Posted in Hiking, Northeastern Ohio, Park review

Johnson Woods State Nature Preserve

Most of Ohio was deforested for agricultural purposes during the 18th and 19th centuries. However there are a handful of virgin forests that were left alone, and one of these is found within the confines of Johnson Woods State Nature Preserve (previously known as Graber Woods). Although I usually don’t get off the freeway when I’m traveling between central and northeast Ohio, I decided it was worth making a side trip to see this primeval forest.

There are trees in Johnson Woods that are over 400 years old. The largest of these old growth trees are primarily red and white oak, as well as hickories. Some are as tall as 120 feet. However, these trees are reaching the end of their natural life cycle, so many of the big trees are falling. When I learned this I asked myself, “Hey, won’t they be replaced by the 350 year old oak and hickory trees?” Well, it turns out they won’t be. Oak and hickory saplings are not shade-tolerant enough to flourish under the canopy of these great, old trees. So Johnson Woods 2.0 will be largely sugar maples and American beech trees.

As you can see below, you tour the forest via a boardwalk.

Boardwalk going through a wet area in early spring

My daughter stands next to a fallen trees to provide some idea of the tree’s diameter.

The park authorities have posted signs identifying the different species of trees found in this forest. Below I am looking at one of the white oaks. I’d like to show you how tall this tree was, but it just refused to fit in my viewfinder, so the partial shots below will have to do.

Like many of the tree species in the preserve, this “White Oak” was identified by a sign
Looking up the same white oak
The top of the same white oak

Periodically there were little extensions on the boardwalk with park benches set out in pairs facing each other. One even had a little roof over it. Again considering the fact that you could stand up under this roof, you get a little idea of the size of the tree across from it.

A couple benches facing each other
These benches were nestled under a roof

The previous photos show a relatively dry forest floor, but there were also marshy areas and vernal pools. Vernal pools are basically giant puddles that dry up in the heat of summer. But since they don’t remain wet all year, fish can’t live in them, so amphibians can lay their eggs there without fear that the fish will eat them. As we walked by these pools, we could hear one frog after another leap into the water. I was finally able to photograph one before he fled.

Northern green frog in a vernal pool

It turns out that some green frogs are brown. Anyway he’s doing a great job camouflaging himself in the brown, mucky water that makes up his habitat.

Here’s another puddly area.

Another wet area in the preserve.

We also got to see some early-blooming, spring wildflowers.

Large-flowered Trillium (Tirllium grandiflorum)
Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica)
Cut-leaved toothwort (Cardamine concatenata)
Wood anemone (Anemone quinquefolia)

In addition to flowers and frogs, we saw a number of chipmunks and squirrels, all of which were terrified of us. I did a separate blog post on one of the terrified squirrels who insisted in believing that we didn’t see him. If interested, you can read about the Ninja Squirrel at Johnson Woods.

If you are wondering how I was able to identify the brown frog head sticking out of the muck, I learned all I know about identifying frogs while researching a previous post, Ohio’s 15 species of frogs and toads at a glance.

  • Address: 13240 Fox Lake Rd., Marshallville, Ohio 44645
  • GPS Coordinates: 40.88875, -81.744283
  • Google Maps: View on map or get directions

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© Deborah Platt, Robert Platt and 2012 to 2021

2 thoughts on “Johnson Woods State Nature Preserve

  1. I love nature photography, so it looks like I stumbled across the right blog when I found “My Heartsong.”

    Thanks for visiting here. 🙂 This nature preserve was a bit out of the way for me, but I really liked it. I’ll have to make may way back some time after the summer foliage has emerged.

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