The Grand River flowing between forested banks.
Grand River The forests and wetlands of the Morgan Swamp Preserve nourish and protect the Grand River—a major tributary to Lake Erie and a state-designated “Wild and Scenic River.” © Rebecca Nieminen

Stories in Ohio

Experience Nature in Ohio throughout the Year

From the rolling forests in the south to the waves of Lake Erie in the north, there’s nothing quite like exploring nature in Ohio.

Ohio’s landscapes and waterways are some of the best kept—and most beautiful—secrets of the Midwest. There are sweeping, forested hills that blaze in brilliant colors in the fall. Rivers, lakes and other waterways offer many ways to get out on and explore aquatic habitats. Boardwalks and paths around prairies and marshlands offer exceptional ways to spot delicate and ephemeral wildflowers from spring through fall. Snow-covered hiking paths wind you through peaceful, meditative woods that allow for easier wildlife spotting.  

Whatever the season, you can find your favorite outdoor adventure in Ohio. Use the guide below for inspiration to get outside and connect to nature all year, wherever you are in the state.

An American mink swimming toward the camera.
American Mink Preferring wooded streams or banks crowded with vegetation, minks can be found throughout Ohio, though are more common in the eastern and southeast portion of the state. © Tony Norton/TNC Photo Contest 2019


The hottest months of the year are the perfect time to explore the natural areas of our state. From meadows to bogs, from lake shores to river banks, there is something for everyone to enjoy during these months.

Get Wet

In summer, Great Egret Marsh Preserve boasts beautiful blooms of water lotus that emerge from the marsh’s surface. For a close-up look, drop your canoe or kayak into the marsh from the preserve’s launch area.

At the Grand River Conservation Campus at our Morgan Swamp Preserve, you can canoe or kayak on the State Designated Wild & Scenic Grand River. At Bliss Pond in the preserve, there is an accessible fishing pier (catch and release only).

Exploring Snow Lake, a small kettle lake, and the surrounding vernal pools and swamp forests at Lucia S. Nash Preserve will allow you to spot water-loving wildlife like mink, otters, beaver, spotted turtles and more. 

Quick fact: The common snapping turtle is Ohio’s most common and largest native turtle species, weighing up to 35 pounds. They can be found in shallow ponds, streams, swamps, bogs, vernal pools, rivers and more through the state, so keep an eye out for them if you’re hiking around a body of water in the summer. 

Ohio's Orchids

Ohio is home to 46 species of native orchids and summer is a perfect time to spot many of them in bloom. From the Edge of Appalachia in the south to Brown’s Lake Bog in the north, both common and rare orchids can be found in habitats ranging from forests to wetlands in our state.

Learn how we're protecting native plants in Ohio
A rose pogonia orchid bloom.
A crested coralroot orchid bloom.
A pair of yellow ladyslipper orchid blooms.
Orange-fringed orchids in bloom.
Heart-leaved twayblade orchid growing from leaf litter on the forest floor.

Rare Species Spotting

Summer provides one of the best times to glimpse some of the rare or endangered plants and animals making comebacks in Ohio. Click on the images below to learn more about each species!

Sunlight shining through maple leaves in the fall.
Autumn in Ohio When hiking in the fall through Ohio's forests, be sure to look up and catch the beauty of the sunlight as it filters through the changing leaves. © TJ Vissing


As summer winds down and cooler weather moves in, it’s the perfect season to get outside and enjoy Ohio’s natural beauty. From gorgeous fall foliage to amazing migrations, there’s a lot happening outside in autumn!

A boardwalk winds between tamarack trees in the fall.
Tamarack Trees Turning bright yellow in the fall, tamarack trees are the only native Ohio conifers that sheds its needles each year. © Elizabeth Gress

All the Colors

Ohio’s forests become resplendent in autumn, as the trees turn from green to their autumn splendor of flame orange, deep red and bright yellow. Hiking to the top of Buzzard Roost Rock at Edge of Appalachia offers some of the most breathtaking views of colorful fall foliage in Ohio.

