Posted in Hiking, Northwestern Ohio, Park review

Wildwood Preserve in Metroparks Toledo

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.

From the rear of the Manor House stairs descend to the Lusk/Mewborn Boardwalk which is part of the Wildwood Floodplain Trail

Getting Oriented

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.

This is an excerpt from the park map available at site’s official website.

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 Metz Visitor Center at the Wildwood Preserve
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.

The Manor House at Wildwood Preserve

On the grounds immediately around the Manor House there is a gazebo and the Ellen Biddle Shipman Gardens.

Gazebo near the Manor House

We were visiting in September, so it definitely wasn’t the best time to be viewing the gardens, but they were still pretty.

Statue in the Ellen Biddle Shipman Gardens
Frog fountain in the Ellen Biddle Shipman Gardens
Outdoor patio

We walked to the rear of the Manor House where there is a trail head for the Wildwood Floodplain Trail.

Rear of the Manor House
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.

From the stairs we followed a boardwalk to the Lusk/Mewborn 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.

Lower level of the deck near the branch of the Ottawa River.
View from the lower deck
Walking through the floodplain
A view of the river farther on
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.

A paved portion of the Wildwood All Purpose Walk/Bike Trail.
Covered bridge allows park visitors to cross the Ottawa River on the Wildwood All Purpose Walk/Bike Trail
Cyclists are welcome!
Bridge interior
Elevated portion of the Wildwood All Purpose Walk/Bike 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.

Bench adjacent to the Wildwood Upland Woods Trail
Ferns on the opposite side of the ravine
One of the ravine overlooks
A small portion of the Wildwood Upland Woods Trail features a boardwalk
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.

View from connector trail between Wildwood Prairie Trail and the Upland Wood Trail
Look at how sandy the path is as we approach the woods.

While walking on one of the elevated portions of the trail, we could watch the deer below.

Deer posing for its portrait
Ward Pavilion

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.

The Ward Pavilion
Oak Grove School, a one-room school house built in 1897 and moved onto the preserve
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.

Additional information

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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© Deborah Platt, Robert Platt and 2012 to 2021

One thought on “Wildwood Preserve in Metroparks Toledo

  1. Hello.

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    If You do not mind, I give here links to two posts:

    Unknown Helsinki 1

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