Ohio’s Sand Dunes at Oak Openings Preserve and Metroparks Toledo
Travelers to the Outer Banks or Great Sand Dunes National Park temper your expectations. Ohio’s sand dunes are not that. But it is unique because these dunes, much lesser as they may be, are tucked into prairie woodland trees and brush tangled with the leftovers of an ancient shoreline.
When pioneers traveled Northwest Ohio, they suffered many setbacks in the Black Swamp area. When they reached drier land, it seemed like an endless woodland of oak trees. But the oaks were spaced so wide apart that they earned the name Oak Openings. Horses and wagons navigated them with relative ease, at least until those wagon wheels sunk in the sand.
The Sand Dunes Trail may seem like a mirage at first. It’s at a slightly higher elevation, so when splotches of the light brown hue come in and out of view through the woods, one may wonder just how much, or little sand awaits. It’s not a grand view to take an all-in-one panoramic scan of the eyes. It’s a winding adventure revealing surprises around every foliage-filled corner, revealing a new vista dotted with ferns, flowers, and trees. Look before stepping, and it’s likely plenty of animal tracks will be stamped onto the surface, especially after a rain. Plenty of benches are perched along a ridge for more of a bird’s eye view of nature’s collage. The trailhead is picked up at the Mallard Lake pavilion and playground parking area next to the Buehner Center. It’s marked as the Red Trail.
Today, Oak Openings Preserve at Metroparks Toledo spans 5,000 acres and has 70 miles of hiking, biking, and bridle trails. The park’s ecosystem combines wetlands with oak savanna and dunes. The combination makes it a popular respite for migrating birds.
By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun