Riverside Natural Area is located along the Great Miami River in Hamilton, Ohio. Among the features certain to be attractive to birders are a lagoon formed from an old river channel, a small man-made wetland that backs up against the south side of the lagoon, and approximately 130 acres of prairie. There is a modest 10 acre prairie just off the parking lot, but on the south side of Riverside Natural Area you’ll find the large, 120 acre prairie.
Despite the interesting mix of diverse habitats, Riverside Natural Area isn’t very well known among local birders. Hopefully that won’t last for long! The lack of coverage of this area is understandable, however, given the relative “youth” of the site. Until just a few years ago, most of what is now Riverside Natural Area served as a sludge disposal site for the Hamilton Wastewater Treatment facility. In the early 1990s The City of Hamilton decided to spend 3.2 million dollars on a reclamation project with the intent of making Riverside a public recreational area. Indeed, this is a very accessible site: there are mulched trails that wind through the north side of the preserve, two observation decks overlooking the lagoon, and a paved access road that leads into the large prairie. This access road is used by the Wastewater Treatment facility to reach its lime sludge lagoons, but traffic is, nonetheless, light to practically nonexistent. Additionally, there is a paved bike trail that links Riverside with its next-door neighbor, Joyce Park, and continues all the way to the Soldiers and Sailors monument in downtown Hamilton.
In the summer of 1996, Riverside Natural Area was host to Dickcissel and Grasshopper Sparrows, while the wetland area produced sightings of migrating shorebirds as well as an immature Pied-billed Grebe. Again, though, birding reports from this area were, to my knowledge, rather light, so it’s not entirely clear what species one might be able to expect at Riverside nor what species might breed there.
To reach Riverside Natural Area, take I-275 to the Route 4 exit. Follow Route 4 North, towards Hamilton, until you reach the traffic light at Symmes Road. (The old Fisher Body plant sits on the northeast corner of the intersection). Turn left onto Symmes Road and follow Symmes until you reach River Road. At River Road you’ll want to turn right. While on River Road you’ll pass Joyce Park before coming to an “interesting” 3-Way intersection where St. Clair runs into River Road. Stay on River Road. The next traffic light marks the intersection of River Road and Fairview, the road that leads to Riverside Natural Area. Turn left onto Fairview and drive about 300 yards until you reach the parking lot–you can’t miss it. You can’t miss it because one, it’s the only parking lot; two, the Wastewater Treatment facility, which is right next to the parking lot, is very hard to overlook!
If you follow the fenceline that separates the Wastewater Treatment facility from the 10 acre prairie, you’ll be able to pick up one of the mulched trails that winds through the land immediately behind the facility. From the parking lot, you can also walk either the access road or the bike trail (they run parallel to each other) south, past the front of the Wastewater Treatment facility and out into the prairie. This route also offers a good view of the Great Miami.
Riverside Natural Area is only about 5-10 minutes (depending on traffic, which is usually pretty insignificant) from Gilmore Ponds. These two areas make a nice “package”, so to speak. Add in a trip to nearby Winton Woods, and you’ve managed to fill up at least an entire morning!