Birding at Alum Creek State Park
Visiting this Site
Alum Creek State Park
The beach parking area is closed from November through April, but the beach can often be accessed from the Visitor Center parking area, old Lewis Center Road, or even the west dam parking area. Hogback Preserve may be closed on many winter weekends, but Hogback Road is always open.
There are many throughout the area. See directions for details.
Camping fees, if you wish to stay at the campground (west end of Cheshire causeway).
Most developed areas have them, including the Visitor’s Center, Beach, Hollenback Marina, Campground, Howard Road Bridge, Cheshire boat launch, and the New Galena boat launch.
Harmful Insects, Poisonous Plants, or Animals
Restaurants in the Area
Fast food can be found at the SR 37/I-71 interchange. There is a better selection of eateries in Delaware.
Other Useful Information
Gas stations are located at the SR 37/I-71 interchange.
Other Birding Spots in the Area
Highbanks Metro Park is 4-5 miles southwest of the park, along US 23. This area is also quite close to the northern end of Hoover Reservoir (4-5 miles east of the southern end of the park) as well as Delaware Reservoir and Wildlife Area (5-7 miles northwest of the northern end of the park).
3615 S. Old State Road, Delaware, OH 43015
DeLorme Page Number and Coordinates
(7th Edition and earlier) Page 58, C-2
Nearest Town or City
Seven miles southeast of Delaware, Ohio.
Directions from Nearest Town or City
From Delaware, travel east on SR 37 for 3 miles, then turn south on S. Old State Road, which runs along the western border of the park. To reach the beach and dam, turn west off this road in about 6 miles on Lewis Center Road. From Columbus, take US 23 north to Lewis Center Road, then go east for about 2 miles to reach the beach and dam area. From I-71 (southbound), exit at Polaris Parkway going east, then turn north at Africa Road. This will go north for about 3 miles before reaching the dam. From I-71 (northbound), exit at SR 37 (Delaware-Sunbury exit) and travel west 1/3 mile before turning north on 3B &K Road (for the north end of park) or 2/3 mile before turning south on Africa Road (for the east side of reservoir).
About Alum Lake State Park
The park encompasses virtually all the shoreline of Alum Creek Reservoir, a large flood control reservoir southeast of Delaware. The entire park was bought as part of the land acquisitions for the reservoir in the early 1970s. Much of the area was originally farm fields, and has had over 3 decades to revert to scrubby overgrown fields. Mature forested areas are found only around the Visitor Center (southwestern shore) and at the northern end (Howard Road Bridge and Hogback Road). Be warned that the lake shoreline is open to hunting during waterfowl season (usually late October – early January).
1. Alum Lake Dam – Since the dam is mostly earthworks, you can hike across the top for an expansive view of the southern reservoir. Be warned that it is a long hike (see last entry, #14 below). There is a large picnic/fishing area below the dam, but it is very open and manicured with no riparian forest at all. Watch for nesting Cliff Swallows and Purple Martins during the spring and summer months and for Turkey Vultures that roost on the nearby power line pylons during fall and spring. The open areas of the dam and picnic area make a good trap for horned larks, pipits, and meadowlarks. If you drive west from here, you can park at a small parking lot at the west end of the dam and hike up the dam for a good view of the beach and a small bay that can harbor gulls and waterfowl.
2. Visitor Center/Beach – Drive west of the dam, where Big Walnut Road turns north to become Lewis Center Road, and turn in at the Visitor’s Center sign. The beach parking area turn is about ¼ mile further north. The beach is very crowded on summer weekends, but is lightly used most other times of the year. Park at the Visitor’s Center (first right after the dam), and walk the trails to the east (down to the beach) and then north, looping through a small forest patch. The beach is not much for mudflats and shorebirds, but usually has a big flock of gulls roosting (check for terns and oddities), and can have a few shorebirds during migration, especially in the morning before the crowds build up. It also gives a commanding view of the southern reservoir and any waterfowl upon it. The shrubs around the visitor center can be a good migrant trap as can the forest edge trail to the north of the parking area. The overgrown field area east of the visitor’s center (down to the shore) is an excellent spot for migrant and wintering sparrows including flocks of Chipping, Field, and Tree Sparrows, but be alert for just about anything.
3. Lewis Center Road – Look for the turnoff just where Lewis Center Road turns west (as you drive north from the beach entrance), and take the right turn immediately after the turn-off. This old road formerly ran across Alum Creek, but now dead-ends at the lakeshore. The fields and a marsh on the way can be productive for field and wetland birds, and the view from the end of the road is quite good. Often, a flock of diving ducks accumulates here in the fall and spring months. This is a good spot to try if the beach is gated shut (late fall or winter), but be warned that hunters use this location and it has also been a notorious ‘make-out spot’ for many years.
