Places We Protect

Great Egret Marsh Preserve


Looking across the wetlands.
Great Egret Marsh Preserve Looking across the wetlands. © Kent Mason

This preserve consists of more than 150 acres of marsh and surrounding upland.



Great Egret Marsh Preserve consists of more than 150 acres of marsh and surrounding upland in Ottawa County, across the road from East Harbor State Park.

The preserve’s marshes are part of the West Harbor Basin, a long, narrow pool of Lake Erie backwater that geologists believe was once the channel of the Portage River. As the last wave of glaciation receded and Lake Erie’s water level rose, the river naturally rerouted itself to empty into the lake at Port Clinton instead of nearby East Harbor State Park.

Created in 2013 with help from a Clean Ohio Conservation Fund grant, the preserve contributes to the Conservancy’s goal to protect and restore an additional 10,000 acres of coastal habitat along Lake Erie.

Current Conservation Work

  • In 2018 an osprey tower was installed, a pipe draining ephemeral wetland habitat was removed, and additional signage was installed.
  • In 2017 a portion of the perimeter dikes at Great Egret Marsh were rebuilt to improve the resiliency of the wetland’s water management infrastructure to protect wetland habitat.
  • In 2016 two new water control structures were installed, allowing improved water management capabilities as well as improved fish passage.
  • In 2015 the upland portions of Great Egret Marsh were planted with 15,000 native trees.
  • In 2014 a trail and interpretive signage were installed at the preserve, which officially opened to the public in May 2014.
  • In 2013 the Conservancy was awarded a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to restore the old farm fields back to wetlands and improve fish passage in the existing diked marsh.
  • In 2013 planning began for a trail system and interpretive signage.
  • Ongoing work includes managing for invasive species. Portions of Great Egret Marsh are managed using herbicides in an effort to remove invasive Phragmites, reed canary grass, and Canada thistle. These non-native species provide little to no benefit to our native wildlife.




The preserve and trail is open year-round, daily from dawn to dusk.


Activities include: kayaking, fishing, hiking, bird-and other wildlife-watching. A great place to watch migratory birds in the spring and waterfowl, like great egrets, year-round.


150 acres

Explore our work in this region

What You’ll See

Great Egret Marsh Preserve, and the surrounding West Harbor Basin, is a haven for waterfowl and wading birds. One of the preserve’s defining features, great egrets congregate here in abundance. The large, white, wading birds native to this part of Lake Erie can often be found in large clusters in the area’s shallow waters.

About half of the preserve is covered in classic Lake Erie marshland, blanketed each summer with water lotus.

Things To Do

  • The preserve is open to the public for bird-watching, fishing, hiking, kayaking and canoeing.
  • An easy 1.2-mile loop trail guides visitors through the marsh and surrounding upland.

The following activities are NOT permitted at Great Egret Marsh:

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

Great Egret Marsh is pet-friendly. Leashed pets (leash no longer than 6 feet) are welcome on the trail.