Birding at Hoover Reservoir

Westerville, Ohio

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Hoover Reservoir

Visiting Information

Closed hours/season

The only areas with restricted hours are Mud Hen Marsh and Hoover Meadows.

Parking Areas

There are numerous public parking areas along the west shore of the reservoir, at Mud Hen Marsh and Hoover Meadows. Parking on the east shore is more limited.

Fees/Permits

All public areas at Hoover Reservoir are accessible without fees.

Restroom Facilities

Limited facilities are located at several locations on the lower west shore.

Harmful Insects, Poisonous Plants, or Animals

Ticks in grassy areas, poison ivy in brushy areas.

Restaurants in the Area

Mudflats Bar and Grill, at the north end of the reservoir. Several establishments at Sunbury Plaza, south of the reservoir, including Gena’s Restaurant, McDonald’s, and several sub shops. There are numerous restaurants in Westerville, west of the reservoir.

Other Birding Spots in the Area

Blendon Woods Metropark; Innis Woods Metropark; Sharon Woods Metropark.

General Information

Address

7701 Sunbury Rd. Westerville, OH 43081

County/Counties

Delaware, Franklin

DeLorme Page Number and Coordinates

(7th Edition and earlier) Page 58, C-2.5

Nearest Town or City

One mile east of Westerville, Ohio.

Directions from Nearest Town or City

From Westerville, take SR 161 or I-270 to Sunbury Road. Go north on Sunbury Road for approximately 1½ miles to reach Hoover Dam, the southern-most point of the reservoir.

About Hoover Reservoir

Hoover Reservoir consists of 5,026 total acres. This is made up of 3,843 water acres at normal water levels and 1,183 land acres that include The Hoover Nature Preserve that is just over 925 acres. There are areas of open water, wetland swamp, wetland forest, riparian corridors, deciduous forest, pine stands, prairie remnants, and seasonal mudflats. The main roads around Hoover Reservoir are Sunbury Road, Big Walnut Road, Tussic Street, and South Old 3C Highway on the West; Sunbury Road on the North; Sunbury Road, Red Bank Road and Schott Road on the East; and Central College Road on the South. Smothers Road crosses the reservoir along the Franklin-Delaware County line.

Hoover Reservoir is best known for its waterfowl in the spring and fall. Most species of waterfowl can be located at some time during the year. Notable species seen here include Tundra Swans (usually from mid-November through mid-December), Snow geese, Brant, Long-tailed Duck, Black Scoter, White-winged Scoter, Surf Scoter, most other Ohio ducks, Horned Grebe, Common Loon, Red-throated Loon, Double-crested Cormorant, and American White Pelican (a rare visitor, in August through October).

Notable non-waterfowl species observed here includes Osprey, Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, American Avocet, Snowy Owl and others. When water levels are down in the fall, Hoover Reservoir’s upper section, just below Galena, is among the best places to find shorebirds in Central Ohio.

The Dam And Spillway
During migration and the winter months, you should begin your visit to Hoover by checking the small inlet area and waters nearest the dam. Many species of waterfowl have been recorded in this area including rarities such as Eurasian Wigeon, all three scoters, Richardson’s race of Canada Goose and Ross’ Goose. When the reservoir is frozen over, you should walk the roadway on top of the dam and check the spillway below. This area does not freeze up and numerous species will take advantage of this, often providing some surprises. Other species usually found here are Great Blue Heron, Belted Kingfisher and an occasional Bald Eagle. Below the dam is an open field that is edged with a riparian corridor along Big Walnut Creek, brushy wetland, mature forest, and conifer forest. Access to this area is via the driveway at the southern end of the dam parking lot. During the winter, a walk around the field edge can produce White-breasted Nuthatches, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Brown Creepers, Carolina Wrens, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-rumped Warblers, White-throated Sparrows, Swamp Sparrows, Cedar Waxwings, Red-tailed Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks, and several woodpecker species. During spring migration this area often has good concentrations of warblers.

