Cowan Lake State Park

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Clinton County

Cowan Lake SP
Coordinates: 39.3804768, -83.8887048
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Cowan Lake SP–East Ponds
Coordinates: 39.377573, -83.880115
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Cowan Lake
Coordinates: 39.3862589, -83.9051628
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lake-county-map

Ohio Birding Day Hike
Cowan Lake Trails
Named an Important Bird Area by Ohio Audubon, Cowan Lake has 700 acres of water and 1,076 acres of land that includes upland deciduous forest, wetland and riparian corridor, with more than four miles of marked hiking trails.

The Lotus Trail is especially good for summer birding with a number of nesting warblers, vireos and other songbirds. Entrance to Lotus Trail is adjacent to the campground entrance on Osborn Road. This trail offers a boardwalk view of an American Lotus (water lily) colony. When the lake is low the end of Lotus Trail overlooks a wetland area that has been very productive in past years.

The Spillway Trail is also good for shorebirds when conditions are right. Among unusual bird sightings at Cowan are 240 Sandhill Cranes, Snow Geese, White-fronted Geese, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Little Blue Heron, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, Stilt Sandpiper, Baird’s Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, 30 Semipalmated Plover, White-winged Scoter, Surf Scoter, Red-throated Loon, and Bald Eagle.

Other Trails
Lotus Cove Trail – .7 mile – Moderate
Spillway Trail – 2.61 miles – Moderate
Beechnut Loop Trail – .5 mile – Easy
Dogwood Trail – .7 mile – Easy
Emerald Woods Trail – 1.8 miles – Easy
Oldfield Trail – .8 mile – Moderate
Lakeview Trail – 1.1 miles – Moderate

Tips for birding Cowan Lake State Park
Named an Important Bird Area by Ohio Audubon, Cowan Lake has 700 acres of water and 1,076 acres of land that includes upland deciduous forest, wetland and riparian corridor, with more than four miles of marked hiking trails. Lotus Trail is especially good for summer birding with a number of nesting warblers, vireos and other songbirds. Entrance to Lotus Trail is adjacent to the campground entrance on Osborn Road.

When the lake is low the end of Lotus Trail overlooks a wetland area that has been very productive in past years. The spillway is also good for shorebirds when conditions are right. Among unusual bird sightings at Cowan are 240 Sandhill Cranes, Snow Geese, White-fronted Geese, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Little Blue Heron, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, Stilt Sandpiper, Baird’s Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, 30 Semipalmated Plover, White-winged Scoter, Surf Scoter, Red-throated Loon, and Bald Eagle.

Southwest of Wilmington about 7 miles on OH-730 to spillway or US-68 South, then West on OH-350 to several entrances.

Open all year during daylight hours.
From Ohio Ornithological Society

Cowan Lake SP in Clinton County has diverse habitat around the reservoir that is home to many of our wintering species. What I notice the most is the number of woodpeckers present! All of Ohio’s woodpeckers can be found easily there along with the waterfowl on the lake!
From Tyler Ficker, Ohio Ornithological Society Southwest Regional Director

Birds of Interest by Season
Winter
Red-shouldered Hawk, Bonaparte’s Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Common Loon, Common Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Hooded Merganser, American Tree Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.
Spring
Waterfowl and songbird migrants of the area. In the past year unexpected rarities included American Avocet, Franklin’s Gull, Caspian Tern, and Greater White-fronted Goose.
Summer
Nesters include Red-Shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks, Yellow-throated, Kentucky, Prothonotary, Cerulean, Prairie, and Blue-winged Warblers, White-eyed and Red-eyed Vireos, Louisiana Waterthrush and Red-headed Woodpecker.
Fall
Wilson’s Snipe, Killdeer, Great Egret, Least Sandpiper, Ruddy Duck, Gadwall, American Wigeon and other waterfowl and shorebird migrants.

About Cowan Lake State Park
Cowan Lake State Park offers a peaceful setting replete with scenic inlets laden with the American Lotus water lily. Swimming, fishing, sailing and canoeing are popular on the lake. Meandering trails through mature woodlands complement the natural features of this scenic 1,075-acre park.

The Cowan Lake region was once a stronghold of the Miami and Shawnee Indians. After their defeat at the hands of General Anthony Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, the Indian threat subsided and settlement began here. In 1797, the first settler in the area, William Smalley, began clearing land for his home along the river which was later dammed to form Cowan Lake. Smalley had been captured by the Indians when he was a small child and was forced to live with them until he was twenty years old. He later fought in General Wayne’s army and was recaptured, but luckily escaped with his life.

Cowan Creek was named for the area’s first surveyor, John Cowan. A dam was completed across Cowan Creek in 1950, and in 1968, Cowan Lake was dedicated as a state park.

It has been said that Ohio’s history can be found written in the rocks. By studying the bedrock layers in Ohio, we know that ancient seas, swamps, river deltas, and beaches covered all or portions of the state at times over the past 500 million years. Sediment deposited by those ancient waters solidified into rock and eventually uplifted forming dry land. Animals and plants were embedded in the sediment, and today, these fossils reveal the different life forms that existed in Ohio’s past.

Cowan Lake lies near the Cincinnati Arch, an uplifting of bedrock that occurred during the Appalachian Mountains’ building process. The erosion of this arch in the Cowan region exposes fossil-rich limestone. The limestone near Cowan and other parts of the exposed arch are some of the most famous fossil hunting fields in the world.

A fine stand of beech-maple forest can be found around the lake at Cowan. These woodlands contain beautiful wildflowers including bloodroot, wild ginger, spring beauties and trillium. The woods, fields, and lake provide habitat for a variety of animals, including ring-neck pheasant, ducks, geese, and herons. Songbirds such as eastern bluebirds, catbirds, house wrens and many others inhabit the fields and bushy areas of the park. Mammals include white-tailed deer, raccoon, opossum, woodchuck, skunk, and others.

American Lotus, a brilliant water lily, is abundant in the lake’s shallow areas. It is unusual to find such a large colony of lotus on an inland lake. The plant’s leaves grow up to two feet in diameter supporting large yellow flowers.
From Cowan Lake State Park webpage

Restrooms at locations identified on Cowan Lake map.

Handicap accessible facilities at locations identified on Cowan Lake State Park map.