Hinckley Reservation Birding Drive
Ohio Birding Drives are routes for birding trips which can be accomplished in one day, stopping to walk and bird at various eBird hotspots. For each birding drive, a Google map is provided with the route and suggested stops at eBird hotspots. You may save the link to the Google map on your smartphone or tablet, or print a copy on paper to take with you. Links are provided with information about each eBird hotspot. Follow those links for more information about birding each location.
Hinckley Reservation Birding Drive
Click on the hotspot names below to view the page about that hotspot. (See Hinckley Reservation for information on all the eBird hotspots at Hinckley.)
Hinckley Lake is encircled by two park roads, West Drive and East Drive. Both roads (paved) have entrances off Bellus Road on the north side of the park, and on State Road, which cuts north and south through the center of the park. Many of the park’s primary destinations are accessed from West Drive, such as the Hinckley Lake dam, which impounds the Rocky River, the boathouse, Johnson’s Picnic Area, the scenic overlook, and the Buzzard Roost parking area. Other good areas are accessed from East Drive, Kellogg Road, Ledge Road, State Road, Bellus Road, and Parker/Harter Roads, all of which serve to form boundaries for the Reservation. A map of the park would be useful to help identify the various roads.
Hinckley Reservation–Johnson Picnic Area
Hinckley Reservation–Hinckley Lake Loop Trail
To begin a hike around Hinckley Lake, enter West Drive from Bellus Road and continue to a road on the left marked “Boat House” and “Johnson’s Picnic Area.” Turn here and drive to the picnic area at the end of the road, passing the boathouse.
The Johnson Picnic Area area itself is shaded; its small shelter house often houses a nesting pair of Eastern Phoebes. The small stream which passes through the area sometimes has a pair of Louisiana Waterthrushes. If time is limited, you may want to bird just the picnic area. If you have more time, it is a three-mile walk around the lake from here.
A hike around Hinckley Lake on the three-mile paved All Purpose Trail will provide a good introduction to the area, and should provide a good representation of species. This trail is also well-populated with joggers and bikers, especially in summer and on weekends. In general, the All Purpose Trail is adjacent to West and East Drives; however, a dirt hiking trail follows the immediate shoreline most of the way around the Lake, and therefore offers better birding, but won’t get you into any “deep woods” areas. From time to time, the hiking trail around the Lake will empty out onto the paved trail; in general, just stay as close to the Lake as possible.
The northern end of the Lake, near the dam, offers the deepest water and accordingly the best chances at locating any diving waterfowl which might happen to briefly touch down in migration, although the Lake is not particularly adept at attracting this group. The southern end of the Lake, where the Rocky River empties into it, is quite shallow and attracts dabbling ducks, shorebirds when the water is low enough, and herons and egrets. All in all, Hinckley Reservation is more properly known for its woodland birds rather than its water birds, although the Lake often harbors interesting migrants before the canoers and row boaters hit the waters.
Hinckley Reservation–Buckeye Trail
On West Drive just past the turn off to the boathouse you will come to another entrance (on the left) to the other side of Johnson’s Picnic Area. Park in this lot. Opposite this parking lot the Buckeye Trail and a bridle trail share the same space in this lush little valley, paralleling the same permanent stream that cuts through the Johnson’s Picnic Area. One or two pairs of Louisiana Waterthrushes nest here every year, being most easily found from mid-April through June when singing. On good migration days, this stretch of trail can really be hopping. Other nesting species here include Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee, and Hooded Warbler. A Cerulean Warbler is usually on territory right at the entrance to the parking area. Barred Owls and Pileated Woodpeckers are permanent residents.
This valley is also excellent for spring wildflowers, beginning in early April, and peaking in late April through early to mid-May. Some species to be found here commonly are Bloodroot, Blue Cohosh, Cut-leaved Toothwort, Dutchmen’s Breeches, Foamflower, Wild Geranium, Jack-in-the-pulpit, Mayapple, Purple Cress, Round-lobed Hepatica, Wild Blue Phlox, Rue Anemone, Spring Beauty, Squirrel Corn, Large-flowered Trillium, Purple Trillium, Trout Lily, Twinleaf, and Wild Leek.