West Shore Points To Observe Waterfowl
From the dam, drive north along Sunbury Road and stop at the various public parking areas to scan the water for swans, Snow Geese, ducks, grebes, loons and gulls. Specific areas to stop at are the parking lot immediately past the Water Division maintenance buildings (Area A), the Walnut Street Parking lot (Area B), the Walnut Boat Ramp, the Boat Stake Area C on the South side of Smothers Road, the Boat Stake Area D on the North side of Smothers Road (entered from Sunbury Road), and the Red Bank Marina and Launch Ramp (entered from Sunbury Road across from Maxtown Road. Birding along the west shore of Hoover Reservoir is most productive with a spotting scope. The best times for waterfowl are during the spring migration in March and April, or the fall migration from September through November. Waterfowl can be good any time during the winter if the reservoir is not iced over. Tundra Swans are often found on Hoover from mid-November through mid-December.

Mud Hen Marsh
Further North on Sunbury Road is Mud Hen Marsh. It is located at the intersection of Sunbury Road and Big Walnut Road. The entrance and parking lot are located 100 yards west on Big Walnut Road. Mud Hen Marsh is an area of wetlands, controlled succession forest, and swamp forest. There is a short trail that leads to an observation blind. Here you can find ducks, herons, shorebirds, and warblers among other species. There is usually a resident pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers in the trees directly across from the blind near the small island. The exit stream goes under Big Walnut Road and the bridge is a good area to look for Prothonotary Warblers, Wood Ducks and occasionally Bald Eagles.

Baldridge Boat Ramp
Just North of Big Walnut Road, on Sunbury Road, is the Baldridge Boat Launch Ramp and the Sunbury Road causeway. This is a good area to watch waterfowl during the appropriate seasons. During the summer and early autumn, Cliff Swallows nest under the causeway in significant numbers. You also should scan Sunbury Bridge Island on the northwest side of the causeway, as it is an often-used perch by Bald Eagles.

Twin Bridges Launch Ramp
Continue north on Sunbury Road across the causeway to the stop sign where the road T’s. To the right is Red Bank Road. Follow Red Bank Road for about ¾ mile to the Twin Bridges Launch Ramp. Here you will often find a wide selection of ducks during both spring and fall migration. This is also near the site of one of several Turkey Vulture roosts at Hoover Reservoir.

East Shore Yacht Club/Old Sunbury Road
Backtrack on Red Bank Road to the three-way intersection and continue north. Continue until you pass Harlem Road. Just past Harlem Road on the left is a chain-link gate. This is the entrance to the Eastshore Yacht Club. Park along the road (do not block the gate), walk past the barrier, and follow the old road bed to the right (north). The area on your left, between here and the shoreline, is the east side of the Hoover Nature Preserve. This road continues until you reach the second old bridge (about a 1 ½ mile walk). From this vantage point you can observe Pelican Island. In the spring this road is very active with all types of migrants including warblers, vireos, Northern and Orchard Orioles, waterfowl, Osprey, sparrows and cormorants. If you listen carefully, you should hear Prothonotary Warblers calling as most years there are 10 to 14 pairs that nest along this stretch. In the spring, up to 600 Double-crested Cormorants will amass in the vicinity of Pelican Island.

Hoover Meadows
From the east shore area, continue north on Sunbury Road for a quarter-mile to fenced-in area, on the east side of Sunbury Road, where there is a small parking area. This is Hoover Meadows, a 91-acre inland tract of The Hoover Nature Preserve. The strip is narrow but contains conifers near the front, and wetlands, grasslands, ponds, and mature forests on to the east. This area can yield hawks, bobwhite, pheasant, finches, bobolinks, woodcock, waterfowl, warblers, waders, shorebirds and assorted sparrows. In the winter, this area can yield Horned Larks, Snow Buntings, and Lapland Longspurs. The first field, closest to the parking area, contains a handicapped accessible Bluebird Trail. There are three additional fields and a wooded ravine to the rear of the meadows. All these areas should be explored.

