Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge–Nehls Memorial Preserve

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Ottawa County

Ottawa NWR–Nehls Memorial Preserve
Coordinates: 41.5366748, -82.8475668
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Photo by Edward Lux
About Nehls ​Memorial Nature Preserve
The Nehls Memorial Nature Preserve is located on Muggy Road, Catawba Island, about 25 miles east of the Ottawa National Wildlife Area visitor center.

Local and national groups have developed plans to manage Nehls Memorial Nature Preserve on Catawba Island, named in honor of Dr. Robert “Doc” Nehls. The beautiful property had long been a special place to enjoy nature and the calm West Harbor waters for the late veterinarian and outdoor enthusiast and his wife, Norma.

After her husband’s death, Norma felt the property should be shared and made a special arrangement to have it become a park and nature area. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service leaders at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in Oak Harbor recently signed a partnership agreement with the Black Swamp Conservancy, outlining plans to cooperatively manage the Nehls Memorial Nature Preserve to protect wildlife habitat and increase recreational opportunities.

The site was previously used for farming, and then as a campground, until the late 1990s. In 2003, Dr. Robert L. Nehls and his wife, Norma Nehls, purchased the property. They began restoring it to native habitat by clearing campground remnants from the land. After Dr. Nehls died, Norma Nehls pursued an owner who could convert the site to a publicly accessible natural area. In 2019, Ms. Nehls sold the property to Black Swamp Conservancy, which enlisted the help of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in managing it for public use.

The preserve is located on East Muggy Road in Catawba Island Township. The property covers approximately 21 acres of land and 18 acres of submerged land along West Harbor. Approximately 7.7 acres of the property, formerly in agricultural use, was planted in June 2019 to shortgrass prairie /pollinator meadow habitat.

Other areas within the property will be restored to woodland, wetland, and scrub-shrub habitat. Approximately 8.2 acres of the property has large cottonwood and maple trees spaced to provide an open under-story with plenty of shade.
From Nehls ​Memorial Nature Preserve

Tips for birding Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge
Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge is a stop on the Lake Erie Birding Trail.

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 auto tour is open on scheduled days from 8 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The auto tour travels 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

Restrooms at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge are available at the Visitor Center (flush toilets) and at the parking lot for trails (non-flush toilets).