On the boardwalk at Springville

The sounds of spring birdsong contradicted the cool temperature on a visit last week to Springville Marsh State Nature Preserve. And the afternoon sun peeked in and out of the cloud cover overhead.

There were sprigs of green in a few of the marsh plants, but also areas of snow and ice where you can see the marsh changing from winter to spring.

Springville Marsh, the largest inland wetland in northwest Ohio with 161 acres, is a good starting point for a review of the parks and nature areas available to the public in Seneca County. It’s a great place for an early spring walk, or late fall and winter are good times too before mosquitos arrive or after they’re gone for the year.

When I lived closer to the marsh and my children were small, I could put the baby in the stroller and go for a walk on a the boardwalk. Oh, the memories.

It was good to find the wooden boardwalk in good repair. There are no loose boards or other dangers, and repairs have been made in some spots recently. But if you take young children, be aware the boardwalk is only 3 or 4 feet wide and there is water on both sides.

Also, people in wheelchairs or pushing strollers should be aware there are no raised edges on the boardwalk.

There are resting benches at a few spots for walkers who need a break or two on the way around.

The harshness of the weather – probably the high winds of last fall and winter – is evident because several large trees are down. They simply fell over when their roots in the marshy ground couldn’t stand up to the strong winds.

Along the boardwalk are information markers that provide details of the plants and wildlife to be found in the marsh. I’m not a biologist, but the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website describes the marsh as a “cattail marsh with remnant sedge meadows, waterfowl and rare fen plants.”

The markers also explain the history of the marsh.

“Three factors have had a marked effect on this resource,” according to the website. “First, abundant groundwater, which has surfaced as many cool, calcium-rich springs, continues to nourish the special plant life found here.

“Also, many Ice Age plant species and others that are newcomers, provide this preserve with a remarkable and diverse inventory of flowering plants.

“Third, the uniqueness of the marsh has survived despite past agricultural and industrial disruption.”

Some of the plants are threatened and endangered species that can be seen from the boardwalk include fen orchids, bottle gentian, Kalm’s lobelia and little yellow sedge.

The marsh also contains one of Ohio’s largest populations of twig-rush, a typical Atlantic coastal plain species.

There also are smaller areas of more northern plants, such as Ohio goldenrod, grass-of-Parnassus and shrubby cinquefoil.

The website also states the sedge meadows, shrubby thickets and vast areas of cattail marsh provide excellent opportunities to observe wildlife.

The most likely place to observe wildlife is from an observation blind at the far end of the boardwalk. It provides a “secret” look at the abundant ducks and geese on the part of the marsh with open water.

Also at the far end, visitors will find an observation deck to look across the biggest area of the marsh. The deck and its steps have seen better days, but are sturdy enough to walk on.

The marsh also is known as a bird-watching destination and is home to a bird-banding study by Tom Bartlett.

During the spring and fall migrations, birders likely are to see birds such as warblers, along with area residents such as flycatchers, marsh wrens, swamp sparrows, sora and Virginia rails, according to the Ohio Ornithological Society’s website, www.ohiobirds.org.

Vicki Johnson covers outdoors and agriculture news. Email her at vjohnson@advertiser-tribune.com.