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Old Woman Creek State Nature Preserve & National Estuarine Research Reserve

Preserving 571 acres in Erie County

Old Woman Creek is protected as a State Nature Preserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve because it is one of Ohio's best remaining examples of a natural estuary.

The estuary serves as a field laboratory where scientists can study this naturally functioning system and as a place where visitors can learn about estuarine ecology in a natural setting.

An estuary is traditionally defined as that place where the land's fresh waters meet and mix with the saltwater of the sea and where water levels are affected by tides. Lake Erie is actually a freshwater inland sea.

Although salt concentration or salinity is not a factor here, the waters of the lake and Old Woman Creek combine in the estuary to form a third type of water, chemically different from that of either the creek or lake.

Furthermore, even though the lunar tidal effect on Lake Erie is extremely small, lake levels are affected by weather conditions which, in turn, do influence the water levels of the estuary.

Separating the estuary from Lake Erie, the wind-swept barrier beach is a dynamic environment, continually being altered by pounding waves and shifting sand. Although harsh and unstable, the beach habitat is always beautiful. Shorebirds and migratory waterfowl are common visitors.

Old Woman Creek State Nature Preserve features a variety of aquatic and terrestrial habitats: marshlands, open water, a barrier sand beach, upland forests and old crop fields in early plant succession.

As a transition zone between land and water, the estuary brings together many kinds of life. Attracted by the water supply and abundance of food and shelter, birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects are drawn here.

Lake Erie and its coastal zone are among Ohio's most valuable natural resources. As the state's once expansive coastal wetlands continue to disappear in the face of encroaching development, the preservation of these natural features becomes more critical.

Local Directions

Located in Erie County, 3 miles east of Huron on U.S. Route 6.

The preserve's offices are located in the Ohio Center for Coastal Wetlands Studies, which overlooks the eastern shore of the estuary. The center also provides laboratory facilities for ecological research and serves as a focal point for public visitation and educational programming.

Open daily from sunrise to sunset

Managing Agency

ODNR Office of Coastal Management

Special Features

  • One of the few remaining freshwater estuaries in the Lake Erie region
  • Excellent site for viewing American water lotus beds and bald eagles