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Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve

Preserving 25 acres in Lake County

Extensive development along the shores of Lake Erie has all but eliminated the presence of sandy beaches and dunes. Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve, located adjacent to Headlands Dunes State Park, is one of the last of its kind in Ohio.

This community is much more than just an accumulation of sand along a shoreline. It is a living assemblage of fascinating and highly specialized plants and animals occurring in an environment too hostile for most other organisms to survive.

The most important dune developers along the Lake and Ashtabula County coast are switchgrass and/or beach grass (Hicks, 1934). Switchgrass or beach grass becomes established on the upper beach along with annuals, such as cocklebur and sea rocket. These lone grass plants quickly spread into huge root-like mats. Sand rapidly drifts into the relatively quiet vicinity of the switchgrass crown, and deposition occurs.

Switchgrass and beach grass have an adaptation shared by many dune plants, such as cottonwood, red osier, Canada wild-rye and sandbar willow. Despite an accumulation of sand around its crown, switchgrass or beach grass continues to grow upward through the sand.

As the dune becomes more or less stabilized by the switchgrass or beach grass, grape vines and poison ivy become established on the dunes; eventually cottonwood and willow appear, and finally oak (usually black oak).

The historical factors which allowed the migration of the coastal species into the Great Lakes are no longer at play; once we lose our sand dune communities, they will be lost forever.

Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve protects a vestige of the Lake Erie dunes community.

Local Directions

Located in Lake County west of Fairport Harbor at the north end of State Route 44 and extreme east end of Headlands Beach State Park.

Special Features

Geologic Features

  • Natural beach on Lake Erie
  • Unusual Atlantic coastal plain plants
  • Migrating birds and monarch butterflies


Wheelchair Accessible
Drinking Water

  • Parking
  • Restrooms
  • Footpaths


Headlands Dunes