Places We Protect

Grand River Conservation Campus

Ohio

Two people paddle a red plastic canoe on a calm, broad stream lined with trees.
Grand River at Morgan Swamp Preserve Canoeing the Grand River at Morgan Swamp Preserve © Kent Mason

Nestled within Morgan Swamp Preserve, the Grand River Conservation Campus includes facilities and grounds for recreation, environmental education and restoration.

Overview

Description

NOTE: We are pleased to announce that the Bissell Nature Center is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. from April through October. For a full list of 2022 Bissell Nature Center programming, see our list of special events.


 

Grand River Conservation Campus

The Grand River Conservation Campus has been shaped by the generations of people who have lived and worked here—from early settlers who farmed the land, to a private hunting retreat in the early 1900s, to a religious retreat for Jewish and, later, Christian communities.

Today, as part of The Nature Conservancy’s Morgan Swamp Preserve, the Grand River Conservation Campus remains a place where people can enjoy nature through numerous passive recreation opportunities, all within a beautiful backdrop of unique habitats, rare plants and abundant wildlife. In fact, a hemlock yellow-birch forest community, one of the rarest swamp forest communities in Ohio, still thrives on the Campus grounds.

The Campus offers a number of amenities that are open to the public, including the Dr. James K. Bissell Nature Center, nature trails, an Accessible fishing pier at Bliss Pond, a canoe/kayak launch on the State Designated Wild & Scenic Grand River, and a children’s playground. There is also a pavilion for picnicking and a gymnasium that can be rented out for athletic activities and other events. Click the Visit tab on this page for facilities rental information.

Access

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Address: 3973 Callender Road, Rock Creek OH 44084 Phone: 440-563-3081

Hours

The Dr. James K. Bissell Nature Center is free and open to the public Saturdays and Sundays from 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m., April through October. The trails, canoe launch and grounds at the Campus and Morgan Swamp Preserve are open year-round, daily from dawn to dusk. Due to COVID-19, there may be restrictions on the hours of operation for the nature center. Please call before you visit for current hours and to learn about any programs being offered, including virtual.

Wheelchair Accessible

The Bissell Nature Center is wheelchair accessible, as is the public pavilion, which is connected to the nature center by a 4-foot-wide concrete pathway. There is an accessible section of the Grand River Trail adjacent to the pond, which leads to the Grand River Overlook and fishing pier (catch and release only). There is accessible parking available near the pavilion/nature center as well as by the Grand River Trailhead.

Highlights

The Grand River Conservation Campus at Morgan Swamp Preserve offers a nature center, playground, pavilion, fishing pier, pond, trails, interpretive signage, canoe/kayak launch and a gymnasium available for community rental. 

Explore our work in this region

Photos from the Grand River Conservation Campus

The Grand River Conservation Campus at Morgan Swamp Preserve is a serene setting of facilities and grounds used for recreation, environmental education, and restoration.

Grand River Conservation Campus signage.
Hikers walking one of the trails at the Grand River Conservation Campus.
People canoeing on the Grand River.
Hikers walking along a pond in the woods.
People wading in the Grand River.
Dr. James K. Bissell Nature Center.
Playground at the Grand River Conservation Campus.
Vernal pools amid a forest of trees and ferns.
Signage for the Grand River Conservation Campus.
A group of hikers following a trail overlooking a pond.

Visit

  • What to See

    As part of the Morgan Swamp Preserve, the Grand River Conservation Campus harbors an array of interesting and rare species, many of which are associated with boreal habitats and are near the southern edge of their ranges in North America. Beautiful trails throughout the Campus provide the opportunity to take it all in, through a walk along the state-designated Wild and Scenic Grand River and into a rich hemlock swamp, dotted with vernal pools that teem with life.

    The Grand River Conservation Campus also offers a nature center, a playground, a pavilion, a fishing pier and trail, interpretive signage, a canoe launch and a gymnasium available for community rental.

  • Trail Information

    Visitors to Grand River Conservation Camp can explore several walking trails:

    • Bliss Pond Trail—an easy .2 mile trail with overlooks of the Grand River and the Conservation Campus and a fishing pier.
    • Grand River Trail—an easy .3 mile trail along the Grand River that connects with the Hemlock Swamp & Bliss Pond trails. Visitors can enjoy an accessible section of the Grand River Trail adjacent to the pond, which leads to the Grand River Overlook and fishing pier (catch and release only).
    • Hemlock Swamp Trail—a moderate, 1-mile trail that starts from the Grand River Trail, winds through a unique hemlock yellow birch forest and overlooks a beaver pond.
  • Gymnasium Use and Rental Information

    The Grand River Conservation Campus gymnasium is available for hourly, daily and multi-day use. Please see the full GRCC Gymnasium Use & Rental Guide for more information. For questions, or to reserve the gymnasium, please contact Erin O'Rourke at eorourke@tnc.org or 614-717-2770 x 1001.

