Birding at Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve

Newark, Ohio

Visiting this Site

Site Maps & Info

Map & information about this site.

Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve

Visiting Information

Closed hours/season

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.

Parking Areas

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).

Restroom Facilities

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

Poison Ivy.

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).

General Information


2200 Gratiot Rd SE, Newark, OH 43056



DeLorme Page Number and Coordinates

(7th Edition and earlier) Main entrance: Page 60:D-1; West entrance to Blackhand Trail, Page 59:D-7; Marie Hickey Trail parking lot, Page 60:D-1.

Nearest Town or City

Toboso, Ohio

Directions from Nearest Town or City

The east, or main, entrance is located in Licking County 8 miles east of Newark on SR 16, exit southeast on SR 146 and proceed 1/4 mile to County Road 273 (Toboso Road). The preserve’s entrance and parking lot are 1 1/2 mile south on County Road 273 just outside of Toboso. The west entrance has a small parking lot and no restroom facilities. To access the west entrance, travel east from Dayton Road in Newark 3.3 miles on SR 16 to Brownsville Road (Co. Road 668). Turn right, and go about 1 mile to Brushy Fork Road. Turn left and go about 150 yards to the parking lot on the left. A third small parking lot on Rock Haven Road, with no restroom facilities, gives access to the unpaved Marie Hickey Trail. Another trail can be accessed from the main entrance parking lot by walking west over the Licking River bridge and then right down a dirt road. The main paved Blackhand Trail is wheelchair accessible; the other trails are not.

About Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve

Black Hand Gorge State Nature Preserve is a 970-acre area with both paved and unpaved trails. All visitors must remain on trails unless a permit has been obtained for restricted areas. Blackhand Trail is a 4.26 mile paved wheelchair accessible trail that essentially follows a former railway bed along the south side of the Licking River. It passes through the Blackhand Gorge.

The trail features riparian habitat, wetlands (former quarries), mature mixed hardwood forest, and forest edge habitat. This trail does not loop, so unless birders partner to leave a vehicle at one end, it will be necessary to retrace the trail to return to the parking lot. Two trails of interest to birders lead off of the Black Hand Trail: the Chestnut Trail, which does not loop; and the Quarry Rim Trail, which does loop.
The latter trail gives a good view of the quarries, including some waterfowl, and is especially good for viewing flycatchers. There are other trails of interest to birders, especially the Marie Hickey Trail, which is not paved. It does loop. Some good birds can be seen from the Lock Trail in early spring, but that trail is heavily traveled in summer. See the websites for maps of the area.

Birds of Interest by Season


Woodpeckers, including Pileated; all the common woodland winter birds. A typical day list for February: Turkey Vulture; Great Blue Heron; Canada Goose; (Sharp-shinned Hawk and Cooper’s Hawk may be seen occasionally); Red-tailed Hawk (common nester); Wild Turkey; Belted Kingfisher; Rock Pigeon; Mourning Dove; Red-bellied Woodpecker; Downy Woodpecker; Hairy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; Pileated Woodpecker; Blue Jay; American Crow; chickadee sp.; Tufted Titmouse; White-breasted Tuthatch; Brown Creeper, Carolina Wren; Golden-crowned Kinglet; White-throated Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; Northern Cardinal. Barred Owls have been seen, and Eastern Screech-Owl has been heard. The habitat is good for Great Horned Owl as well.


Excellent for all migrant warblers. Watch for nesting Cerulean Warblers near the stream at the west end of the Blackhand trail, and listen for Ovenbird near mile-marker 1. All of the Ohio vireos and flycatchers are possible. Eastern Towhees are numerous. In 2003, Prothonotary Warblers nested near the trail that can be accessed from the main entrance parking lot by walking west over the Licking River bridge and then right down a dirt road. (This trail is not indicated on the brochure map.) The wetlands near where the Prothonotaries nested also have nest boxes for Wood Ducks. Waterfowl that frequent the wetlands in March and April include American Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck, Blue-winged Teal and American Coot. Mallards and Canada Geese frequent the quarries, along with the occasional Wood Duck.


Nesting Baltimore Orioles, Scarlet Tanagers, Rose-breasted Grosbeak; Red-tailed Hawk; Wood Ducks; Yellow-billed Cuckoo; Pileated Woodpeckers; Eastern Towhees; Yellow Warblers; Common Yellowthroat; Carolina and House Wrens. Bank Swallows nested along the river in 2003. Several species of swallows are possible. Sparrows abound in fence rows and brambles. The forest edges feature large numbers of Indigo Buntings. Watch the river for the numerous beaver that make their home there. Henslow’s Sparrows, Prairie Warblers and Yellow-breasted Chats are easily accessible off Rock Haven Road.


All the migrant passerines could be found here. Watch for Cedar Waxwings hawking insects over the river from the sycamore trees. Other than Killdeer, do not expect to see any shorebirds.

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