To see brilliant yellow needles of the tamarack tree visit the J. Arthur Herrick Fen Nature Preserve; it’s the only native conifer in Ohio that sheds its needles each year. 

Quick fact: In the fall, the lush ferns at Brown’s Lake Bog Preserve turn bronze and yellow and you'll see different things pop up out of the foliage such as the fluffy plumes of the Tawny cottongrass (Eriophorum virginicum).

Brilliant red, orange and yellow fall foliage.
Buzzardroost Rock in Fall At Edge of Appalachia, the fall foliage view from Buzzardroost Rock is unparalleled. © Sherman Cahal/FlickrCreativeCommons
A boardwalk through bronze and green ferns and other plants.
Ferns in the Fall At Brown's Lake Bog, the ferns offer their own beautiful change in the fall, turning bronze and yellow as the season advances. © Emily Speelman
Buzzardroost Rock in Fall At Edge of Appalachia, the fall foliage view from Buzzardroost Rock is unparalleled. © Sherman Cahal/FlickrCreativeCommons
Ferns in the Fall At Brown's Lake Bog, the ferns offer their own beautiful change in the fall, turning bronze and yellow as the season advances. © Emily Speelman

Late Bloomers

While spring and summer are full of wildflowers, fall blooming plants give us some of the most brilliant colors of the year. Goldenrods and asters begin to show throughout Ohio’s prairies, forests and meadows. A fall hike at Kitty Todd Preserve might reveal unusual native wildflowers, like bottle and fringed gentian, growing in wet meadows.

Read more about native Ohio Wildflowers
Three fringed gentian blooms.
Goldenrod and groundnut blooms
New England asters in bloom.
A monarch on flowering late boneset.
Stiff gentian flowers in bloom.

Mighty Migrations

Spring gets a lot of attention as the season to spot migrating birds, but there are amazing migrations taking place in fall throughout Ohio, too! Click on the images below to learn more about Ohio's migrations.

A red-bellied woodpecker perched as snow falls.
Red Bellied Woodpecker Named for the little splash of red on their undersides, red-bellied woodpeckers are year-round residents in Ohio. © Mark Archibald/TNC Photo Contest 2022


Here’s a secret—winter is one of the best seasons to explore nature. From wildlife tracking to snowshoeing to the peaceful solitude of a snowy trail, winter is truly a wonderful time to get outside and connect with the natural world in Ohio.

Quiet Time

Connecting to nature is vital for our physical and mental well-being, and this is no less true in winter than it is in spring or summer. Getting outside and into nature during the winter helps to reset and refocus our minds. And, with fewer people out on the trails, getting outdoors can offer a chance to be recenter yourself and take some time in solitude.

Taking time to go for a hike, even a brief one, can improve both your physical and mental health, boosting your mood and energy for the day. It also helps you to build and maintain your own personal relationship with the natural world, while keeping you active and moving during a season that is often more sedentary.

Whether it’s hiking through a forest or taking an easy stroll on a boardwalk through a wetland, being outside and connecting with nature in winter is one of the best gifts we can give ourselves. 

Tracking the Wild

Winter snows provide an amazing opportunity to practice and perfect your tracking abilities. At the Edge of Appalachia, keep an eye out for the bouncing tracks of mink and the small pawprints of red fox. At Herrick Fen Nature Preserve, look both along the boardwalk for wildlife tracks and out on the sedge meadows to spot muskrat houses.

A red fox walking through deep snow.
Bobcat tracks in the snow.
Imprint of a squirrel in the snow.
Raccoon tracks in the snow.
A large muskrat house made of wetland grasses.

Year-round Residents

From the bright red of male Northern cardinals to the slender grace of great blue herons, winter is an amazing time to watch birds in Ohio. Click on the images below to learn more about birds you can see in winter.

