The Fernald Preserve is a Department of Energy, Office of Legacy Management, site at the location of the former cold-war era Fernald Feed Materials Production Center located mostly in NW Hamilton County, Ohio. The 1050-acre nature preserve is found at 7400 Willey Road, Hamilton, OH 45013.
From Cincinnati, take I-75 N to I-74 W (toward Indianapolis) to Exit 7, SR 128 (Hamilton-Cleves Highway). Travel north on 128 through Miamitown for 7 miles to Willey Road. Turn left on Willey Road for ¼ mile to the Fernald Preserve access road.
The Fernald Preserve Visitors Center is a 10,000-square-foot green building that celebrates the rich and varied history of the Fernald site. Restrooms and drinking water are available. The Visitors Center is open Wed.-Sun. from 9-5pm. The trails are open daily 7am-dusk.
The Fernald Preserve features 140 acres of wetland habitat including three lakes, 400 acres of forests and 360 acres of grasslands including tall grass prairies. In the short amount of time this site has been open to the public (since 2008) it has hosted a fair number of rarities and the total species list is at 240. Garganey, Eurasian Wigeon, Black-necked Stilt, Wilson’s Phalarope, and Golden Eagle are all on the site species list. The Lodge Pond trail, located along the site’s access road approximately 1/8 mile from the Willey Road entrance, provides access to wetlands and prairies. In addition to a wide range of migratory waterfowl, this area provides excellent viewing opportunities for a variety of prairie species including Dickcissels, Bobolinks, Grasshopper Sparrows, and Eastern Meadowlarks and occasionally Northern Bobwhite. Shingle Oak and Sycamore trails primarily span woodland habitat and are good choices for viewing neo-tropical migrants as well as a variety of summer nesters. The Weapons-to-Wetlands trail features an overlook that provides excellent viewing for migrating waterfowl in the spring and fall as well as a variety of raptors in the winter months. The biowetland has been good for shorebirds during migration when water levels are favorable. The 3.1 mile Hickory Trail spans prairies, upland forests, open water and a riparian corridor; the northern part of this trail is located in Butler Co. Blue Grosbeaks, Dickcissels, Grasshopper Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, Bobolinks, and even the occasional Henslow’s Sparrow can be found along the first section of this trail. Migrant songbirds as well as breeders such as Gray Catbirds, White-eyed Vireos, and Yellow-breasted Chats can be found along the back loop of this trail.