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Day Trip to Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in Northwest Ohio

Updated on April 18, 2017
Alyssa Nichol profile image

Alyssa loves exploring new places with her family and taking a lot of pictures! She is a wife, a mom, and a coffee enthusiast.

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge welcome sign.
Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge welcome sign.

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge is located off of Route 2 in Oak Harbor, Ohio. In 1961, it was established to provide habitats for, and to protect, waterfowl, migratory birds, wildlife, and other threatened species. The refuge spans more than 5000 acres and encompasses marsh, wetlands, grasslands, and open water.

A variety of wildlife and foliage can be found here, which it makes it a prime destination for birdwatchers, photographers, wildlife lovers, and families alike. Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge is peaceful and a wonderful place to visit to get outside, enjoy the fresh air, take in the scenery, and reconnect with nature.

Driving up to the Visitor Center.
Driving up to the Visitor Center.

The Visitor Center

Drive up the winding road that leads to the Refuge Visitor Center. Park your car and head out to explore more than 10 miles of trials, or head on in to the center.

When you walk in, you are greeted by a friendly volunteer at the front desk. Directly to the right is a model of a pond ecosystem and habitat.

Walk down the hallway to the left and be transported back in time. An authentic hunting lodge room is set up, complete with old books, antique cameras, radio, and a fireplace. Keep walking through to read about the history of Ohio and its land. Learn about the Great Black Swamp, the Native Americans that lived in the area, and past and present conservation efforts.

Inspiring quote from Theodore Roosevelt.
Inspiring quote from Theodore Roosevelt.
A peek into the hunting lodge.
A peek into the hunting lodge.
A timeline of Ohio's history.
A timeline of Ohio's history.
Information about the Great Black Swamp.
Information about the Great Black Swamp.

In the corner, you'll find the Muskrat House. Head in to learn a little more about muskrats and why they are important. Kids can see the footprints of common wild animals and even hold a few fur pelts. This is my son's favorite spot.

My son's favorite spot - the Muskrat House.
My son's favorite spot - the Muskrat House.

Walk back through the front and go up stairs. On the second floor, you can look through a telescope to view an eagle's nest. Up on the third floor, you are greeted with beautiful paintings by artist Bob Hines. An Ohio native, he was the only U.S. Fish and Wildlife employee to hold the title National Wildlife Artist.

Grab a set of binoculars off the wall and step out on the balcony to spot birds and other wildlife. Be sure to record your findings downstairs on the giant chart.

Looking out from up on the third floor.
Looking out from up on the third floor.

Annual Events

The Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge hosts many public events throughout the year. Catch a bus or van tour, join a hike, take part in the monthly bird surveys, or enjoy a seven mile wildlife drive. In addition the Refuge hosts special events and programs for International Migratory Bird Day and National Wildlife Refuge Week.

For more information concerning dates and times please visit:

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge

14000 West State Route 2 Oak Harbor, Ohio 43449:
14000 OH-2, Oak Harbor, OH 43449, USA

get directions

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge

Area Attractions

After spending some time viewing the gorgeous landscape and spotting various wildlife, stop by one of these fun places.

East Harbor State Park - Just 28 minutes east in Marblehead is one of the quietest and cleanest state parks in Ohio. Take a walk along the soft, beautiful beach, swim in Lake Erie, enjoy a few hours of fishing, or stay the night in the campground. East Harbor offers unlimited outdoor activities and is my favorite state park.

Maumee Bay State Park - Just 15 minutes northwest in Oregon is Maumee Bay State Park. Visit the Nature Center and see frogs, snakes, and fish. Swim in Lake Erie or the park's inland lake, enjoy a round of golf at the golf course, go fishing, or stay the night in the newly renovated lodge. Maumee Bay also offers unlimited outdoor activities and is a great place to have fun.

Rudy's Hot Dog - After a day of outdoor fun, travel about 30 minutes to Point Place on the Ohio-Michigan border for a delicious, inexpensive meal. This is the original Rudy's Hot Dog, opened in 1920, and still family owned and operated. They offer a variety of tasty diner style dishes. This is my favorite place to eat in Toledo and is in my opinion, the city's best kept secret.


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