Posted in Central Ohio, Park review

Dawes Arboretum

Dawes Arboretum located in Central Ohio consists of 1,800 acres of formal gardens, fields, ponds, and forests, including eight miles of hiking trails. Among its facilities are a visitors center, rest rooms, picnic areas and shelters. The meticulously maintained formal gardens are a popular venue for weddings.

The arboretum was established by Columbus residents Beman and Bertie Dawes. They purchased an old farm in Licking County, renamed it Daweswood and planted trees and established gardens. In 1929, they established the arboretum as a private foundation “to encourage the planting of forest and ornamental trees … to give pleasure to the public and education to the youth”.

You can explore the arboretum by car or on foot via the many walking trails. Many paths are paved and are handicap accessible. The arboretum is an excellent place for a hike or picnic with your children. Dogs are permitted, but must be kept on a leash.

Bridges in Japanese garden

Japanese Garden

Located just south west of the Visitor’s Center is one of my favorite sites within Dawes Arboretum, the Japanese Garden. It hasn’t been open to visitors for much of this year because it is being renovated. I believe that it is scheduled for re-opening in June 2015.

According to The Dawes Blog, when this garden was opened in 1965, the Japanese Ambassador, Ryuji Takeuchi, said it was, “…one of the most beautiful examples of this facet of the Japanese culture that I have seen in the United States.”

Stepping stones in the Japanese garden

While crossing the stepping stones, you may see koi swimming nearby.

Koi in the Japanese garden

There are several little islands in the lake. Part of the renovation work involves stabilizing these.

Lake in the Japanese garden

Just off the lake in the forest there is a lovely little structure that’s referred to as the “meditation house.”

Meditation house

Just over the crest of the hill on the other side of the lake is a Japanese rock garden, also referred to as a “Zen garden.” The sand is arranged in such a way as to make you think of a stream.

Zen garden — The sand has been arranged to look like a stream.
Cypress Swamp

Deb wrote about the Cypress Swamp previously. It is like a little piece of bayou right in the heart of Ohio. It is located just southeast of the Visitor’s Center. From the boardwalk that passes through this small swamp you can see a variety of wetland animals, such as frogs and water snakes.

Cypress swamp
Cypress knees are the bumpy looking things coming out of the water from the cypress tree roots.
Common Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon sipedon) — It is harmless to people.
Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica)
Northern green frog (Rana clamitans melanota) — You can tell the gender of this species by looking at the big circle that makes up the ear. When its larger than the eye, the frog is a male.
Near Dawes Lake

Along the far, southern boundary of the arboretum the words, “DAWES ARBORETUM”, have been shaped with hedges. The view of the words below was photographed from the observation tower in the far, southeastern corner. Just above the words (to the north) is Dawes Lake.

“Dawes Arboretum” has been spelled out in hedges near Dawes Lake.
Stairs leading up to the observation deck.
Dawes Lake
Bridge leading to the island in Dawes Lake

During the summer colorful dragonflies dart around the lake.

Calico pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa)

According to the Dawes Arboretum FAQ, members of the Dawes Arboretum are allowed to do catch-and-release fishing in Dawes Lake; however, when we were there last summer there was a sign saying that fishing had been suspended in order for some research to be conducted at the lake. I’m not sure what the current policy is.

Near the Forest

Below you can see part of the one-lane, one-way road that winds its way throughout Dawes Arboretum. You can see most of the park’s highlights by touring it via car. There are many spots along the way where you can park, look around, then get back in the car and carry on your tour.

Road leading into the woods

On the other hand if you are up for a walk, it’s very pleasant to hike through the shady woods on a hot, sunny day.

Trail through woods

To the east of this trail there is a side trail leading to a pioneer cemetery, known as the Beard-Green cemetery. There are a number of veterans of the Revolutionary War who are buried here.

Some memorial stones in the Beard-Green cemetery

To the west of this woodland trail is a side trail leading to a log cabin.

Log cabin
Formal Gardens

Besides beautiful flowers, the formal gardens include arbors, fountains, and bird feeders.

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
Bee on Rhododendron blossoms
The Trees

What would an arboretum be without trees? Signs posted nearby many of the trees identify which species they are. There are both native, Ohio trees, plus exotic trees from all over the world. In the spring the blossoms are just beautiful.

Cherry blossoms, I think…
Red maple in blossom
Tree in bud
This holly tree was one of many specimen’s in the area known as “Holly Hill.”

The arboretum features numerous public events during the year including a winter luminary display, maple syrup making, and many educational events for both adults and children.

Maple syrup

Dawes Arboretum schedules a number of educational events. Among them is an annual maple syrup festival. In 2015 this will be held the first couple weeks of March (at the beginning of each year we list maple syrup events taking place across the state).

Tapping trees to make maple syrup
Demonstration of pioneer kettle that might be used to boil tree sap down to create maple syrup.
Additional information

  • Address: 7770 Jacksontown Rd., Newark, Ohio 43056
  • GPS Coordinates: 39.9801353,-82.4152905
  • Google Maps: View on map or get directions

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© Deborah Platt, Robert Platt and 2012 to 2021

2 thoughts on “Dawes Arboretum

  1. If you’ve never walked the trails on the east side of Route 13, be sure to do so someday. That part of the Arboretum is much wilder, and there are never many people there (I’ve been there a number of times and have rarely seen anybody else). In order to hike there, you need official “permission,” so check in at the Visitors’ Center both before and after your hike.

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