This “Undisturbed” Park is a Birdwatcher’s Paradise

Geauga Park District Sign

Burton Wetlands Nature Preserve is a 305-acre park located within the Upper Cuyahoga River watershed in Burton Township. This preserve includes Lake Kelso and the Charles Dambach Preserve. Lake Kelso and the area surrounding it, which was once a private fishing club, were purchased from Eric Westgren. The Dambach Preserve was previously owned by The Nature Conservancy and was named for renowned conservationist and one-time resident of Burton, Charles A. Dambach. Burton Wetlands was officially dedicated in 1999 as an Ohio State Nature Preserve.

Burton Wetlands is part of a 1,000-acre system of kettle bogs, lower slope seeps, and wet flats known as the Cuyahoga Wetlands. This area has remained relatively undisturbed since the last Ice Age.

Burton Wetlands is part of a 1000-acre system of kettle bogs, lower slope seeps, and wet flats known as the Cuyahoga Wetlands. This area has remained relatively undisturbed since the last Ice Age. The Nature Conservancy still owns and manages neighboring White Pine Bog Forest, while the Cleveland Museum of Natural History owns and manages Fern Lake, which can be seen on this map. The City of Akron owns land in this region as well, such as LaDue Reservoir. Geauga Park District works together with these organizations to preserve the Cuyahoga Wetlands and its threatened and endangered species.

Beaver pond off the Kettle Trail
Beaver pond off the Kettle Trail

I have visited Burton Wetland Nature Preserve many times; sometimes alone, with the kids I babysit, with a friend and her dogs, and with my boyfriend. This park is great for people (and pets) of all ages. There are several trail options taking you through a few different habitats in the park. The parking area off Old Rider Road marks the head of two trails. Glacier Trail is a short .2 mile stone trail leading to an observation deck on the edge of Lake Kelso. Here you get a panoramic view of the lake and surrounding woodland. A nesting platform rises above the shoreline, although I have never seen anything nesting here. At this time of the year, migrating waterfowl can be seen on Lake Kelso. On several occasions, I have seen beavers either swimming in the lake or busy trying to dam up the south end of the lake on Pond Road.

Meadow at Burton Wetlands

On the other side of Rider Road, the 1.12-mile Kettle Trail takes hikers and cross country skiers through a rolling meadow, a forest of oak, beech, and maple trees, and alongside a beaver pond. There is a Kettle Trail Loop if you would like to shorten your hike. Trails are mowed through the meadow along the edges, and some are cut through the middle. This park does a controlled burn in the spring to reduce the amount of woody stems in the meadow, setting back succession so they don’t become shrub lines. On my many hikes through this meadow, I have seen various types of birds and insects. Sandhills crane can be seen and heard in and around this park. I go there in the fall to see the monarchs stopping by to gather nectar on the wildflowers. The fall colors are quite brilliant at this park as well. Download a brochure and trail map here.

fall on the  Kettle Trail

Some uncommon animal species found here include northern waterthrush, veery, spotted turtle, and four-toed salamander. Throughout the year, bald eagles, ospreys, tundra swans, common loons, and a wide variety of ducks and geese can also be seen here.

Lake Kelso was recently chosen as one of the finest examples of a “least-disturbed” natural lake in Ohio, or a reference lake. The US EPA will now use Lake Kelso to give the US Congress a scientific report card. Due to the vulnerability of the park’s aquatic habitats, public boating and fishing are not permitted on Lake Kelso (except on naturalist led programs, or if you are a Park District naturalist like John Kolar, shooting this video below).

[Please note that the Scout Out Your Parks tracker program is now defunct, but more videos by the nutty John Kolar and other naturalists of Geauga Park District can be seen by clicking here.] 

There are bird walks at different parks each year, so keep an eye out for the dates to be released by Geauga Park District. You can sign up for their newsletter here.


“Take a hike, bring your binoculars and your camera,
and enjoy what nature has to offer.”

Burton Wetlands Nature Preserve
15681 Old Rider Road
Burton Township 

The online home for Burton Wetlands Nature Preserve, from which information for this article was obtained, can be found HERE.

Have you ever been to Burton Wetlands? What do you like about this park? Leave us comments below.

Geauga News
Author: Geauga News