Lawrence Woods State Nature Preserve – Kenton, Ohio

My daughter and I finally had a chance to explore a new nature preserve east of our home located at 13278 County Road 190, Kenton (Ridgeway), Ohio.  A gravel drive winds back to the parking lot where three kiosks stand with different information posted.  A little further past the first parking area there is a special parking for handicapped which offers convenient entry close to the 1.1 miles of boardwalk.  

Entrance sign


The area around the woods is a beautiful prairie that hosts all sorts of wild flowers and grasses.  You get a chance to view this terrain when you drive into the preserve.  The skies were overcast since storms were rolling in from a distance.  We could see flashes of lightening far off against the carbon steel tinted skies.  We checked the radar and determined that the storm was moving in the opposite direction before we proceeded.

Storm off in the distance from parking lot


The Trex boardwalk slips into the woods a short walk from the main parking lot (a mowed pathway traverses to the handicap parking area).  At first, there are boards with names of people who I am guessing people who donated money to this project.  The names are fun to read as you are walking.  The boardwalk is in excellent condition and well-maintained but with no side rails.  

The start of the boardwalk standing in handicapped parking


The preserve has 1035 acres in Hardin County with many mature trees and several endangered species of plants such as the Heart-leaf plantain.  There are many different types of oaks and it states on ODNR’s website that there is a great show of spring wild flowers.  Since the preserve is heavily wooded where the boardwalk trails through, I imagine a fall stroll would be gorgeous as well.  The setting is incredibly peaceful. 

My daughter standing next to a tree that looks like a rhinocerous


Along the board walk, which is like a lollipop, you walk the stick until you come to a junction where you can walk right or left which loops around and back to the junction.  You rewalk the “stick” back to the parking lot.  About midway through the loop is a spur that goes off into an open area.  We didn’t walk the spur because we had a moment of stupidity and forgot our bug spray so we were jogging parts of the trail to avoid the bugs.  There is also poison ivy that grows close to the edges of the boardwalk so be cautious of the sides.    

Namesake of the preserve at the loop junction


We passed one woman who was using the loop as a track for running.  The Trex boards prove to have enough traction and a bit of give for a more cushioned run.  I used my workout app to track how far we walked.  From the parking lot, through the loop and back, it stated 1.53 miles though I won’t swear that is exactly accurate.  There are numbered signs with “1, 2, 3” along the path I believe which are marking tenths of a mile.  At first I thought maybe there was an interpretive brochure that went with the numbers but they were evenly spaced at tenths.  

Number sign


This is a beautiful area that we plan on visiting again (and using bug spray).  As has been our experience so far, there are no pets and no facilities.  Pack water if it’s hot or you plan on walking the loop more than once.   There are many sections where there are small benches to sit and enjoy the woods.  It was very quiet while we were there and we were only accompanied by the usual sounds of the forest.  Leaves flittering in the breeze and bird song.  We didn’t see any wildlife but a storm was approaching.  

Boardwalk winding between 3 mature trees


In conclusion, this offers a nice stroll or maybe even a run.  The boardwalk is in excellent condition as of August 2016.  Like most preserves it is not heavily used at least during the week.  This is one of the better maintained preserves so far and a beautiful area.

Lawrence Woods State Nature Preserve

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Davey Woods – Ohio State Nature Preserve

Davey Woods SNP is located in Champaign county at 7661 Lonesome Road, St. Paris, Ohio east of Piqua, Ohio.  I love the name of the road.  It is a very quiet and fitting for it’s moniker, Lonesome.  This is a 130 acre wooded tract with almost 2.0 miles of trail that winds up through gentle hills of old-growth woods.  The Conrad Trail is 1.4 miles and the Short Loop trail is 0.6 miles.  There is a gravel parking area right next to the road with the sign proclaiming that this is indeed Davey Woods. There are no facilities and no pets allowed.  Bring plenty of water.  

