A Columbus Audubon Preserve
“I also became close with nature, and am now able to appreciate the beauty with which this world is endowed.” ― James Dean
04/29/29 Update: The boardwalk at Calamus Swamp has seen better days. Storms and extreme weather conditions have caused extensive damage very quickly. This is the sign posted at the entrance to Calamus Swamp.
Calamus Swamp Preserve
Calamus Swamp Preserve was a nice surprise. While searching for a place to visit near Circleville, we discovered this beauty. Calamus Swamp is a 19-acre private preserve owned by Columbus Audubon Society. Although it is privately owned, it is open to the public and part of the Pickaway County Parks Department.
Calamus Swamp: Uncommon Remnant of Ohio’s Glacial Past (information taken directly off their sign)
Glacial kettle lakes are remnants of the Wisconsin glacier that shaped Ohio’s landscape some 12,000 years ago. They were formed when massive blocks of ice fell away from the thawing glacier and created depressions of varying sizes and shapes in the soft, wet earth.
As the blocks melted, the kettle depressions filled with clear water, forming open lakes that dotted the Ohio landscape primarily in the west central, northeast and northwest regions of the state. Unfortunately, most have met a harsh fate.
Over time they have filled in with dead plant material and disappeared altogether, victims of the relentless process of ecological succession.
Calamus Swamp is the only naturally vegetated and undisturbed kettle lake known to survive in central Ohio today. Its lush 19 acres support distinct plant communities and a variety of animal species. Interpretive signs explaining the unique features and inhabitants of Calamus Swamp are located along the path and boardwalk.
The parking lot is gravel and well-kept. There is enough room for about 10-15 cars. The parking spots are not marked.
The lot can be hard to see if you are coming South down 104. It sits directly after a small woodland area. There is a sign, but the entrance is before the sign.
The trailhead starts at the parking lot. It takes you to the bulletin board. Behind the board is a small prairie. From the board, you can either go right or left. The trail makes a complete loop, so no matter which way you choose you will end up back at the sign. It is a short walk and only measures approx. .7 miles.
The boardwalk is a wonderful feature. However, it does get flooded when there has been lots of rain. The entrance to the boardwalk is to the right of the parking area.
Once you enter, there are sporadic signs. They give information on the plants and inhabitants that can be found at the swamp.
Straight ahead is a large duck blind. It allows you to look over the swamp without scaring the birds. There isn’t much water to be seen. The area is full of tall vegetation. On our trip, several red-winged blackbirds were flying around.
To continue on the loop head back towards the entrance and take a left. The boardwalk goes on for quite a while, then it changes. A boardwalk continues, but it is isn’t as nice. It sits lower in the water and is harder to walk. Then it gets a little nicer again before it ends. To the left is another small boardwalk, but we were unable to get to it due to flooding.
Once the boardwalk ends you are on a natural dirt path that leads to a set of stairs. The stairs lead to the Pickaway Trail. Make a left and follow the grassy trail to the next set of stairs to get back on the Calamus Swamp trail.
The trail continues to be natural in this area. The area is more open and has some creepy Sleepy Hollow looking trees and vines.
Further down the trail it was extremely muddy and almost impassable. To the left is another boardwalk. We were unable to get to it due to the flooding.
Calamus Swamp takes birding seriously. The Swamp is owned by the Columbus Audubon Society. On the bulletin board, there is a bird sighting list for the previous year. It also gives the species count for past years. They encourage birders to document their sightings on the paper provided or through eBird.
Birds we spotted at Calamus Swamp
This place was a great find. We will definitely go back. It is unique and wasn’t crowded. However, we wouldn’t suggest that you go after it rains. The place is a swamp and there is mud everywhere. Even if there hasn’t been any rain, we would recommend that you wear a nice pair of waterproof boots.
If you are looking for a place that is quiet, this is not it. Since Calamus Swamp sits on 104, you can hear the traffic.
What You Can Expect at Calamus Swamp Preserve
Please note that park rules and regulations can change at any time. The following information was in effect for Calamus Swamp Preserve as of January 2020.
There are no bathrooms.
Great place for birding.
There are no bridges.
Concealed carry is permitted.
No person who is the owner of, or person in control of dogs, horses or other pets shall permit such animals to run at large on lands referenced above.
The swamp area has very little elevation changes. The 2 staircases are the only major elevation changes.
Parking lot is limestone. There is enough parking for 10-15 cars. There are no specified ADA spaces.
No picnic tables.
One bench is located on the Pickaway Trail.
There is a lot of shade.
No shelter house.
In most areas the trail is obvious.
The boardwalk's materials vary. The trail is natural.
There are no trash cans.
There are no ADA parking spaces available. This Ohio preserve is not wheel chair accessible.
No fishing or hunting.
Special Features - The boardwalk.