Walking on this trail, you will soon come to a split; the right fork crosses the stream and takes you to the west, eventually tying into the Kiwanis Reserved Picnic Area on Kellogg Road (on the western boundary of the park), and the equestrian area on Hinckley Hills Road (in the northwestern corner of the park). If you choose to continue straight ahead, the bridle trail will take you to the east, crossing State Road, and much later, will dump you out on Harter Road (at the far southeastern corner of the park), several miles distant. All the bridle trails in the area quite birdy, especially in summer, and provide a “deep woods” atmosphere seldom found in northeastern Ohio. Chances are, you will only share these trails with an occasional equestrian or two. Unfortunately, the layout of the trails is linear, and therefore does not allow for a complete loop, so you will need to retrace your steps. This is not such a bad thing.
Hinckley Reservation–Buzzard Roost
On West Drive you will pass the scenic overlook which offers a view of the shallow east end of Hinckley Lake and the wooded hillsides beyond. Continuing on West Drive, you will soon come to the Buzzard Roost parking lot on the right. This open area of cultivated fields and field edges attracts nesting Eastern Towhees, Field Sparrows, and Indigo Buntings, among others.
Hinckley Reservation–Gravel Loop
Directly opposite the intersection of West Drive and State Road is the southern entrance of the Gravel Loop (which is closed to vehicles). Go north on State Road and park in the small lot across from the north entrance to walk the Loop Drive. The large spruces here seem particularly attractive to Golden-crowned Kinglets. Gravel Loop continues for a half-mile along the slow-moving and muddy East Branch of the Rocky River before ending up again on State Road, but north of where you entered. The woods along Gravel Loop attract many of the deeper woods birds, such as Brown Creeper, Great Crested Flycatcher, Hooded Warbler, and Scarlet Tanager. Cerulean Warblers and Louisiana Waterthrushes are also often found here. Look here also for spring wildflowers, such as White Dog-toothed Violet and Virginia Bluebell, among many others.
Hinckley Reservation–Whipps Ledges
Back on State Road, continue north (right), crossing the Rocky River, and turn right up the side road to the Whipp’s Ledges Picnic Area. You may park at the end of the road and follow the trails upwards to the base of the Ledges, a favorite of rock climbers. This area is also known as one of the Cleveland area’s most reliable spots for nesting Kentucky Warblers, although only a few pairs are ever present. Look especially in old cut-over openings, particularly those sporting grapevine tangles. Nesting Chestnut-sided Warblers are also fond of these areas. All the deep-woods species may be expected here. Hooded Warbler is quite common.
Hinckley Reservation–Wordens Ledges
The Worden Heritage Homestead is a house museum managed by the Hinckley Historical Society. The homestead preserves and presents the history of what it was like to live in the outlying area of Cleveland during a particular place in time. The Worden Heritage Homestead portrays pioneer life in the Cleveland area during the mid-to-late eighteenth century, including authentic craft demonstrations in broom-making, candle-wicking, needlepoint, spinning, and pressing apples.
Hidden treasures of the homestead are Worden’s Ledges. The Hinckley Reservation is known for its stunning natural rock formations that are also known as ledges. Theses ledges, comprised of sandstone called Sharon conglomerate, were gradually carved out by quick-flowing bodies of water that emptied into an inland sea that covered Ohio over 300 million years ago.
Some of these ledge formations on the Worden Homestead contain artistic carvings of various faces, names, dates, a ship, various religious carvings, and even a fourteen-foot-long sphinx. Some of the faces depicted include Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, legendary baseball catcher Ty Cobb, and a portrait of what seems to be Hiram Worden. Initially, the carvings were attributed to Frank Worden, the son of the original owner of the Worden Homestead, Hiram Worden, and thought to be carved during the late nineteenth century. However, the Worden descendants assert that the carvings were the work of a man named Noble Stuart, Frank Worden’s brother-in-law and Hiram Worden’s son-in-law, and that he made them sometime between 1945 and 1955. The farmhouse of the Worden Homestead is home to other works by Noble including sculptures of a crucifix, an Indian armed with a tomahawk, and even the storied founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.
This birding drive is just a sample of the trails and hotspots in the Hinckley Reservation. See the Ohio Ornithological Society description of the reservation for more ideas of good places to bird at Hinckley.