Daughmer Prairie Savannah is a 34 acre state nature preserve in Crawford County. It features a gravel parking lot, a kiosk, and 0.5 mile mown loop trail. And it is a very unusual place.
When early settlers first arrived in Ohio, most of the state was dense forest. However, when settlers reached the Sandusky Plains, they encountered a vast expanse of grassland with trees scattered here and there. When the trees in a grassland are so widely spaced that the canopy never closes, the area is called a savannah. Typically savannahs remain grassland because they undergo long periods without precipitation between periods of seasonal rain. However in Ohio there is enough rain to transform any grassland into a forest. This didn’t occur in the Sandusky Plains because both Native Americans and the occasional lightning strike set off prairie grass fires. Because bur oak has a thick bark that protects it from such fires, the stands of trees scattered throughout the Sandusky Plains were dominated by bur oak.
As to why the Native American’s were setting fire to prairie grass, as discussed in Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park: Bison, the Native Americans over many years were able to extend the bison’s range gradually eastward by creating and maintaining grasslands through such fires. Today park officials have to set controlled burns on a periodic basis to preserve the prairie.
At 200,000 acres the Sandusky Plains was the biggest savannah in Ohio . This vast grassland has since been reduced to a mere 75 acres, half of which is in the Daughmer Prairie Savannah State Nature Preserve. The fact that this area remains prairie to this day is thanks to the stewardship of Hazel (White) Daughmer’s family. Through five generations this familty maintained the prairie habitat by controlled burns and light grazing.
We arrived at the parking lot, viewed the kiosk and set off on the half mile loop trail. The grassland was dotted with huge trees, including many Bur Oaks over 200 years old. We moved slowly stopping frequently to take photographs.
The preserve is managed by the Crawford County Park District. It is located a few miles from Sears Woods, which we visited in the same trip.
Below are additional photos showing what this small preserve looked like during a cloudy day in July.
And here is some of the vegetation that we saw during our trip.
- TrekOhio: Crawford County Parks & Preserves — This is the county where Daughmer Prairie Savannah State Nature Preserve is located; check out this page for links to the official site and for information on nearby parks and preserves.
- TrekOhio: Sears Woods — Just a few miles away from Daughmer Prairie Savannah State Nature Preserve.
- TrekOhio: Oak Openings Metro Park — Another remnant savannah in NW Ohio
- Crawford County Park District: Daughmer Prairie Savannah page
- Address: 786 Marion-Melmore Rd Bucyrus, Ohio 44820
- GPS Coordinates: 40.728139,-83.0977737
- Google Maps: View on map or get directions