To the left of the signs, you walk down a wide path in the woods that was once a road bed now grass.  In mid-July everything is a beautiful lush green as we have not had any dry spells yet.  You come to a kiosk which has the trail map on it and you can elect to go left or right.  We chose left because we saw a dark wood bridge.  The bridge always wins.  There is also a small donation box with the kiosk if you so choose to help fund these great preserves.  The bridge crossed a small creek and headed up into the woods.  

The trail is well traversed, very shady and I am sure offers wonderful wild flowers and beautiful fall foliage in other seasons.  There are several small bridge crossings as the trail winds up through the trees and hills.  Quite simply, we walked on an extremely hot day but did not feel the heat within the woods.  Of course you want bug spray and sunscreen even though it is shady.  The trails give you a bit of challenge going up and down but mostly they are moderate and easy to traverse.   Short Loop breaks off of Conrad Trail so we only did just Contrad Trail this trip.  We want to return soon to do both trails we enjoyed this nature preserve so much.   It reminds us a bit of the Lake Hope area, with very large trees such as oaks and tulip trees.  

There was no one on the trails with us that day and only one spot of Conrad trail had a little bit of road noise.  Otherwise, you are ensconced in the sweet peacefulness of wooded bliss.  Toward the last part of the loop back to the kiosk area, we climbed a hill and came across a little surprise.  Three old gravestones which had been set flat into concrete to protect them in the place in what the sign stated was the Pence Family Cemetery.  David Pence and his wife, Barbara, moved to this spot from Shenandoah County, Viriginia in the early 1800’s.  We had to pause and pay our respects as well as read the gravestones which were worn by time and the elements.  

At this point the trail started to descend and brought us out on the other side of the kiosk.  We could have extended our hike by taking the Short Loop.  Quite a pleasant trek.  We will certainly do this one again as it has beautiful and quiet woods as well as enough trail length and challenge to break a good sweat.  This one is good for anyone in relatively decent shape as there is ups and downs over the hills but I would not call it much more than a mild hike for the average person.  You do feel though as if you were transported into an era before even the Pence’s settled the land.   One of my favorite preserves so far!

Siegenthaler – Kaestner Esker – Ohio State Nature Preserve

Siegenthaler – Kaestner Esker SNP is located near West Liberty, Ohio, at 5505 Couchman Road and consists of 37-acres which contains an esker, kame and kettle which are glacial landforms which I had never heard of or learned in school and completely forgot.  

Parking area


Some definitions as per the ODNR site:

Esker – long, winding ridge of stratified sand and gravel deposited in layers according to grain size by running water with steep sides and a sinuous shape.  Or to me, a long narrow hill.  

Kame – Knolls formed by piles of gravel that were dropped into pits and crevices in the glacier when meltwater streams flowing on top of the ice.  Or as I would call them, small hills.  Often associated with kettles.

Kettle – A pond formed when a block of ice remained and surrounded by till.  When the ice melted, a depression was left and filled with ground water.  Or to me, simply a pond.

Black sandy, silty soil at base of esker


In other words, geology buffs will love this glacial area or simply nature lovers who like a gentle stroll in a quiet area.  We literally drove right by this preserve and had to turn around and go back.   The parking area is a grassy area which you can easily miss for a field.  You park in the grassy area, driving through a narrow former gate area between two fence posts, where there is a sign and kiosk for the preserve.  Like most preserves, there are no facilities.  Remember to bring water, bug spray, sunscreen and pack out any trash.  Don’t remove any natural materials.  Pretty much the same instructions for most nature preserves.  Oh and no pets.  

The trail is like a lollipop and approximately 1 mile long depending on if you decide to also traverse the summit of eskers as well.  The initial part of the trail is much like walking along a narrow, grassy country road with fence on both sides.  One side during our hike was a crop field (soybeans) and the other side appeared to be a livestock field, probably cattle.  There are mature trees on one side and then you slip into a more wooded area, make a sharp right turn and down a hill to where the trail tees at the first esker.  You can go either left or right, the trail will loop around to itself.  The day we visited, the trail had been recently mowed but be cautious of the poison ivy if you go during the late spring to fall months.  I am beginning to think the state plant should be poison ivy.  

