Key At-A-Glance Information
Length: 1 miles
Scenery: Crooked Run embayment, Ohio Rive, woods and wetlands
Exposure: Mostly shaded except for meadow area
Trail Surface: Gravel and dirt
Hiking Time: 1 hour
Driving Distance: Less than 1 mile east of Chilo on US 52
Maps: USGS Moscow
Wheelchair Accessible: No
Facilities: Restrooms and water in Chilo Lock 34 Visitor Center and Museum
For More Information: Clermont County Parks, (513) 732-2977 or www.parks.clermontcountyohio.gov/Parks
Special Comments: In the museum, you can see, hear, and feel Chilo Lock 34 and Ohio River history. Bring your binoculars to explore Crooked Run Nature Preserve, as several blinds offer plenty of places to enjoy watching nature.
Rich in Ohio River history and wildlife diversity, the combination of Chilo Lock 34 Park and Crooked Run Nature Preserve offers a welcome respite from the daily chaos. Crooked Run Robert J. Paul Nature Preserve is 78 acres of protected wetlands, estuary, woods, and meadows. The property is owned by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Natural Areas and Preserves.
Adjacent to the preserve is Clermont County Parks’ 39-acre Chilo Lock 34 Park, which includes scenic Ohio River overlooks, a historical river walk, a museum, a playground, picnic areas and shelter, a boat ramp and dock, a basketball court, and horseshoe pits, plus two yurts that are available for rent. Both areas are managed by Clermont County Parks.
Once you turn south off US 52 and enter the park, pass through the 1.5-acre wetland mitigation project and enter the main area of the park. Follow the drive to the parking area to the far west of the large,
three-story brick building that houses the Chilo Lock 34 Visitor Center and Museum.
The Chilo Lock 34 building was built in 1925 when a series of wicket dams were installed along the Ohio River to control the average depth of the river and make it navigable. In 1964, Chilo Lock 34 wicket dam was replaced when the Meldahl Lock and Dam, 2 miles downstream, became operational.
The wicket dam’s powerhouse was converted into the Chilo Lock 34 Visitor Center and Museum. It is open to the public, but the operating hours vary seasonally. Call for current hours before you visit.
When you get out of your car, walk south to the sidewalk near the Ohio River. The railed sidewalk is the historical walk along the edge of the Ohio River, complete with interpretive signs
Inside the museum is a publications area with more information about Clermont County, as well as hands-on activities for young and old alike. The thirdfloor windows offer a bird’s-eye view of the Ohio River and surrounding areas.
Back outside the museum, head northeast, diagonally across the open grass field. The entrance to Crooked Run Nature Preserve is along the tree line near the service road.
The preserve sees a fair number of hikers, bird-watchers, and families, so expect company on the trail. For the most part, a good breeze comes in from the river; however, this area can be hot and humid during the summer months.
Crooked Run Nature Preserve is well known as a great bird-watching location. In fact, during migration you can see a variety of warblers as well as loons and osprey. The latter part of April and first week of May are the best times during spring migration, while October is the best time for fall migration.
Species you may spot include nesting Baltimore and orchard orioles, prothonotary warblers, yellow-breasted chats, and yellow warblers—to name just a few.
Immediately upon entering Crooked Run is a trail junction. Take the trail leading to the right. In 50 yards, pass the connector trail to the playground and stay on the trail to the left. Near this intersection is an enormous gnarled silver maple.
At the next junction, 230 feet from the last, stay on the trail to the right. This trail borders the Ohio River. At the next intersection, pass the trail leading to the observation deck by taking the Outer Loop Trail to the right. Birds of the Ohio River signage aids in identifying various species that inhabit or frequent the area. Plan to stay a few moments at the overlook and enjoy the serenity of the Ohio River from the comfort of a shaded bench. The river is very relaxing to watch and hear as it rolls past.
Back on the trail and 130 yards from the overlook is the junction with the Meadow Trail. Stay to the right and remain on the Outer Loop Trail. Pass through the stand of American beech trees. The trail turns left and follows the gravel road for 100 yards. (Please respect the privacy of the private residence located at the other end of the gravel road.)
Throughout Crooked Run are several observation blinds that offer not only a place to rest but also a wonderful glimpse into the wildlife of the backwater estuary system of Crooked Run. The estuary supports many migrating, breeding, and wintering birds. Additionally, great blue herons, green herons, ospreys, and even bald eagles are regularly spotted in the preserve.
The first blind at 0.4 miles and the second blind 200 feet ahead allow you to sit without being noticed by the birds utilizing the Crooked Run embayment. The third observation blind, about 0.1 mile farther down the trail, offers excellent viewing of waterfowl species such as northern pintails and American coots.
The Outer Loop Trail becomes the Meadow Trail 100 yards after the last observation blind. The trail meanders along the road and into a meadow before crossing a small footbridge. The meadow is full of the trill of insects and the calls of red-winged blackbirds. You might also see American woodcock, wild turkey, and white-tailed deer.
Follow the Meadow Trail to the junction of the Meadow and Outer Loop trails. Take the Outer Loop Trail to the right and follow it until you see the sign for the connector trail to the observation tower. Turn right and follow the trail to the tower. The observation tower is about two stories tall and offers an overview of the meadow below. You can easily spot animal pathways through the meadow from this elevation.
Take the steps back down and stay to your right. Here, the trail merges with the service road that returns to the grassy field and parking area.
GPS Trailhead Coordinates
Hamilton County Park District’s Woodland Mound and Withrow Nature Preserve, as well as East Fork State Park, offer additional hiking opportunities. The Land of Grant Tours offers a window into the past of Ulysses S. Grant, including his birthplace and schoolhouse. Good restaurants include Miguel’s, Great Scott, and Garzelli’s Grinder and Pizza Company off OH 125 between Amelia and I-275.