Wahkeena Nature Preserve is a scenic 150-acre preserve located in the northern Hocking Hills not far off US-33 near the village of Sugar Grove. We visited on an unusually warm, beautiful Saturday in November and although most of the wildflowers and other vegetation had gone to sleep for the winter, a few species of ferns and some azalea and rhododendron still provided hints of green.
The first thing you’ll likely notice when you pull into the preserve’s small parking area is Lake Odonata and an old log-style nature center sitting attractively behind the lake. The nature center offers informative displays on plant and animal life, geology and local history. Adults and kids will find the nature center fun to visit. A small gift shop is located there as well.
Before exiting the nature center, we picked up a self-guided map and began our interpretive hike on the 1.5-mile trail system. The map points out and describes mainly seasonal plants and trees passed along the way, but a few non-plant related points of interest are featured as well. We took the time to stop at each point to read the descriptions provided. It was a very educational hike and we did leave Wahkeena having learned a thing or two.
The last leg of our hike took us lakeside along the north shore of Lake Odonata. A large beaver dam sits in the middle of the lake. Although beaver sightings were reported earlier in the day before our arrival, we had no such luck. Before returning to the nature center, the trail passes a bird blind and then two large bird enclosures. One enclosure houses an injured red shouldered hawk and the other an injured barred owl. Both birds were hit by cars and received permanent injuries that prevent them from being able to survive in the wild.
Wahkeena is not a day long destination by itself but its proximity to other attractions in this part of the Hocking Hills would allow you to easily make a day of hiking and exploring this and other nearby parks and preserves. Included in this list would be Clear Creek Metro Park, Christmas Rocks Nature Preserve and Rhododendron Cove Nature Preserve.
Unlike most other area parks and preserves, Wahkeena has restricted open hours for visitation. The preserve is only open from late March to early November and then only open Wednesday – Sunday 8:00am to 4:30pm. Many educational programs are offered throughout the open months.