  • Campus Guidelines

    Our vision is of a world where people and nature thrive together. The Nature Conservancy encourages people of all ages, races, ethnicities, religions, gender expressions, and abilities to visit our preserves and has a zero-tolerance policy for racism and discrimination.

    The following activities are NOT permitted at the Grand River Conservation Campus and Morgan Swamp Preserve:

    • Biking and mountain biking
    • Camping
    • Driving an ATV or off-road vehicle
    • Cooking or camp fires
    • Horseback riding
    • Hunting
    • Picking flowers, berries, nuts or mushrooms
    • Removing any part of the natural landscape
    • Snowmobiling

    Morgan Swamp Preserve is pet-friendly. Leashed pets (leash no longer than 6 feet) are welcome on the trails. Pets are not allowed in the buildings, other than service animals.

    For information about the use of other power-driven mobility devices (OPDMDs) at our open preserves, please visit our OPDMD guidelines.

Gym Rental Information

Dr. James K. Bissell Nature Center

Address: 3973 Callender Road, Rock Creek OH 44084

On October 21, 2017, The Dr. James K. Bissell Nature Center opened its doors for the first time. The nature center is open Saturdays and Sundays from 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm April through October. Special events, programs and tours are offered seasonally. For a full list of 2022 Bissell Nature Center programming, see our list of special events.

The center features exhibits for both adults and children depicting the natural history of Morgan Swamp Preserve and the Grand State Wild & Scenic River. The creation of this center was made possible through grassroots efforts and a strong volunteer base interested in enriching area communities. Local schools frequently visit the center for field trips and special programs.

For teachers and group organizers, see our list of programs offered at Bissell Nature Center.

Please contact bissellnaturecenter@tnc.org or 440-563-3081 for more information or to volunteer. 

CURRENT CONSERVATION WORK

At the Grand River Conservation Campus, there is always a flurry of activity focused on ongoing restoration, recreation and education. Past and current projects at the Campus include:

  • In 2017, the Conservancy opens the Dr. James K. Bissell Nature Center—the first nature center of its kind in Ashtabula County.
  • In 2016, the Conservancy enters into an agreement with Lake Erie College to allow students and faculty access to the Campus, Morgan Swamp Preserve, and other Conservancy preserves in northeast Ohio for guided research opportunities.
  • In 2015, the Conservancy is granted its third Great Lakes Restoration Initiative-funded project for northeast Ohio. The project resulted in the control of invasive species on an additional 500 acres throughout the Grand River watershed.
  • In 2014, the Civic Development Corporation of Ashtabula County gives the Conservancy a grant of $44,350 to create Accessible and primitive foot trails, an accessible fishing pier, and interpretative signage. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife grants the Conservancy $6,000 to construct a canoe access point along the Grand River.
  • In 2013, outlying buildings are removed to reduce the Campus’ footprint and restore areas to a more natural condition.
  • In 2012, a Conservancy project funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative controls 400 acres of invasive species in the Ashtabula River watershed.
  • In 2011, the first Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI)-funded project in the Grand River watershed results in the control of 831 acres of invasive plant species throughout the watershed.
  • In 2011, the Conservancy acquires the Grand River Conservation Campus through a generous donation from the Cleveland-based City Mission. This acquisition expands the Morgan Swamp Preserve by nearly 60 acres and increases protection efforts along the Grand River.
Northern Ohio Watershed Corps Logo
Northern Ohio Watershed Corps As part of the Northeast Ohio Restoration Team, TNC hosts members of the Northern Ohio Watershed Corps (NOWCorps).

Northeast Ohio Restoration Team

Capacity, equipment and expertise are common threads that continue to challenge restoration and stewardship of natural areas as new lands are protected and new threats emerge. Recognizing this need, The Nature Conservancy created the Northeast Ohio Restoration Team to provide stewardship services for continuing conservation efforts in the region including knowledgeable staff, equipment and supplies. 

As part of the Northeast Ohio Restoration Team, TNC hosts members of the Northern Ohio Watershed Corps (NOWCorps). Funded through ServeOhio AmeriCorps, NOWCorps works with watershed groups, soil and water conservation districts, city and county government offices and other conservation nonprofits to facilitate outreach, education, capacity building, environmental stewardship and stormwater management. 

For more information, contact the Grand River Restoration Coordinator, Derrick Cooper, at derrick.cooper@tnc.org.

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