The Wildwood Preserve is a 493 acre park in the Toledo area. The total trail mileage in the park is about 9.4 miles. The trails include a couple of boardwalks, and one trail passes through a covered bridge. A few trails in the park feature unusually sandy soil because this area was once the shoreline of an ancient, glacial lake. The land making up the preserve formerly belonged to the Stranahan family (two brothers in this family founded the Champion Spark Plug Company in 1908). Park officials have preserved a number of buildings from the Stranahan estate, including the Manor House and the Ward Pavilion. A one-room schoolhouse built in 1897, the Oak Grove School, has also been moved onto the preserve property. In addition to buildings, park officials continue to maintain the Ellen Biddle Shipman Gardens that were once part of the estate.
In the map, there are numbers in the blue squares which identify parking lots. However, I will refer to these numbers occasionally to help readers locate buildings.
We started our visit at the Metz Visitor Center. On the above map this is located near the number “6”. We interacted with a couple of staff people there, both of whom were very helpful in explaining the park’s features.
The Manor House
From the visitor center, we walked northwest a short distance to the Manor House. On the map it is near the number “8”. This was the 30,000-square foot home was constructed for the Stranhans during the Great Depression. Now that it is part of the preserve, it is used for a variety of functions. From April through November (excluding July), the Manor House hosts a monthly tea (reservations required). In April and October, it hosts a concert known as Music in the Grand Manor. Periodically the Bowling Green State University holds concerts there as well. The house is festively decorated for the Christmas holiday. It is also possible to reserve the house, or individual rooms in the house, for private functions.
On the grounds immediately around the Manor House there is a gazebo and the Ellen Biddle Shipman Gardens.
We were visiting in September, so it definitely wasn’t the best time to be viewing the gardens, but they were still pretty.
We walked to the rear of the Manor House where there is a trail head for the Wildwood Floodplain Trail.
Wildwood Floodplain Trail
The trail is a 1.4-mile loop which includes the 0.3-mile long Lusk/Mewborn Boardwalk. We descended the stairs pictured at the top of this article. It leads from Manor House’s backyard to the boardwalk.
In the era before air conditioning, the Stranahan family diverted a portion of the Ottawa River into a stream bed that ran closer to their house. The diverted water created a small island. In the branch of the river near their house, they built a tunnel from the shoreline to the house to create a cooling draft of air from the river. The boardwalk from the stairs apparently is near this tunnel, but I didn’t see it myself. As soon as you come to this branch of the river, there is a two-level deck.
Wildwood All Purpose Walk/Bike Trail
This multi-use trail is a 1.6-mile loop. It includes both a paved trail and an elevated boardwalk which runs through a covered bridge. Bicycles are welcome, and it is a great, handicap-accessible trail.
Wildwood Upland Woods Trail
This trail consists of a 2.3-mile loop and a 1.1 mile North loop. It is the longest walking trail in the park. The trail itself is a dirt path traversing woodland. At points it overlooks ravines, sometimes giving glimpses of fern-covered banks. There are two overlooks located on bluffs facing the ravine.
Connector between Prairie Trail and Upland Wood Trail
Since we were there in September, the grassland is past peak. However, take a look at how sandy the land is here. This is a sand ridge that was created between 12,000 and 13,000 years ago when this land served as the shoreline of Lake Warren. Lake Warren was an ancient, glacial lake that was situated pretty much where Lake Erie is now, but it was considerably larger.
While walking on one of the elevated portions of the trail, we could watch the deer below.
After hiking we drove from the Metz Visitor Center over to the East Entrance of the preserve (lower, right hand corner of the map). Once there we took a look at the Ward Pavilion and the Oak Grove School which was located nearby. The facilities had been booked for a wedding.
All in all
We had a great time checking out the trails and looking over the facilities. I’ll add that the staff at Metroparks Toledo told us that they welcome park visitors, including those outside of the park district. You could combine a visit here with a visit to other metroparks in the area if you’d like a longer hike. It is also relatively close to Maumee Bay State Park. We were staying at the lodge there while we explored the northwest area.
- TrekOhio: Lucas County Parks & Nature Preserves— This is the county where Wildwood Preserve is located; check out this page for links to the official website and for information on nearby parks and preserves.
- University of Toledo: Geophysical And GIS Investigations of the Oak Openings Sand Ridge — Discusses why certain areas in the Toledo area are so sandy.
- The story of the Stranahans, Champion Spark Plug and the preservation of a world class park – One man, one mystery at a time
Location of Main Entrance
- Address:5100 W Central Ave
Toledo, OH 43615
- GPS Coordinates: 41.676863, -83.664174
- Google Maps: View on map or get directions
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