4. Hollenback Marina – Follow Lewis Center Road north and then turn right onto S. Old State Road. Go north about a mile and turn right on Hollenback Road. At the end of Hollenback is a marina with a small bay. The breakwater at the mouth of the marina offers the best view of the lower reservoir for waterfowl, and sometimes birds are in the marina inlet (watch especially for small grebes here). A picnic area just north of the marina can be good for land birds.
5. Park Headquarters – Further north along Old State Road, look for a large gray sign with a building on the east with a small pond/lake. The surrounding shrubs can be very good for migrants, and the pond can host diving ducks and Green Herons in season. To the east, there is a small pine woods that can harbor owls in winter. Check the trails here before reaching the lakeshore.
6. Campground Area – This entrance is further north along Old State Road, just before you reach Cheshire Road. This campground is heavily used in the summer, but can be explored most other times of year and usually has a good mix of land birds. If you take the first left just past the entrance station, this road will loop under the Cheshire causeway to a boat ramp with an expansive view of the middle reservoir that can produce waterfowl in the early fall or spring seasons.
7. Berlin Station Access – Stay on Old State Road north of Cheshire Road for 1/2 mile, then turn right into the gravel parking lot at the intersection with Berlin Station Road. The old road (closed to cars) runs east ½ mile to the reservoir shore through very overgrown fields which can be good for sparrows and fruit-eating birds. The shore here is a series of small bays that can be walked during the fall and winter, when the water level is low, and can be quite good for a variety of birds including shorebirds, gulls, and even raptors. This is an excellent spot for the spring waterfowl migration from March through April. Make sure to walk out to the very end and check the long inlet to the northwest which is wind-sheltered and often has more ducks than the main reservoir. If the water level is high though, the shoreline here is quite inundated and inaccessible; a situation which often continues for much of the spring.
8. SR 37 Bridge – Stay on Old State Road until it ends at SR 37, then take a right and drive east 1/2 mile to the parking area just before the bridge. The reservoir here is deep and narrow, so water birds are not very numerous, although there can be small flocks of gulls. The forested inlet/ravine just southwest of the parking area is circled by a foot/horse trail and can be very good for land birds in both spring and fall seasons. This is one of the few spots for nesting Cerulean Warblers along the lower reservoir.
9. Howard Road Bridge – This bridge is about 1 mile north of SR 37 and can be reached from either the east side (3B & K Road) or the west side (North Old State Road). It has a large parking area on the east end (mostly for boaters and fishermen, but with restrooms) and a smaller one on the west end (exclusively for horse-riders). The bridge itself crosses a narrow portion of the reservoir with a very interesting scrubby inlet on the north side. This is a reliable site for riparian-type birds like Yellow Warblers, Eastern Kingbirds, Willow Flycatchers, and Yellow-billed Cuckoos during nesting season. This is one of the prime parking areas for horse-riders and hikers using the Winterhawk Trail that circumnavigates the northern reservoir from here. Birders can likewise hike the trail, although it can be quite muddy from horse traffic. The best segment for birding is southwest of the bridge, where the trail head can be found across from the horse-riders parking area. This section of the trail, called the Maple Glen segment, passes through a series of small, forested ravines and is one of the best stands of mature beech-maple forest in the park. This area has nesting Acadian Flycatchers, Scarlet Tanagers, Hooded Warblers, and Cerulean Warblers.
10. Hogback Road – This neat location at the north end of the park may provide habitat for the greatest bird diversity in all of central Ohio. To get here, take Hogback Road north from Howard Road (east of the bridge) for about ½ mile through farm fields. You will soon reach the Hogback Preserve, run by Delaware County’s Preservation Parks. This preserve has a nature center and a small trail through an old oak-hickory forest on the crest of a ravine. Listen for vireos (Yellow-throated, Warbling, and Red-eyed), tanagers (both summer and scarlet) and warblers, and talk with the naturalist-rangers about what has been in the area recently. North of the preserve, the road zigzags and runs past a large parking area. You can park here and walk the Winterhawk trail in either direction. To the south, it loops through a wooded ravine and then along the crest of a cliff, 20-30 feet above the reservoir. The forest is not as mature here as in other locations, but still holds many forest birds. The reservoir is narrow here and can have flocks of waterfowl in the fall and spring months. If the water level here is very low in the fall, it can even have shorebirds. Further north, Hogback Road opens onto a narrow ridge overlooking the reservoir before dropping down to run along the reservoir shore. You can park at several dirt pull-offs here along the road. This is the northern end of the reservoir and its’ narrow valley here forms a basin hemmed in by low, wooded hills. The water is very shallow here, so the area is great for herons, dabbling ducks, and shorebirds in the late summer and autumn. Osprey nest platforms here have supported at least one active nest (since the late 1990s), and Ospreys can usually be found in the area from April through September. The flow of wind through the basin is also good for birds in flight and you can usually find cruising swallows and soaring hawks and vultures here. A walk around the small marsh at the northern end can be good for sparrows and wrens if the water is not too high. Be aware that this area is popular with waterfowl hunters from late October through December. Hogback Road doesn’t stop at the basin, but continues north through woodlands along the east slope of the Alum Creek valley up to SR 521 at the hamlet of Kilbourne. Within ¼ mile of the basin, the road crosses three small, wooded ravines that hold many of the forest birds scarce in the southern portion of the park, including Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Acadian and Great-crested Flycatchers, Vireos, Scarlet Tanagers, Cerulean, Hooded, and Kentucky Warblers.
