Flora & Fauna

Observing plants and animals in their natural state can be fun and rewarding. Five Rivers MetroParks has miles of hiking trails through several types of habitats, including prairies, meadows, woodlands and wetlands. Each park is open year-round to give you endless opportunities to look for wildlife and spot rare species of trees and plants. When heading out for your treasure hunt, bring a pair of binoculars and your identification books or apps.

Featured Locations

Benedict Blincoe Wildlife Observation Area

4361 W. National Rd., Vandalia, OH 45377 Directions >

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Englewood MetroPark is one of the best birding sites in the area. Approximately 90 percent of all species seen in the Dayton area have been observed in Englewood likely due to the presence of mudflats that supply worms, crayfish and other food sources. The Benedict Blincoe Wildlife Observation Area features a large wetland that was formed after the shallow lake filled with silt from the Stillwater River. Migrating birds, including sandhill cranes, can be seen feeding there during the spring and fall. Other birds in this park include owls, eagles, warblers, great blue herons, belted kingfishers, a variety of ducks, cedar wax wings and Baltimore orioles. Beaver, muskrat, and raccoons also visit to find food.

Big Macrocarpa: The Biggest Tree in MetroParks

1301 Siebenthaler Ave., Dayton, OH 45414 Directions >

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Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark is home to the largest tree in the MetroParks system, a bur oak with a circumference of 287 inches and a height of 102 feet. It scores a total of 405 points using our standardized scoring system for circumference, height, and canopy — a full 15 points ahead of the next massive tree in the district, the 500-year-old Big Sister white oak at Sugarcreek MetroPark.

Woodman Fen

2409 Newcastle Drive, Dayton, OH 45420 Directions >

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This 37-acre natural area contains a rare groundwater-fed, alkaline wetland known as a “fen.” Fens contain thick deposits of peat and support many rare plants. Restoring the fen has included planting more than 100 types of native wetland plants. This unique and ancient wetland dates to the last ice age, 13,000 years ago. Its ecosystem supports a colorful array of birds in a very small area.

Bobcats Are Back

Many wildlife species have come back to areas in Montgomery County where they had long been absent, and the land protected by MetroParks is often a key part of their return. Among the animals that have reappeared is the Ohio bobcat, which returned to the Twin Valley in 2006 as evidenced by its tracks, neighbors hearing its distinctive call and even a rare spotting or two. Bobcats were common throughout rural areas in Ohio in early settlement times; but as swamps and lowlands were drained and forests were cleared to make way for new communities and cropland, the bobcat population declined. But Germantown MetroPark has all the makings of a healthy, natural habitat for the animal: remote, well-forested areas of rugged topography, a creek for the bobcats to drink from and plenty of spots for sunning themselves after a hard night’s work of hunting rabbits, moles and other small mammals.

Huffman Prairie State Natural Landmark

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Huffman prairie became a State Natural Landmark in 1986 thanks to the dedication of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Five Rivers MetroParks and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Working together, we care for and protect 112 acres of one of the largest tallgrass prairie remnants in Ohio. This special place is home to many rare native prairie plants, birds and insects. Bobolinks and Henslow’s sparrows nest there, along with 200 species of moths and 30 species of butterflies. Ohio’s endangered green snake also makes its home on here, but may be difficult to spot. As you arrive, watch for the quick movements of the 13-lined ground squirrel burrowing near the 1905 hangar replica.

Spotted Salamanders at Sugarcreek

4178 Conference Road, Bellbrook, OH 45305 Directions >

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Thanks to a half century of conservation practices, many of the habitat areas in and around Dayton have been restored and are thriving. Spotted salamanders are a great example of a recent wildlife comeback. Sugarcreek is the only MetroPark that contains spotted salamanders. These amphibians come out to breed all at once on warm rainy nights in the spring before returning to the forest. The blue trail has plenty of moist, low-lying areas where spotted salamanders love to hang out.

