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Places We Protect

Kitty Todd Nature Preserve

Ohio

A field of purple lupine stretches to a border of trees in the background.
Kitty Todd Preserve Located in Northwest Ohio. © Randall Schieber

Our 1,400-acre Kitty Todd Preserve is a centerpiece of the Oak Openings Region.

Overview

Description

Ohio’s earliest European colonizers found the sandy soils of the Oak Openings Region to be unfit for growing crops, but it didn’t take botanists long to figure out that this ‘sand country’ was unparalleled in the state for the propagation of rare and wild plants.

The 1,300-square-mile Oak Openings Region is a complex of oak savanna and wet prairie that developed on sand and clay deposited by glacial Lake Warren, the ancient predecessor of present-day Lake Erie. The combination of porous sandy soils of the former beach ridges and an impervious clay layer beneath those soils creates an unforgiving environment that fluctuates from flooding in the spring to arid in midsummer.

The Nature Conservancy’s 1,400-acre Kitty Todd Preserve is a centerpiece of the Oak Openings Region and is a model of land management practices for the region. The Nature Conservancy is very active in the Green Ribbon Initiative, an important regional partnership of conservation groups working together to protect the natural beauty and biological diversity of the Oak Openings region.

You play a critical role in restoring this magnificent landscape when you support our work.

Access

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Hours

The preserve is open year-round from dawn to dusk. Guided hikes are offered the first Saturday of the month from May through October. See events pages for more details.

Wheelchair Accessible

The Sandhill Crane Wetlands viewing area trail at Kitty Todd Nature Preserve is wheelchair accessible.

Highlights

Spring boasts abundant populations of blooming wild blue lupine, the only plant upon which the larvae of the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly feed. Year-round activities include hiking, birding, wildlife-watching, nature photography and observing native plants.

Size

1,400 acres

Explore our work in this region

Photos from Kitty Todd

The preserve's 1,400 acres are comprised of low-lying wetlands and windblown sand dunes populated by prairie, oak savanna, woodland and forest in a rural suburban area.

Lupine flowers in a grassy field under a blue sky.
A female Karner blue butterfly sitting on a green leaf.
A tree silhouette against an orange sky at dusk.
A close-up shot of a Swallowtail butterfly on a Blazing Star Liatris flower.
Wetlands habitat: trees sitting in shallow water.
A Promethea caterpillar climbing a leaf.
Hikers looking at wildflowers and wildlife in a grassy field under a blue sky.
Scenic shot of grasslands on a sunny day.
A blue dasher dragonfly perched on a blade of grass.
Partridge peas wildflowers in a field.

Visit

  • What To See

    Kitty Todd Preserve is composed of low-lying wetlands and windblown sand dunes populated by prairie, oak savanna, woodland and forest in a rural suburban area.

    Home to the globally endangered black oak savanna community, the preserve has one of the highest concentrations of rare species of any nature preserve in the state. Notable species include the lark sparrow, Karner blue butterfly and wild lupine.

  • Activities

    Recreational activities at Kitty Todd include:

    • The preserve is open to the public for hiking, wildlife-watching, and volunteering.
    • An easy 3-mile loop trail guides visitors through several different habitats unique to northwest Ohio. Trail maps can be found in the Resources section of the Overview tab.
    • Guided hikes are scheduled every first Saturday of the month (May through October). See our Meetup Group for more details and how to join.
    • Find out how to become a volunteer.
    • Kitty Todd is a stop along the new Lake Erie Birding Trail. See what other sites are on the route.
  • Preserve 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 prohibited at Kitty Todd:

    • Pets of any kind (service animals are permitted)
    • 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

    Use of other power-driven mobility devices (OPDMDs) is permitted only when the preserve is open to the public and only on the gravel trail and overlook at the Sandhill Crane Wetlands Viewing Area. OPDMDs cannot exceed 36 inches wide and may travel at no more than 4 miles per hour. Use of OPDMDs would cause direct irreparable damage to the savanna, prairies, and forest habitats by damaging rare plant growth, altering wetland surface terrain, spreading invasive species and disturbing rare animals, most notably rare ground nesting birds. For more information about using OPDMDs at our open preserves, visit our OPDMD guidelines.

Restoring the Sandhill Crane Wetlands

Restoration of diminishing wetland habitat in Ohio ensures that wildlife, including state-endangered sandhill cranes, can thrive.