Start of trail from parking area


We turned right initially, choosing to walk in the more open sunny area first followed by what seemed would be more shady.  The day was hot but not unbearable as there was a nice breeze most of the time.  One we rounded the first bend in the loop, we took the trail that went up to the summit of the first esker or hill to me.  You can see larger rocks where they have mowed a trail among the grass meaning that the heavy rock was deposited on top.  Again, be cautious of the poison ivy.  The hills are narrow and long and there are two of them with old trees, such as oaks growing there as well as many wild raspberry bushes.  When we went down the first esker, and came around to the trail going up the second one, we decided it looked too overgrown with poison ivy to chance walking the top so we chose the lower trail that went between the base of the hill and the fence.  

Mowed trail taverses top of esker


As we walked, we noticed the dirt that was exposed was black and sandy different from the brown dirt we saw on the other portion of the trail.  Curious, we bent down to touch it and it was soft and silty which means the finer till was deposited on the bottom of the esker.  Admist the thick growth we saw wild delphinium, a white phlox  and a red bell type flower growing on a vine.  When we rounded the far side of the furthest esker, the trail became more overgrown with thistles and a grass (and poison ivy) so we had to be careful to step around the plants otherwise the thistles would have scratched us.  You return to the start of the loop and turn back right to return to the parking area.  

Vining flower, unidentified


Due to the overgrowth of poison ivy, this may be better an early spring, late fall or winter hike or if you are brave like us, you just go and dance around the poison ivy.  This is a pretty area, open and peaceful.  If you have an interest in glaciers and/or geology, this is also a good place to visit.  It could be an easy stroll with kids though again, poison ivy might be a concern, maybe older children.  The trail is about half shad and half sun so if it’s extremely hot, you may want an earlier morning hike or later evening.  Open dawn to dusk.  

Gross (Samuel) Memorial Woods, Botkins – Ohio Nature Preserve Review/Info

Our first adventure was the nature preserve closest to our home, the Gross Memorial Woods in between Botkins and Jackson Center, Ohio on Botkins Road.  

Kiosk and the start of the boardwalk


Basic info:

Location: Botkins Road, Shelby County, Jackson Center, OH 45334 – 6 miles east of I-75 on Botkins Road or 3.5 miles north of Jackson Center.

Acreage: 49 wooded acres. Trail: ~ 1/2 mile loop wood boardwalk.  Suitable for families – more rugged strollers may traverse the boardwalk.  Level, easy trail with three benches along the loop.

Parking: a small gravel lot allows for multiple cars.  An informational kiosk stands in the parking lot next to the start of the trail (trailhead).

Cautions: No pets allowed, no picking or removal of natural items, boardwalk will be slippery when wet, some boards on the boardwalk need replaced so watch your step, some poison ivy near the benches and trail, marshy area – bring bug spray, no facilities (bring water, etc.).

Review:  Gross Woods was a gift of Samuel Gross in 1980.  According to ODNR’s site, it is a good example of old-growth woods in west central Ohio and also home to the rare pumpkin ash tree.  I’m not sure what a pumpkin ash looks like but now that I have read about it, I am definitely going to try and locate one on my next visit.

Lush greenery flank the boardwalk


My visits to Gross Woods have been mostly undisturbed by other visitors and you almost always have the place to yourself.  Remember bug spray, even in the early spring, insects seem to be plentiful here due to the marshy area.  You enter by stepping onto the boardwalk and being immediately shrouded by trees.  In the spring, there are multitudes of wild flowers, so many that I had to get out several of my wildflower books to identify them all.  We found different types of trillium, jack in the pulpit, hepatica, blood root, phlox, mayapples to name a few.

While the woods sits close to the road, there isn’t a lot of road noise and since the area is rural, you can sit on a bench and enjoy the peacefulness of nature.  You will hear a lot of rustling in the leaf litter on the ground under the trees as this is also home to many salamanders and skinks.  Once it gets warm, if you look closely enough and are stealthy, you may just see one.  I’m terrified of snakes and am sure they live here in this woods but I am always relieved to find out the rustling is something bearing legs.