Swamp Forest

1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave., Dayton, OH 45414 Directions >

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Wegerzyn Gardens provides visitors a rare opportunity to view and experience a pristine riparian (riverbank) habitat, a habitat that has been severely threatened by the encroachment of agricultural, industrial and residential expansion. But you can also find swamp forests in Dull Woods and in the Pumpkin Ash and Swamp Forest at Englewood MetroPark.

Great Miami Wetland Mitigation Bank

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This special facility, located near Trotwood, was one of the first conservation agency-owned mitigation banks in the country. Developers who need federally required wetland credits can use the mitigation bank, which is maintained by Five Rivers MetroParks. This public-private relationship provides flexibility for developers and creates viable habitat for native wildlife. Since it was established, volunteers have spotted more than 89 species of birds at the wetland, many rare to the region, including northern shrike, short eared owl, sedge wren, red breasted merganzer, sora, snipe, green winged teal, solitary sandpiper, palm warbler, warbling vireo and white crowned sparrow.

Eastwood MetroPark Lake

1401 Harshman Rd., Dayton, OH 45431 Directions >

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Few creatures command such aerial grace and majesty as the bald eagle. One pair, known as Jim and Cindy, made Dayton their nesting grounds for nearly eight years. Five Rivers MetroParks’ conservation practices help maintain healthy, viable habitat that attract and support large predators like the bald eagle. See if you can catch a glimpse of one at Eastwood MetroPark! Bring binoculars to spot the large nests, which can be seen from the parking lot east of the lake. Bald eagles also have been spotted near Englewood, Huffman, Deed’s Point, Germantown and Twin Creek MetroParks. 

Urban Wildlife

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Some people might be surprised to know how many species of wildlife inhabit the urban core. An afternoon visit to RiverScape may include spotting geese, ducks, herons and turtles in the Great Miami River — not to mention countless species of fish. Stop by at night and you may encounter a beaver or even a coyote. Coyotes have been present in the downtown river corridor for at least 10 years.

Cedar Lake at Carriage Hill

7891 E. Shull Rd., Dayton, OH 45424 Directions >

The small ponds and lakes of Five Rivers MetroParks are not only great places to fish but they’re also importants habitat for many creatures. Ponds and lakes support species that live their entire lives in the water, those that use the water during part of their life cycle and many that live along the perimeter or find their food at the water’s edge. Ponds and lakes are found in many MetroParks including Carriage Hill MetroPark. During your visit look for the great blue heron (Ardea herodias) that flies in to feast on fish and insects. Or listen for the green frog (Lithobates clamitans melanota), an amphibian that is 2 to 3 inches long and sounds like the plucking of a bass string on a banjo.

Bluff Prairie

Sandridge Prairie Conservation Area is an example of a bluff prairie. Sandridge sits on land formed by glacial deposits, and its sandy soil and sloping ground create very dry conditions that support plants not found elsewhere in Montgomery County, including the state-listed endangered plains muhlenbergia grass (Muhlenbergia cuspidata).

What plants and animals can you spot?

The diversity of vegetation in the Five Rivers MetroParks provides habitats for a wide range of animals. Thousands of native mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates call the nearly 16,000 acres of protected habitat their home, including in these parks:

Getting Started

Blend in with the natural surroundings by keeping your voice low and your eyes peeled — you’ll be amazed at the flora and fauna in the parks.

Any noise, light or quick movements can signal to animals that you are a potential predator, and they will do what they do best: evade. By minimizing your impact, you not only will have a better experience, you also will reduce human influence on nature.

Programs & Events

Saving the Monarchs

Volunteers are needed to collect and clean milkweed seeds.

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Milkweed plants support a community of diverse creatures that depend on each other for food, shelter and protection. Many insects are attracted to the nectar and pollen found in the fragrant flowers. Others make a meal of the leaves, stems, buds, sap and roots. The nectar and leaf eaters attract predatory insects and arachnids.

The best time to gather milkweed seed is in early fall, within one or two days of the pod opening.

Contact Volunteer Services to find out how you can get involved with the seed collection happening in 2016. Email volunteerservices@metroparks.org or call (937) 275-PARK.

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