Key At-A-Glance Information
Length: 1 mile
Scenery: Woods, wet woods, river and floodplain
Exposure: Shaded and full sun
Traffic: Moderate to heavy
Trail Surface: Boardwalk, gravel, and grass
Hiking Time: 30 minutes
Driving Distance: 1.25 hours north of Cincinnati
Maps: USGS Beaver Creek
Wheelchair Accessible: Boardwalk is accessible but a gravel/grass area near the kiosk might not be passable for wheelchairs.
For More Information: Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, (937) 372-9261
Special Comments: Beaver Creek Wildlife Area is a wonderful wetland complex supporting an array of waterfowl, songbirds, and butterflies. A shallow water aquifer feeds the Siebenthaler Fen.
The Beaver Creek Wetlands Association’s (BCWA) hard work over several years has pulled together different people and organizations to protect vital wetland habitat. By working in partnerships, BCWA helped protect hundreds of acres of wetlands along the Big and Little Beaver creeks east of Fairborn, Ohio, from development.
Beaver Creek Wetland Complex locations with trails include Fairborn Marsh, Beaver Creek Wetlands Wildlife Area off New Germany–Trebein Road, Greene County Park Beaver Creek Wetland Nature Preserve, and Siebenthaler Fen in the Beaver Creek Wildlife Area off Fairgrounds Road. We’re hiking the Siebenthaler Fen portion of the wetland complex.
Beaver Creek Wildlife Area was purchased by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife with the assistance of BCWA and The Nature Conservancy.
The wetland area includes five of the six wetland types found in Ohio. The most important is the fen portion of the Beaver Creek wetland corridor, which may have been related to the pre-glacial Teays River.
Siebenthaler Fen is unique in that cool water from a shallow aquifer constantly flows to the surface. This aquifer flows through water-bearing gravel deposited 15,000 years ago when the Wisconsin glacier receded.
The ODNR Division of Wildlife’s objective for the 380-acre wetland complex is “to protect, preserve, restore, and enhance wetlands, and improve and protect habitat for nesting and migratory wetland wildlife species.”
The accessible boardwalk begins in the northeast corner of the parking lot off of Fairgrounds Road. But before you begin this hike, I highly advise the liberal use of insect repellent.
The beginning of the hike is shaded, but the midpoint is in full sun, so you should use sunscreen as well.
Wetlands are the most biologically diverse habitats, both in flora and fauna. Step onto the boardwalk and enter this wet woods. At the junction of the two entrances is an abundance of gray dogwoods. Larger cottonwood, sycamore, and boxelder trees act as climbing towers for Virginia creeper and poison ivy.
The sounds of the wetlands dominate urban noise. Expect to see songbirds flitting among the tree branches. Tune into the cacophony of natural sounds and quietly listen for nuthatches, woodpeckers, warblers, and flycatchers, as well as a plethora of frogs. A good spot to stop and pish for birds is at 0.17 miles.
Stay on the raised boardwalk and move silently along so you can view as much wildlife as possible. Don’t leave the boardwalk—some of these areas are deeper than they appear. (The water might not be deep, but the mucky bottom is.)
At 0.2 miles is a small side area to step off the main boardwalk. Look for spotted jewelweed, skunk cabbage, and sedges along the sides of the boardwalk.
Continue along the boardwalk, passing the cottonwood trees girdled by beaver at 0.27 miles. Beaver girdle trees by gnawing through the cambium (growing layer) of bark. This prevents nutrients from flowing between the leaves and the roots, killing the tree. Spring, cricket, green, and chorus frogs dominate the natural sounds. Cricket frogs sound like marbles clicking together or a Geiger counter—just depends on your previous experience.
At the intersection at 0.3 miles, take the trail to the left and enter the open wetland area. Sweet flag and common cattail border the trail.
The boardwalk along this side of the hike might be a little squishy at times, especially if there has been a lot of rain. If it has been raining, expect portions of the boardwalk to be partially flooded but still passable—your feet might get a little wet.
My favorite time to visit this wetland is during a rainfall, especially if has rained earlier in the week. Why? Not many people willingly hike when it is raining; wildlife is more active; and the rain dampens (no pun intended) sound, so it is easier to pass quietly along the boardwalk and observe wildlife.
The boardwalk was built with about a one-inch lip on the sides. During rainy weather the crayfish climb out of the wetland and onto the boardwalk. They cannot, for the most part, manage to escape back over the lip and into the safety of the wetland. This makes them easy prey for hungry raccoons, as I have observed on multiple occasions while getting thoroughly soaked by a springtime shower.
Another observation area at 0.34 miles is surrounded by marsh marigolds and great Angelica. In warm weather, expect to see several species of butterflies, skippers, and dragonflies.
You’ll reach one of my favorite spots at 0.37 miles. Here you’ll see queen of the prairie and elderberry everywhere. Red-winged blackbirds and goldfinches dominate the air and use the cattails as vantage points to defend their territories.
The kiosk is located at 0.42 miles. The identification photos on the kiosk help identify the species of plants, dragonflies, and birds seen in the wetland complex.
After the kiosk, continue on the trail. At the curve at 0.5 miles, be sure to look for frogs and turtles. Immediately after this you’ll come upon the observation tower. The tower is tall enough view the fen and the wildlife common to this wetland.
The bridge at 0.6 miles passes over a small stream. The water is always cool, but it does not freeze. Look on the stream bottom to the left of the bridge; you’ll see white flecks of marl, or calcium carbonate.
The trail loops back on itself at 0.68 miles. Continue on the raised boardwalk until you reach the parking area.
GPS Trailhead Coordinates
To the north, off New Germany–Trebein Road, is the north entrance to the Beaver Creek Wildlife Area. Here, you’ll have access to primitive trails to a wet forest and restored seasonal marsh. If you’re hungry, the Oasis Café in Xenia has a delicious selection of sandwiches and desserts. The National Museum of the United States Air Force is located at nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.