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Johnson Woods State Nature Preserve

Preserving 206 acres in Wayne County


Johnson Woods is one of Ohio's largest and best remaining old-growth forests.

Many trees rise 40-50 feet before the first limbs occur and several are more than 400 years old. Some are 120 feet tall with a diameter of 4 to 5 feet.

The 155-acre tract on the south side of Fox Lake Road was a gift to the Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves from Mrs. Clela Johnson and her family in memory of her late husband, Andrew C. Johnson. In addition to the gift, Mrs. Johnson sold 51 acres of adjacent old-growth woods on the north side of the road to the division. This tract was purchased with Ohio Income Tax Checkoff donations.

After Jacob Conrad, Andrew Johnson's great grandfather, left France in 1823, he bought land in section 7 of Baughman Township and settled in Ohio. This property included what is now Johnson Woods. At that time, many of the trees were already 200 years old. Having sprouted before the Pilgrims came to America on the Mayflower, these trees flourished through a time when clearing the landscape was one of the most important objectives of the settler.

The site survived the sawmills of the Depression era of America due to Anna (Graber) Johnson, the mother of Andrew Johnson. During the last few decades the woods became a stable feature of the local landscape. Neighbors referred to the property as the "Big Woods." Stories abound concerning hunters, wildflower bouquets, the Johnson boys' treehouse, poison ivy and even people getting lost.

This woodland historically was known as Graber Woods and was studied by the renowned ecologist, Dr. E. Lucy Braun, who recognized its significance. The largest trees, then and now, are white oaks, red oaks and hickories.

Many of the larger oaks and hickories are now dying because they have reached the end of their biological lifespans. As older trees die, they are being replaced by more shade-tolerant trees, such as sugar maple and American beech. As a consequence of this natural succession from an oak-hickory community to a beech-maple community, the maples and beeches are becoming more prominent members of the forest community at Johnson Woods.

Swamp forest communities, dominated by red maples and pin oaks, are found in the more poorly drained sections of the preserve. Several buttonbush swamps are found in depressional areas which are frequently associated with a swamp forest community.

An impressive display of wildflowers flourishes in the spring, including trout lilies, large-flowered trillium, several species of violets, and windflower. Summer brings the cathedral-like canopy of leaves, which becomes more colorful as autumn has its affect on the woods. Winter emphasizes the massive trunks and the height of the huge trees.

In addition to its importance as one of the few old growth forest stands remaining in Ohio, Johnson Woods is also significant for its size. At 206 acres, Johnson Woods is a self-supporting ecosystem. Its large size makes it less vulnerable to storm damage and threats from disease. Birds, such as the pileated woodpecker, scarlet tanager, Acadian flycatcher, wood thrush, ovenbird and hooded warbler, are found nesting at Johnson Woods along with many other species that are dependent upon larger tracts of forests. The size, age and history of Johnson Woods make it one of the most significant forest communities in Ohio.


Local Directions

Located in Wayne County approximately 4 miles north of Orrville on SR 57, then 1 mile east on Fox Lake Road.

Special Features

Woods
Spring Wildflowers
Bird Watching


  • Exceptional large oak, hickory, maple and beech trees
  • Excellent spring wildflower display

Facilities

Wheelchair Accessible


  • Parking lot (north side of Fox Lake Rd)
  • Bulletin board
  • 1.0 mile boardwalk trail system

Tell Your Preserve Story