Grand River Conservation Campus

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

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Dr. James K. Bissell Nature Center
Beginning on October 21, 2017, The Dr. James K. Bissell Nature Center opened its doors for the first time.  The nature center will be open Saturdays and Sundays from 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm the first weekend in April through the first weekend in December. Special events, programs and tours are offered seasonally.

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. Please contact bissellnaturecenter@tnc.org for more information or to volunteer. 

Grand River Conservation Campus
The Grand River Conservation Campus is a land 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 a 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.

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.



View photos of the Grand River Conservation Campus

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

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 Access

  • 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.
  • 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.

Operations and Usage for Campus, Nature Center and Gymnasium

  • Trails, canoe launch and grounds are open seven days a week, from dawn to dusk.
  • The Nature Center is open Saturdays and Sundays, from 1:00pm – 5:00pm the 1st weekend in April through the 1st weekend in December. Click here for a listing of special events.
  • For your safety, please be aware of any posted rules, notices and hunting notifications.
  • For gym rental information or other facility inquiries, please contact us locally at 440.563.3081 or email Erin O’Rourke at eorourke@TNC.ORG.
Download and view the Grand River Conservation Campus Trail Map and Guide.



Address: 3973 Callender Road, Rock Creek, Ohio 44084

Directions from the north:

  • From Interstate 90, travel south on State Route 534 for about 7 miles to its junction with State Route 166/Footville-Richmond Road
  • Travel east on Footville-Richmond Road for 2 miles to Windsor-Mechanicsville Road.
  • Travel 1.8 miles south on Windsor-Mechanicsvile Road to Callender Road.
  • Travel 1 mile east on Callender Road to 3973 Callender Road.
  • Driveway on north side of road before (to the west of) bridge 

Directions from the south:

  • From U.S. Route 6, take State Route 45 north for about 2 miles to Callender Road
  • Travel west on Callender Road for about 1.5 miles to the 3973 Callender Road
  • Driveway on north side of road before (to the west of) bridge

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