Posted in Central Ohio, Hiking, Park review

Wahkeena Nature Preserve

Wahkeena Nature Preserve is a hidden gem located in the SE corner of Fairfield County. The preserve lies just beyond the farthest point of glacial advance at the peak of the ice age.  The word, “Wahkeena” is an Indian word meaning, “most beautiful.” Given the variety of flowering shrubs and plants (including eight varieties of native orchids), this seems a very fitting name. You will see a brown sign for Wahkeena on US 33 as you head into the Hocking Hills. Wahkeena is well worth a detour.

I loved all the ferns. Nearly 30 species of fern can be found here.

As you walk from the parking lot toward the nature preserve, you’ll pass between a marsh and a pond. A boardwalk allows visitors to walk through the marsh. Next to the pond a building houses a nature center staffed by well-informed, friendly naturalists. There are also many nature exhibits inside the nature center, including a live bee hive.  There is a Plexiglas tube that allows the bees to enter into the nature center where you can safely watch the contained bees in their hive.

We spoke to the staff at the nature center before beginning our hike, and they gave us a trail map that identified which species of flowers, ferns, shrubs and birds would likely be found at different points along the tail. These trails extend for a couple of miles through hilly terrain. There are bridges over all the streams, and you can stop for a while in a shelter along the trail.

Boardwalk through the marsh. There was some minor flooding while we were there due to beaver activity.
A pair of song sparrows stood their ground as we walked by them on the boardwalk. We must have been near their nest for them to be so bold.
This is the Nature Center; the staff members are very helpful and will help you find and identify flowering plants.
The stairs and bridge pictured here are some of the trail improvements. Small numbered signs are next to such trail features so you can find your location on the numbered map. The map also says which wildflowers you might see near the numbered sign.
A shelter in the woods where you can soak up a bit of nature.

The Wahkeena Nature Preserve comes to us courtesy Dr. Frank Warner and his wife Carmen. When they acquired the property, there were some interesting, old structures already there that remain on the preserve to this day.

The Warners renovated “Cabin B” and used it as a quaint guest house. But when this was part of an old farm, it was used as the “hog house”.
What an awesome, outdoor oven and grill. Looks like it hasn’t been used in quite a while.
This man-made pool collects water from a sandstone-filtered spring in the cliffs.

Here are some views of the trails.

Passage next to a rocky outcropping
This section of forest floor was carpeted with mayapple which was blossoming while we were there (the blossoms are under the leaves).
Going round the bend
The tree tops were way, way up
Deb’s standing next to a mature tree to provide a sense of scale.

This is a preserve, so pets are not allowed. However, Wahkeena is both an interesting and educational venue for children.

You can easily combine a visit to Wahkeena Preserve with a hike at the nearby Clear Creek Metro Park. Check the operating hours at Wahkeena Preserve prior to visiting. It tends to close early, so I’d recommend going here first.

Flowers at Wahkeena

And here are a few of the plants that we walked by (some were published earlier in April Wildflower Extravaganza).

Wild Geranium
Wood Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum)
Fruit of Wood Poppy
a bud on a Flame Azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum)
Forget-Me-Nots (Myosotis scorpioides)
Additional information
  • TrekOhio: Fairfield County Parks & Nature Preserves — This is the county where the preserve is located; check out this page for official links and information on nearby parks and preserves.
  • TrekOhio: An Overview of Hiking Trails in Fairfield County
  • Official blog of the Wahkeena Nature Preserve — Information on what’s going on at the preserve, including which flowers are currently in blossom, as well as their educational program for the season.
  • Ohio Historic Site: Wahkeena Nature Preserve — The Ohio Historical Society owns the Wahkeena Nature Preserve. Their page on Wahkeena includes some general information and operating hours; it also specifies holidays during which the park is closed. Fairfield County Historical Parks is responsible for management of the site.
  • Fairfield County Parks: Wahkeena Nature Preserve

  • Address: 2200 Pump Station Rd SE, Berne, Ohio 43155
  • Directions: From Lancaster – Exit US Rt. 33 at Sharp Rd (Traffic light at Sugar Grove). Turn right if coming from the north, turn left if coming from south, cross the bridge and bear right and continue to Pump Station Road and turn left.
  • GPS Coordinates: 39.6289625, -82.5686296
  • Google Maps: View on map or get directions

Note: Before visiting, please check the preserve’s dates and hours of operation which are listed in their FAQ.

More on Fairfield County

© Deborah Platt, Robert Platt and 2012 to 2021

15 thoughts on “Wahkeena Nature Preserve

    1. Thank you, Jane. I really enjoy animated gifs, but I’m trying to use them sparingly. But I couldn’t resist tossing the bee in. 🙂

      We just recently changed themes. It’s nice that there are so many to choose from.

  1. What a lovely description of Wahkeena. My grandma lived across the road from the Warners and Mrs Warner used to let us kids wander about. I loved the little log cabin and took my hubby there in 1969. I still have the photo we took. I remember Mrs Warner as a very gracious, friendly woman who loved nature. She and my grandma knew all the names of plants and flowers. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

    1. Carol, thank you for stopping by and sharing your warm memories of the Warners and your visits to their property. I look forward to visiting the Wahkeena Nature Preserve again, and I am grateful to the Warners for leaving this beautiful site to the public.

  2. Thanks so much for the great write up on our preserve! We’re so happy you had a good visit. Great photos too! I love that the song sparrows were so cooperative. I can fill in the gaps for you on your flower pics: the unidentified puple flower appears to be violet wood sorrel, the orange-y colored bud is from our native flame azaleas (an endangered species in Ohio), and the fuzzy buds look to be from the wild comfrey. Hope to see you again soon1

    1. Robyn, thank your for visiting! And special thanks for helping me to identify the remainder of my flower photos (See, everyone, how helpful the staff members are at Wahkeena :)).

      We will certainly visit the nature preserve again. My only regret is that we drove by it so often on the way to the Hocking Hills State Park without stopping by.

  3. Beautiful post, Deb! You mentioned that there are about 30 species of ferns here. Some of them must be edible. I am wondering because in the Philippines where I come from, the ferns that can be found in the wooded areas are edible and they are wonderful as salads or cooked with coconut milk which is a personal favorite of mine. If I can just find edible ferns here in Holland, I will definitely cook them. 😉

    1. Malou, I’ve heard of people eating North American ferns (the young shoots, called fiddleheads), but I’ve never prepared them, nor do I know anyone else who has. It’s a little out of the mainstream here. However when I searched for more information about it, I found this post at Forager’s Harvest. According to the author:

      There are three main species of edible ferns in North America: ostrich fern (Matteucia struthiopteris), lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina), and bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum).

      I’m sure you’d be able to find many of them if you were here. I’ve not had Philippine cuisine, so cooking them in coconut milk sounds very exotic to me. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Carol! I can’t believe that we’ve been driving past this place for years on our way to our favorite parks. Doing this blog has encouraged us to broaden our horizons and try new places like Wahkeena Nature Preserve.

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