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National Wildlife Refuge

black duck on water
14000 West State Route 2
Oak Harbor, OH   43449
E-mail: ottawa@fws.gov
Phone Number: 419-898-0014
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The refuge protects important migratory habitat for songbirds, shorebirds, and waterfowl such as black ducks.
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Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge

The Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1961 to preserve habitat for migrating birds. Staff at the refuge also manage Cedar Point and West Sister Island refuges. The three refuges together now protect approximately 9,000 acres of habitat and some of the last remnants of the "Great Black Swamp" in the heart of the Lake Erie marshes.

The Lake Erie Marsh Region has historically been important to fish, migratory waterfowl, songbirds, and shorebirds. Large numbers of migrating songbirds stop in the area to rest during their spring migration. This amazing wildlife spectacle attracts a large number of visitors from across the country.

Ottawa Refuge has been designated as a site of regional significance in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. In 2002, "Birders World" readers voted the refuge as one of their Top 15 favorite spots to see birds, and the American Bird Conservancy has identified the refuge as an Important Bird Area.

Getting There . . .
The refuge entrance is located 15 miles east of Toledo/Oregon and 16 miles west of Port Clinton on State Route 2. From I80/90 take exit 81 Elmore/Gibsonburg/Woodville. Follow SR 51 north through the village of Elmore to SR 105. Go right (east) on SR 105 to SR 590. Go left (north) on SR 590 to SR 2. Take a right (east) onto SR 2 and follow for approximately 1 mile. The Ottawa NWR entrance is on the north (left) side of SR 2.

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These driving directions are provided as a general guide only. No representation is made or warranty given as to their content, road conditions or route usability or expeditiousness. User assumes all risk of use.

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Wildlife and Habitat

The focus of Ottawa Refuge is to protect, enhance and restore habitat for threatened and endangered species; provide suitable nesting habitat for migratory birds; provide spring and fall migrational habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds; and provide habitat for native resident flora and fauna.

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The 300,000-acre Great Black Swamp once covered the area that is now Ottawa Refuge. It extended from the western end of Lake Erie to Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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Management Activities
Management of the refuge focuses on providing resting habitat for migratory birds. The refuge provides a place for migratory birds to "refuel" during the arduous journeys between their nesting and wintering grounds. This is accomplished by managing 5,794 acres of the historic Lake Erie marshes.

A series of dikes has been constructed to allow for water level control. Water levels are maintained at various depths to provide the best habitats for migrating birds. Native millet and smartweed are produced as a result of scheduled drawdowns and provide an excellent food source for migrating waterfowl. Other areas are maintained as permanent or semi-permanent marshes to produce emergent and submergent plants for a host of wetland wildlife.

The refuge maintains a series of "moist soil units" for waterfowl and other water birds. These wetland areas are drained to allow native vegetation to grow, then re-flooded. They provide feeding and resting areas for migrating ducks, geese, and shorebirds.

Each year, the refuge battles invasive plants on the dikes and in wetland areas using a variety of methods. The refuge has been using a biological program to control purple loosestrife using introduced Galerucella species beetles since 2000.

The refuge staff and volunteers, through regularly scheduled surveys, monitor waterfowl, shorebirds, songbirds, raptors and other resident wildlife populations. These surveys are conducted to monitor numbers as well as establish population trends, thus guiding management activities on the refuge.