Area N
After exploring Hoover Meadows, continue north on Sunbury Road to Galena. Take the road to the left at the four-way stop (Front Street). Park along Big Walnut Creek, where the street bends sharply to the right, and walk past the chain barrier and follow the path to the old, abandoned roadway. This is Area N of the Hoover Reservoir watershed; a wet woodlands and swamp. If birding here during the summer, be sure to have insect repellent. Warblers, including Prothonotaries, can be found here during the spring and summer. Also found in good numbers are Carolina Wrens, Wood Ducks, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, Eastern Kingbirds, Cedar Waxwings, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. Other species often found here are Barred Owls, Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos, Pileated Woodpeckers, Red-headed Woodpeckers and Bald Eagles. The roadway continues to an old bridge abutment. In the winter this is a good vantage point for observing waterfowl. In the fall when water levels are low, the mudflats, beginning at the end of the road, are accessible for viewing shorebirds. A scope is recommended and, due to the sun’s position, viewing from here is best in the morning. In the past, good numbers and a large variety of shorebirds have been recorded in this area. In the afternoon, this same area can be observed best from Wiese Road (see below). Note: poison ivy is abundant along this old roadway, so shorts are not advisable.

Area M
Within a short distance further west on Front Street, you will find the entrance road to the parking lot for Area M. This area often becomes mudflats in the autumn and leads to the confluence of the Big Walnut Creek and Little Walnut Creek, near the bridge. This is also an excellent area for shorebirds. Access to the mudflats is from the parking lot. Be prepared for a muddy walk to the point, where viewing is best.

Dustin Road
Continue through Galena, cross the bridge, and turn right onto Dustin Road. Park in the space provided at the curve, near the old railroad bridge (Area L) and walk along the road edge and down the old roadway. The area along the water’s edge is often productive in the spring, summer and fall. In the spring, the area has warblers, vireos, flycatchers, kinglets and numerous other species. Prothonotary Warblers are often sighted at this location. In the fall, the water in the small bay recedes and produces mudflats that attract numerous shorebirds, herons and egrets.

Wiese Road
Backtrack on Dustin Road to the Old 3-C Highway. At the stop sign, turn right and continue for about 100 yards. On the left is Wiese Road. Park at the barrels and walk along the old roadway (this is Area K). In the spring, walking along this roadway will yield warblers, orioles, wrens, kinglets, flycatchers and other species. Check the reservoir here for waterfowl, terns, herons, egrets, and cormorants in the spring and early fall. Prothonotary Warblers nest along this road in nest boxes installed by the Hoover Nature Preserve. Bald Eagles have become regular visitors to this area and can often be seen perched in the large trees along the shoreline. In late fall, as the reservoir recedes, large mudflats become exposed here. These mudflats are at times one of the best shorebird areas in central Ohio. Due to the sun’s position, viewing the mudflats from here is best in the afternoon and a scope is recommended.

Oxbow Road
From Wiese Road, continue south along the Old 3-C Highway to Tussic Road. Turn left onto Oxbow Road and continue to the parking areas. The Oxbow Road causeway is a good observation point for migrant waterfowl, especially Tundra Swans in November. This area has produced numerous unusual species for the area including Brant, American White Pelican, Surf and Black Scoter. There is a footpath to the northern-most point of Oxbow Island which provides excellent views of the entire northern area of Hoover Reservoir. There are nest boxes for Prothonotary Warblers along the shore. Listen for their “sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet” call.

East Walnut Street
On the east side of Hoover Reservoir there are fewer sites to access the water for viewing ducks and other waterfowl. One of the better locations is East Walnut Street. It can be reached by taking Central College Road, just south of the dam, turning left onto Cubbage Road and following Cubbage Road to the stop sign. Turn left and proceed ¼ mile to the turn-around at the water’s edge. There is also an old cemetery along this road. In the winter, the pine trees should be checked for owls.

The Soaring Field
From the East Walnut Street turn-around, continue back on Walnut Street past Cubbage Road to the first driveway on the left. This is Area S, also known as the Soaring Field. It looks bland from the parking lot, but don’t be fooled. In the spring through autumn, this edge-area and the field behind it can produce Yellow-breasted Chats, Blue-winged Warblers, Yellow Warblers, Ring-necked Pheasant, Bobwhites and grassland birds. In the winter you should check the pine stand near the parking area. This pine stand has produced Great Horned, Barred, Eastern Screech and an occasional Saw-whet Owl. Other birds often found here include Golden-crowned Kinglets, Brown Creepers and Red-breasted Nuthatches.

Birds of Interest by Season

Winter

Waterfowl, gulls, and Bald Eagles.

Spring

Waterfowl, Prothonotary Warblers and other neotropical migrants.

Summer

Prothonotary Warblers, Bald Eagles.

Fall

Shorebirds, waders.

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