Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge–Little Portage Unit

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge
Little Portage Unit

Oak Harbor, Ohio 43449

Also, see Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge
Portage Rivers

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Ottawa County

Ottawa NWR–Little Portage Unit (view from roadside only)
Coordinates: 41.4794629, -83.0843252
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About Little Portage Unit
The Little Portage Unit of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge provides view of the upper section of the Little Portage River. Please view birds from the roadside only at this unit.

About Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge
Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge spans two counties. The northern part of the refuge is in Lucas County and the southern part is in Ottawa County.

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge provides valuable habitat for a diversity of waterfowl and other migratory birds, resident wildlife, and endangered and threatened species. It provides a place for people to enjoy wildlife-dependent activities and learn about the complexities of the natural world through education and interpretive programming.

Ottawa Refuge is located in northwest Ohio. The entrance is located 15 miles east of Toledo, Ohio or 16 miles west of Port Clinton, Ohio on OH-2. The entrance road is located on the north side of OH-2.

Visitors should stop at the visitor center which opened in 2007. This beautiful lodge style building welcomes you and tells the refuge story. The building is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

There are ten miles of hiking trails. These trails travel through a variety of habitats and start behind the visitor center or from the trailhead parking lot.

The refuge wildlife drive is open on scheduled days from 8 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The wildlife drive allows vehicles to travel through areas of the refuge not otherwise open to the general public. See the calendar of events for open dates.
From Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge webpage

About the Portage Rivers
The Portage River is a west-to-east flowing river in northwest Ohio that empties into Lake Erie at Port Clinton. The Portage begins approximately 40 river miles from the lake at the confluence of the Middle Branch Portage and South Branch Portage rivers which is just east of the intersection of OH-199 with US-6. Headwaters for the branches begin in Wood and Hancock counties, respectively. A northern branch flows into the Portage River at Pemberville, and an eastern branch flows into the South Branch in Montgomery Township about 0.25-miles south of the OH-199/OH-281 intersection (Wood County).

The Portage River Watershed covers 612 square miles (391,682 acres). The watershed is predominantly comprised of cultivated crops (78 percent) with pockets of urban development (11 percent), forested land (5 percent) and some wetland areas along the coast.

Much of the land now occupied by the drainage basin of the Portage was once part of the Great Black Swamp, a vast wetland ecosystem that included coastal marshes, poorly-drained soils, and lush forest cover. The entire swamp covered nearly 900,000 acres, land which today is completely or partially included in 13 counties in Ohio and one county in Indiana. Settlement and development of northwest Ohio were delayed due to the swamp’s presence.

In the 1850s, Ohio’s General Assembly passed the first of many laws authorizing the drainage of the Great Black Swamp. Consequently, many drainage ditch networks were dug in the watershed including the Jackson Cut Off project in Wood County. It drained 30,000 acres of wetlands in the upper Portage River Watershed and diverted the water nine miles to the Maumee River basin. The exposed land throughout the former Great Black Swamp offered tremendously rich and productive soils which are extensively farmed today. The drainage ditches and subsurface drainage tiles in the former swamp are also maintained to prevent the swamp from returning.

The lower twelve miles of the Portage River, between Oak Harbor and the mouth in Port Clinton, are essentially an estuary as the river’s water is influenced by Lake Erie’s water level. Measuring over 3,000 feet (0.5-miles) wide at some locations, the lower Portage is also extremely broad in comparison to other Lake Erie tributaries, with the exception of the Maumee. The river’s width makes it a prime location for recreational boating, canoeing, and kayaking. The Portage is also good for white bass fishing.
From Lake Erie Public Access Guide