

Whether you are interested in birdwatching, hunting or just enjoying time outdoors there is something for you at the refuge. Some activities have limited locations and some areas are closed seasonally please check with the visitor center or our brochure for more details. 

Trails

Boardwalk Loop

Open season: Open year round
Length: 0.3 mile
Location of trail: Behind the visitor center
Surface: Boards and stone
Difficulty: Easy, ADA compliant
Information: The boardwalk loop begins and ends behind the visitor center and travels over wetland and through wooded habitat. It has extensions that travel deeper into the woods and to the ranger station education building. 

Estuary Trail

Open season: Daily December through October, Saturday afternoon – Sunday October through November
Length: .5 mile
Location of trail: West of the Magee Marsh beach along Lake Erie
Surface: Stone, grass, sand
Difficulty: Moderate
Information: This trail is accessed from the Magee Marsh parking lot or by walking the Pool 1 trail April 15 through September 1. It provides access to the lake and to beach ridge habitat preferred by many migrating songbirds in the spring. 

Woodies Roost Trail

Open season: April 15 through September 1
Length:
Location of trail: 1.9 miles
Surface Grass
Difficulty: level, easy
Information: This seasonal trail can be accessed from the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge trailhead parking lot via the Partnership Trail or from the Migratory Bird Center parking lot at Magee Marsh. It travels around a wetland and past some large wooded areas. 

Gallagher Memorial Trail

Open season: Year round
Length: 0.3 mile
Location of trail: Behind the offices of Black Swamp Bird Observatory
Surface Gravel
Difficulty: Easy
Information: Access this trail from the Partnership Trail or from Black Swamp Bird Observatory. This trail travels through scrub-shrub habitat and is a great location to see the mating display of American woodcock in the spring. There are also a variety of songbirds that use this area. 

Partnership Trail

Open season: Year round
Length: 1.5 miles
Location of trail: Between the trailhead parking lot and Magee Marsh Wildlife Area entrance road. 
Surface Grass
Difficulty: Easy
Information: Access this trail from trailhead parking lot or from the Migratory Bird Center parking lot at Magee Marsh. This trail travels through scrub-shrub area, along wetlands, deeper open pools and a grassland. There are also a variety of songbirds and waterfowl that use this area.
 

Other Facilities in the Complex

The staff at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge also manage West Sister Island and Cedar Point National Wildlife Refuges and the Schoonover Waterfowl Production Area, in Michigan. These refuges provide both nesting and feeding locations for a variety of migratory birds. The water around West Sister Island is too deep for most of the birds nesting there to feed. They must make the nine-mile trip to the coastal marshes to feed. 

Rules and Policies

Welcome to your National Wildlife Refuge! Discover new places to hunt, fish, take pictures, watch wildlife, walk, cross-country ski, snowshoe, kayak and canoe. Enjoy spending time outdoors alone or with friends and family. Please consult the refuge manager at 419-898-0014 if you have questions. We may post additional site-specific regulations at kiosks on-site. To ensure your safety and protect wildlife and habitat, please be aware of these regulations. 

Locations

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge
14000 West State Route 2 Oak Harbor, OH 43449-9485
Hours
Visitor Center Hours
Wednesday thru Sunday, closed on some federal holidays, open on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day
10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Administrative Office Hours
Monday - Friday, closed federal holidays
9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Hiking Trail Hours
Year-round trails
Dawn - dusk
Seasonal trails
April 15 - Aug. 31, dawn - dusk
Wildlife Drive Hours
Sept. - April, Saturday and Sunday every third weekend of the month (road condition and weather permitting)
Sunrise to sunset (entrance closes one hour before sunset)
May1- 15, every day, May 21 - Aug., every weekend (road condition and weather permitting)
Sunrise to sunset (entrance closes one hour before sunset)