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.

The Grand River Conservation Campus is a land shaped by the generations of people who have lived and worked here.

Over a century ago, what we today call the Grand River Conservation Campus was a large cattle and swine farm owned by the Callander family. An old piece of sandstone with the Callander name still marks the entrance of the Campus and now serves as a reminder of the past. The Callander farm extended hundreds of acres and included what is now Pallister State Nature Preserve to the west. In the early 1900s, Judge Smythe from Illinois bought the property from the Callander family to use as his private hunting retreat. After that, and for many decades, the property was used as a religious retreat. For a time, it was owned by a Jewish community called The Workman’s Circle. Later, while owned by the Cleveland-based City Mission, the Campus became a Christian retreat that included horseback riding, ropes courses and rock climbing.

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 a number of passive recreation opportunities. Visitors will find a quiet campus of facilities and grounds used for environmental education and restoration, with a beautiful backdrop of unique habitats, rare plants and abundant wildlife. In fact, not far from the gymnasium is the hemlock yellow-birch forest community, one of the rarest swamp forest communities in Ohio.  

The Campus offers a number of amenities that are open to the public, including nature trails, an Accessible fishing pier at Bliss Pond, a canoe/kayak launch on the State Designated Wild and Scenic Grand River, and a children’s playground. There are also opportunities for picnicking in a pavilion as well as the rental of a gymnasium for athletic activities and events.

Current Conservation Work

At the Grand River Conservation Campus, there is always a flurry of activity, especially during the warmer months. For a number of years, our first priority was reducing the structural footprint and restoring outlying areas to a natural condition. With that work complete, we have been focused on ongoing restoration, recreation, and education. Past and current projects at the Campus include:

  • In 2015, the Conservancy is granted its third Great Lakes Restoration Initiative-funded project for northeast Ohio. The project will result 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.

Two separate portions of the property are accessible for public use—Morgan Swamp and Grand River Conservation Campus. Both sections of the property offer opportunities for hiking and wildlife-watching. The Grand River Conservation Campus also offers a playground, a pavilion, a fishing pier and trail, interpretive signage, and a canoe launch. 

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.

Campus Hours, Use and Rental

  • Trails, canoe launch and grounds are open dawn to dusk.
  • 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 at ohio@tnc.org or (614) 717-2770.
Download and view the Grand River Conservation Campus Trail Map and Guide.

The Grand River Conservation Campus is open seven days a week, from dawn to dusk. 


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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