Oxbow Lake Wildlife Area

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Defiance County

Oxbow Lake Wildlife Area
Coordinates: 41.346789, -84.440339
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Tips for birding Oxbow Lake Wildlife Area
416 acres with a 38-acre Big Oxbow Lake and a 4.5–acre Little Oxbow Lake. Bird habitats present both brush and woodland, trails. Stick to the road and watch the sides or walk the many trails mowed especially for hunters. Traffic is not usually very heavy, so sticking to the paved road while birding is certainly acceptable.

From Defiance, take OH-15 for 7 miles northwest to the Oxbow Lake sign. Turn right onto Shick Road at the sign, following it less than a mile to the entrance.

Open all year during daylight hours.

There is one large parking lot at Little Oxbow Lake, and 2 lots at Big Oxbow Lake.
From Ohio Ornithological Society

Birds of Interest by Season
Often Robins, Bluebirds, and Yellow-rumped Warblers overwinter here.
Warbler migration (even a Mourning!). Waterfowl (even Greater White-Fronted, Snow Geese), Common Terns, Ospreys migrate through. Woodcocks are plentiful, evidenced by their nuptial flights.
Many Blue-Winged Warblers, both Cuckoos and Willow Flycatchers nest here. Waterfowl (except for Great Blue Herons and Green Herons) don’t stick around long because of all the anglers’ boats, and then ice in the winter. Wood Ducks nest along the creek and at Little Oxbow.
Year-Round, Wild Turkeys, because of the heavy hunting here, are more likely to be seen on the land around Oxbow Lake Wildlife Area, especially at the corner of Evansport Road at OH-15 by the nearby airport. The airport has Henslow’s Sparrows nesting, as well, easily visible from the road.
Hundreds of Ring-recked Pheasants are released to be hunted. Warbler migration (sometimes a hundred Blackpolls or Cape May Warblers, even an Orange-Crowned!). Waterfowl, Greater White-Fronted and Snow Geese, Common Terns, Ospreys migrate through.

About Oxbow Lake Wildlife Area
Migrating shorebirds and songbirds can be observed utilizing the lake edges and woodlots during spring and fall. Other types of wildlife such as tree swallows and great blue herons make Oxbow Lake their home territory for the summer months.

The Oxbow Lake Wildlife Area is located in northwestern Ohio near the city of Defiance. The 416-acre area is situated in the glaciated lake plain of Ohio and has a slightly rolling topography. Some steep land lies adjacent to Mud Creek, which bisects the area. Large cottonwoods and sycamores are found along Mud Creek. The upland woods consist mostly of oaks and hickories. Index of Ohio’s trees from the Division of Forestry. Substantial amounts of brushland and meadow are maintained by the Division of Wildlife for upland game habitat. Oxbow Lake and Little Oxbow Lake provide habitat for fish, furbearers, waterfowl, and other interesting birds such as great blue herons, belted kingfishers, tree swallows, and pied-billed grebes.

Originally, the entire area was forested. During the latter part of the last century, the virgin woods were cut down to utilize the moderately fertile soil for agriculture. The wildlife area was purchased by the state of Ohio in 1948. The 38-acre Oxbow Lake was constructed in 1953. In 1954, the area headquarters was established. A smaller, 4.5-acre impoundment, called Little Oxbow Lake, was constructed in 1958.

Oxbow Lake and Little Oxbow Lake have both been stocked with largemouth bass, Northern pike, and brown bullheads. Oxbow Lake was also stocked with smallmouth bass, rock bass, red-ear sunfish, and channel catfish. Both lakes contain bluegills. To maintain fishable populations of these species, Division of Wildlife personnel employ fish management techniques such as chemical control of aquatic vegetation, removal of undesirable fish and maintenance stocking of largemouth bass and Northern pike. Northern pike are taken during early spring and late fall, but winter ice fishing is best. Pike fishing techniques involve the use of tip-ups and large minnows. Largemouth bass fishing is best during the spring, using spinners, artificial worms, and minnows for bait. Summer and fall bass fishing is especially good with top-water baits. Bluegills are taken throughout the year on worms, insect larvae, and artificial flies. Bass and bluegill fishing is most productive in the fallen tree and stump areas. Bullheads are caught throughout the year, especially during April and May. Good bullhead baits are nightcrawlers and cut baits fished on the bottom.

Boat fishing with electric motors is permitted on both lakes. Gasoline motors are not allowed.

The wide variety of cover types on the Oxbow Lake Wildlife Area is beneficial for many species of wildlife. The meadows and brushy fields are of special value to rabbit and deer populations. Accordingly, wildlife management activities have been designed to improve and maintain these conditions. The upland woodlots support a moderate population of fox squirrels. White-tailed deer are often seen in the early morning in the fields adjacent to these woodlots. Migratory woodcock are found in substantial numbers in the area, usually in the low, wet places along Mud Creek and next to Little Oxbow Lake. Wood ducks nest in the area, utilizing both natural cavities in trees and artificial nest boxes. Many species of waterfowl, including Canada geese, stop over at Oxbow Lake during their migratory flights in the spring and fall. Muskrats and other furbearers are found in moderate numbers along the edges of the lake and the banks of Mud Creek. Wild turkeys may also be seen in this area.

There are three parking lots in the area: two adjacent to Oxbow Lake and one adjacent to Little Oxbow Lake. Drinking water, latrines, and a boat launching ramp are located at Oxbow Lake. A shotgun range for paper and clay targets only is also located in the area.
From Oxbow Lake Wildlife Area webpage

Restrooms on site.