Though the boardwalk is only 1/2 mile long, I will do the loop first clockwise and then repeat it counter clockwise.  Walking both directions is a great way to see even more on your visit.  While it seems like the landscape doesn’t alter much, there is so much to see in such a short walk.  Trees that have fallen over which have a line of plants growing on the top side of their trunks almost remind me of something you would see in a Lord of the Rings movie.  Even mid- July we found some flowers blooming such as delphinium.  We saw a salamander or skink with light blue coloring.  I am no expert on reptiles but it sure was cute as it shyly skittered back under the leaves and out of our sight.  There is plenty of shade as the tree canopy is very full above you, though I would still wear sunscreen to be safe.


The boardwalk is wide enough you can walk side by side with another person making it a pleasant place to chat while you stroll.  However, you need to keep an eye on the boards, as a few of them could trip you up but overall as of July 2016, the boardwalk was in pretty good shape.  If you love peaceful woods, vibrant green in mid-summer or full of wildflowers in the spring, this is a great place to visit.  It is a good place for those with limited physical fitness due to illness or age, etc. with three benches that are spaced at good intervals to allow a place to rest.

A short walk, plenty of wildflowers in the spring, quiet and little interruption from other visitors makes this one of my favorite nature preserves.

Ohio’s Nature Preserves – Little Hidden Gems

So I’ve been lacking ideas for posts.  I go back and forth and around on what to write.  Today my youngest daughter and I decided to go do some hiking even though it was going to be in the 90’s, we figured if we could find wooded trails, it wouldn’t be too unbearable.   There is a small preserve not far from my home, that is set into a woods with a half mile boardwalk.  At the trail head, there is an announcement board/kiosk with information regarding the preserve plus a brochure on Ohio Department of Natural Resource’s  (ODNR) other preserves.  My daughter picked on of those up on our way back out to my truck.

We were sitting in the air conditioning trying to decide what to do next.  On the last page of the brochure is a map of Ohio with all the current preserves pinned on it with each preserve’s name.  We realized we hadn’t been to most of these places on the map and the idea for a new blog direction and many possible adventures cropped up in our mind.  We would visit them, take pictures and write a review of each preserve.  To us, they feel like little hidden gems that usually are empty of other people, though some preserves such as Conkles Hollow in Hocking Hills are much more well known.  We, being the lovers of solitude in nature, gravitate toward lesser known and used areas and are excited to explore these areas.

Ohio’s nature preserves in general do not allow pets, they do not usually have any facilities such as bathrooms or water and you must pack out your trash usually.  Some may not even have clearly designated parking areas (you may just pull off the side of the road).  Trails may be somewhat more rugged and less maintained.  You are not allowed to pick or remove any natural items such as flowers or rocks.  However, you will find a varied landscape in each preserve along with endangered species of plants, insects and birds.  This land is set aside to “preserve” what is left of unsettled or reclaim formerly settled lands to their natural state.  

According to ODNR there are 136 nature preserves with ore than 30,000 acres in the great state of Ohio.  Partners such as businesses and groups as well as volunteers assist the state in keeping these lands available for our enjoyment and use.  Most of the time, you probably just drive by a nature preserve without even realizing it.  They are usually only marked with a dark brown sign with white lettering and a kiosk/ message board.  There is no big sign announcing their presence such as Ohio’s state park system so you have to look just a little bit harder for a preserve.  Sometimes, you pull into the parking lot and are hesitant to explore because the area isn’t developed like state parks or metro parks may be.   The goal is to preserve the land and leave it as untouched as possible by humans while letting people enjoy the land as well.  

As we (or me) explore each nature preserve, I will update this post to include the preserve’s name as well as a link to the review post for that particular park.  I hope you enjoy this adventure with me as I have already started and have found as my daughter state, some hidden gems, we had no clue existed.  Just remember to pack plenty of water and prepare for minimal or no facilities.  Happy trails!  

Gross Memorial Woods

Sigenthaler-Kaestner Esker Nature Preseve