11. Cheshire Boat Launch and Causeway – This area is best accessed by two parking areas along Africa Road just north of Cheshire Road. The northern lot is a boat launch with some interesting, shrubby edge. The southern lot has less edge, but has a dirt footpath leading up onto the Cheshire causeway that gives a superb view of the middle reservoir. You are separated from the road by a wall, so the site is not as hazardous as other causeways in Ohio. Look here for loons, grebes, and diving ducks. You can also drive across the causeway to the campground boat launch (see site #6 above) for a closer view of the west shore.
12. Plumb Road Access – Use the parking lot where Plumb Road intersects Africa Road. The old road to the west is closed to cars and runs through overgrown fields to the shore (which is fairly uninteresting here). It intersects a multi-use trail that makes a long loop through the fields and copses. The north part of this loop can be productive for sparrows and migrants, but is often quite muddy.
13. New Galena Boat Launch – Parking for this area is along Africa Road between Big Walnut Road and Plumb Road. This boat launch is on a small peninsula that appears to funnel migrants along the shore, so this is a good spot to check during the fall migration. There is a series of foot trails here that parallel the shore, which is comprised of several small bays and inlets that can hide ducks and shorebirds. It is also the start of the multi-use trail that winds north past the old Plumb Road area. The area here is essentially fields in advanced stages of succession, so migrants have few high trees in which to hide. Be sure to walk the old Lewis Center Road just west of the boat launch. This old roadway is very overgrown and dead-ends at the shore where there is a good view of the lower reservoir.
13.5. Mountain Bike Trail – This is one of the best, forested areas in the southern part of the park and is accessible to only the most energetic birders. This forested path loops around a scenic inlet on the southeast shore of the lake, but is open only to mountain-bikers. In most seasons, the nearby New Galena boat launch has more interesting bird life, but this spot is worth a look if you ride a bike.
14. East access to the Dam – Park at the gate along Africa Road, just south of Lewis Center Road. You can walk along the top of the earthwork dam from here (as do many hikers and joggers). This will take you past a small woods and several fields that are often quite productive, but it’s about 1/3 mile until you will see the reservoir. You can walk all the way across the dam (about 1.5 miles), but it is very open and tree-less and not very “birdy”.
Birds of Interest by Season
The reservoir often freezes over by January, so water birds are forced away. Sparrow flocks can be found at East dam, the Visitor’s Center, and the Berlin Station access. Long-eared and Saw-whet Owls have been found in the pine grove east of the Park Headquarters, but with less frequency in recent years.
Northbound waterfowl often accumulate at several locations. The best locations are the Cheshire Causeway, the Campground Boat Launch, the Berlin Station access, and Hogback Road. An adult and immature Bald Eagle have been seen increasingly in recent springs, especially around the Plumb Road access, Cheshire Causeway, Berlin Station access, and Hogback Road. Land bird migration is most intense in the forested regions around the Howard Road bridge and along Hogback Road, although other sites also produce migrant flocks.
A nesting Osprey pair use platforms in the reservoir along Hogback Road. Woods along the northern reaches of the reservoir harbor remnant populations of forest birds, highlighted by Cerulean Warblers. Look and listen for them at Maple Glen trail (Howard Road Bridge), Hogback Preserve, and Hogback Road. An adult and juvenile Common Loon were found off the Cheshire causeway in the summer of 2003, so check for loons here during the summer months. Cliff Swallows currently nest at the dam and at the Cheshire causeway and nesting colonies are expanding to other bridges around the reservoir.
Migrant waterfowl can be seen at many locations along the reservoir. The shallow, northern end along Hogback Road is best for dabblers, while southern accesses at Berlin Station, the Hollenback marina, the beach area, and the dam are better for loons and diving ducks. Depending upon water levels, Hogback Road can be a very effective shorebird trap and there are often accumulations of 100-200 birds in late August through September. Recent rarities have included Buff-breasted Sandpiper and American Avocet. The edges of the wide, lower reservoir can magnify land bird migration in the fall. Look for accumulations of migrants at the Cheshire Access, the Plumb Road access, New Galena, the Visitor’s Center, the Park Headquarters, and the Berlin Station access.