Mentor Marsh State Nature Preserve Hiking Trail Pictures Movie
Mentor Marsh State Nature Preserve in Ohio blew me away with its endless sea of tall grass. I couldn't help but imagine what
it would be like to be lost within it. The worlds endless maze. Here, mother nature has produced a haven for birds.
Mentor Marsh State Nature Preserve
Stretching for nearly five miles along the Lake Erie shoreline is a sea of tall waving grass, its feathery plumes punctuated only by the stark silhouettes of dead trees -- one of the area's largest remaining natural wetlands.
Kerven Trail is a 3/4-mile loop that begins at the Marsh House and passes through woods and fields with thickets of arrowhead viburnum, staghorn sumac, rose hips, New England aster and wild raspberry -- all good sources of food for wildlife. The meadow is mowed about every five years to maintain open habitat for butterflies. A platform overlooking the marsh here is a likely place to see Red-winged Blackbirds, Yellow Warblers or herons. Woodpeckers and other birds that nest in the cavities of dead trees find no shortage of soft, decaying wood in which to hunt for beetles and other tasty insects.
Mentor Marsh is a haven for hundreds of bird species and an important breeding area for several fishes native to Lake Erie. Mentor Marsh State Nature Preserve also is the largest and most accessible of the Museum's natural areas. The 691-acre preserve is managed jointly by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves.
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The crescent-shaped marsh surrounds the Mentor Headlands residential community, pinning it to the lake shore with only two roads in or out. In the early 19th century, pioneers wanted a convenient way to get from their homes near the lake to settlements south of the marsh. By laying felled logs side by side, they built a "corduroy" road across the muck. The name stuck; Corduroy Road today is a two-lane route going straight through the marsh. Settlers generally viewed Mentor Marsh -- and all of the region's wetlands -- as forbidding terrain to be conquered.
According to the Ohio Division of Wildlife, more than 90 percent of the state's wetlands have been drained to make way for development. This was nearly the case for Mentor Marsh.
Mentor Marsh lies in a channel cut by the Grand River hundreds of years ago, when the river looped its way lazily across the flat lake plain, entering Lake Erie five miles west of its present outlet. Eventually, an ample meander broke through into the lake near what is now Fairport Harbor. With the flow of water cut off, the idle riverbed gradually filled with sediments and organic debris and was colonized by a mass of aquatic and semi-aquatic plants.
Today an impenetrable swath of reed grass (Phragmites australis) growing 10 to 15 feet high dominates the old riverbed. Thirty years ago, the marsh had more cattails and open waters. Due to salt contamination, however, the saline-tolerant phragmites has proliferated. This plant forms the basis of the food chain for the highly productive marsh ecosystem. Each year huge amounts of grass fall into the water, decomposes and becomes food for bacteria, insect larvae and, ultimately, for fish and the animals that eat them.
Visitors can see the marsh at close hand by taking Wake Robin Trail, a boardwalk going through the tall grasses. Zimmerman Trail skirts the north edge of the marsh, where hikers may come across some of the region's biggest oak trees. In May, the slopes of the upland forest floor are laced with trillium in full white bloom, blood-colored wake robins, pale spring beauties and velvety wild ginger.
Mentor Marsh and the adjacent Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve are among the best place in the state to witness spring migrations of songbirds. Great numbers of waterfowl also stop at the marsh during seasonal migrations: blue-wing teal, American widgeon, gadwall, black duck, shoveller, hooded merganser. Given the right weather conditions, it's not uncommon for groups to record 150 bird species on a single day!
To get to the Mentor Marsh House from Cleveland, take Ohio Route 2 east and exit at Ohio Route 44. Go north on Route 44 about a half mile to the Ohio Route 283 overpass (Lakeshore Boulevard). Exit and go west on Lakeshore to the first traffic light. Turn right onto Corduroy Road. The Mentor Marsh House is on the right at 5185 Corduroy Road, just before the road crosses the Marsh. Trails are open daily from dawn to dusk.
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