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State Spotlight: Ohio in spring

Courtesy Tourism Ohio

Lake Erie Birding
In the northwestern corner of Ohio, the Lake Erie Shores and Islands are considered one of America’s premier places to enjoy the spring songbird migration. There are more than 15 areas in the marshes, woodlands and other coastal areas that have been designated by the Audubon Society as “important bird areas.”

Bird-watching enthusiasts often visit Magee Marsh, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Kelleys Island and Old Woman Creek State Nature Preserve. These habitats make great spots to see more than 30 species of warblers, as well as thrushes, vireos, flycatchers, orioles, shorebirds and many types of waterfowl.

In early May, the area celebrates “The Biggest Week in American Birding.” This 10-day festival attracts thousands of birder-watchers from around the world; the festival offers workshops, bus tours and boat excursions, guided bird walks, expert lectures and other events. A similar event takes place in mid-September, when the Midwest Birding Symposium focuses on the fall migration.

An Unbroken Canopy
More than 10,000 acres of unbroken forest help to make central Ohio’s Hocking Hills area a popular eco-adventure destination. In spring, groups that visit the woods will find fields of wildflowers, blooming dogwood trees, rare morel mushrooms and rushing waterfalls swollen with spring rains.

Adrenaline junkies will feel right at home in the Hocking Hills. The area has more than 50 zip lines, which combine high-wire thrills with up-close views of the plants and wildlife that live in the forest canopy. Some of the zip lines are part of adventure courses that also include other aerial challenge elements. Other outdoor activity options are hiking, rock climbing, rappelling, horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking and fishing.

A new activity called the Hocking Hills Adventure Trek opened in 2012. This excursion takes participants on a guided hike through the woods accompanied by professional naturalists and Shawnee storytellers. Trekkers hike to hidden destinations rarely seen by casual tourists.

A Wilderness Escape
Just 20 miles from Cleveland, Cuyahoga Valley National Park seems a world away from the buzz of the lakefront city. This park preserves more than 33,000 acres of deep forests, rolling hills, open farmlands and other natural areas along the banks of the winding Cuyahoga River.

Cuyahoga Valley is the sixth most-visited national park in the United States, attracting millions of visitors each year. In the spring, summer and fall, those folks enjoy hiking, geocaching, picnicking, camping, golfing, kayaking and fishing. Winter brings downhill and cross-country skiing, as well as snowshoeing and sledding.

The park also has several uncommon visitors experiences. The vintage Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad cuts through the middle of the park, offering visitors scenic train rides along a line that was first established in 1880. Also within the park is the 110-mile Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath trail. This hard-packed trail follows the original path of the Ohio and Erie Canal, passing historic farms, locks and other antique structures related to the canal’s history.