TNC staff planting grasses in the newly restored Sandhill Crane Wetlands.
2 Sandhill Cranes standing in a field.
Landscape shot of Sandhill Crane Wetlands under a blue sky.
Aerial view of the Sandhill Crane Wetlands restoration project.

In early 2022, TNC completed restoration work at Sandhill Crane Wetlands, an addition to the Kitty Todd Nature Preserve that restored 280 acres of marginal farmland to native wet prairie habitat. To date, it is the largest effort in the region to return this type of rare wetland habitat to the landscape—one characterized by relatively flat land that seasonally holds water and supports diverse sedges, grasses and shrubs. The restoration site is situated between land protected by TNC and Metroparks Toledo, filling a critical gap and strengthening a 13,000-acre corridor of protected land throughout the Oak Openings Region.

Wetlands once dominated northwest Ohio but have been reduced in size due to the installation of drainage infrastructure, agriculture and land development. Today, less than 5%-10% of Ohio’s original wetlands remain. Wetlands act as nature’s kidneys, and their loss has resulted in increased fertilizers and contaminants reaching Lake Erie, a vital source of drinking water for 11 million people. At the same time, climate change has led to rising temperatures and more severe rainfall events, a perilous combination as evidenced by recurring harmful algal blooms, which are toxic to people and wildlife.

In addition to offering important water quality protection, the restoration of Sandhill Crane Wetlands also benefits native wildlife. The site offers critical habitat for songbirds, waterfowl, reptiles and amphibians and staff hope to soon see the return of endangered nesting sandhill cranes to the area.

Spotlight on Nature - Kitty Todd Preserve Kitty Todd Nature Preserve and the Oak Openings region of Northwest Ohio remain a refuge where rare plants and animals can thrive. Learn about the region and the work of The Nature Conservancy to protect and restore this unique landscape.

Current Conservation Work

Residential and industrial development in the area is accelerating, resulting in habitat loss and fragmentation. The region also has suffered from cessation of natural disturbances such as fire and changes in hydrology caused by drainage ditches and filled wetlands. The Conservancy has been working to combat these threats through land acquisition, education, and restoration efforts.

  • In 2019, old sand borrow pits were retrofitted to create rare wetland and vernal pool habitat to benefit amphibians and reptiles. Staff transformed a series of these borrow pit ponds—areas where material was excavated for use elsewhere—by regrading steep banks and planting wetland vegetation. The project not only created high-quality habitat for native wildlife, but also promotes groundwater infiltration and helps to trap sediments and nutrients before they enter streams. Building on the effort, TNC partnered with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to create a guidebook for private landowners that details best practices for pond restoration.
  • In 2017, The Nature Conservancy completed its Salamander Flats Wetland Restoration Project, which returned former farm fields to a habitat type that ecologists call lake plain wet prairie. The project earned funding through the EPA's Great Lake Restoration Initiative because it not only provides habitat for rare species, but also captures and stores sediment and fertilizers. Within months of the restoration, species like western chorus frogs and marsh birds began visiting the property to use the space for breeding and foraging.
  • In 2007 the Conservancy restored 100 acres of wet prairie at Kitty Todd Preserve.
  • First published in 2004, and updated in 2016, "Living in the Oak Openings; A Homeowner's Guide to one of the World's Last Great Places" helps landowners restore unique habitats.
  • In 2003, the Kitty Todd Preserve began taking part in a statewide butterfly monitoring program to identify the abundance of Ohio’s rare and common butterflies.
  • In 1998 the preserve was selected as the first location for the reintroduction of the Karner blue butterfly, an endangered species whose caterpillar will feed only on wild blue lupine, which thrives at Kitty Todd.
  • Because most Oak Openings species are dependent on frequent disturbance, especially fire, the Conservancy routinely employs specific management techniques such as prescribed burning and mowing to control woody succession.
  • TNC and the partners of the Green Ribbon Initiative educate the public and landowners through Blue Week, an annual spring event that offers hikes, lectures, and family events.

Find More Places We Protect

The Nature Conservancy owns nearly 1,500 preserves covering more than 2.5 million acres across all 50 states. These lands protect wildlife and natural systems, serve as living laboratories for innovative science and connect people to the natural world.

See the Complete Map

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