A white trillium flower.
White Trillium Ohio's state flower, white trillium begins blooming in mid-spring through early summer and can be found in all 88 counties in Ohio. © Karen Taylor


As the first hint of spring curls in on the warming breeze, nature in Ohio begins to bloom. Forests and shores begin to come to life with returning migratory birds and forests and hills burst into the pale pinks, whites and yellows of ephemeral wildflowers.

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Fleeting Wildflowers

As late winter transitions into spring, the first wildflowers of the season begin to reawaken. Skunk cabbage is among the earliest to pop up, as it generates its own heat, melting snow around it. You can spot these unique plants around Big Darby Headwaters Nature Preserve as you hike along the boardwalk and the 2.6 mile round trip trail.

Ohio’s forest floors—like those at Edge of Appalachia—are beginning to offer some color from the spring ephemerals as species like twin leaf, bloodroot and hepatica begin to flower. Also at the Edge, Buzzard Roost Rock offers views of flowering columbine, walking fern and bishop’s cap.

Birds on the Wing

Ohio is a birder’s dream in the spring, as migratory birds like warblers, waterfowl and shorebirds show up throughout the state. While some of these migrants will move on after resting, many make Ohio their summer home here. Great Egret Marsh is a prime spot for spring birding, whether by hiking the 1.2 mile trail or venturing out by kayak.

Learn more about birdwatching in Ohio
A great egret perched in a green tree against a blue sky.
A male Magnolia warbler perched in a tree.
A male Blackburnian warbler sitting in a blooming spring tree.
A Northern pintail duck sitting just off the shore in the shallows.
A bright yellow male prothonotary warbler signing on a branch.
A juvenile red-spotted newt, also known as a red eft, walking along the forest floor.
Red Eft The juvenile form of the red-spotted newt, red efts live in the moist leaf litter on the forest floor for a few years before migrating to ponds to live as an adults. © Jessica Lin

The juvenile form of the red-spotted newt, red efts live in the moist leaf litter on the forest floor for a few years before migrating to ponds to live and breed as adults.

Awakening Amphibians 

In early spring, as the temperatures just begin to warm, Ohio’s wetlands and swamps begin to sing. Wood frogs, spring peepers and other chorus frogs emerge from their winter hibernation and make their ways to vernal pools, ponds and other bodies of water. There, they sing to attract mates and lay their eggs.

Later in the spring, once warmer temperatures are steadier, the trills of toads can be heard. On warm, rainy spring nights, large groups of salamanders and frogs can be seen, as they move toward the nearest bodies of water for the season. 

Quick fact: Early emerging frogs like spring peepers have a special ability to survive the sudden drops in temperature that can happen in early spring. Their bodies produce chemicals that allow them to freeze nearly solid, then thaw out again to resume their quest for mates once the temperatures rise again. 

A wood frog sitting among leaf litter on the forest floor.
Wood Frog One of the first frogs to begin the breeding season, usually in early March, male wood frogs make quack-like calls day and night to attract mates. © Jerry and Marcy Monkman

Wood Frog Call

One of the earliest spring callers, wood frogs have a very quack-like call and a group of these frogs calling together can sound like a nosiy flock of ducks or chickens.

Download Audio

A recording of the quack-like call of the wood frog. Audio courtesy of the USGS.

A male American toad sitting in a pond with his throat inflated as he trills.
American Toad Beginning around April, male toads move to shallow ponds, lake edges, and vernal pools, and begin to call for mates. © Kent Mason

American Toad Call

Beginning in April, the high musical trill of toads starts to sound from ponds, lakeshores and other water bodies.

Download Audio

This audio is of an American toad trill (mating song).

A gray treefrog sitting on a branch surrounded by green leaves.
Eastern Gray Treefrog From late spring through the end of July, gray treefrogs call for mates. These frogs are able to change their color to match the browns, greens and gray of their tree homes. © Elyse Hossink/TNC

Eastern Gray Treefrog Call

The short, flute-like trill of Eastern gray treefrogs begins in late spring and lasts through mid-summer.

Download Audio

An audio recording of the Eastern gray treefrog's call. Audio courtesy of USGS.