Johnson Nature Preserve

While Cincinnati playgrounds are closed and we’re all told to stay home, there are some notable exceptions. Namely, venturing to outdoor parks in the name of fresh air and exercise (provided, of course, we follow social distancing guidelines). As such, I’ve been taking my kids on lots of long walks and bike rides, and a few close-to-home parks.

Johnson Nature Preserve is at the top of that list.

Johnson Nature Preserve is one of my favorite hidden gems. Tucked away at the border of Montgomery and Blue Ash, Johnson Nature Preserve is the perfect size for small kids. The .35 mile loop is a great hike for little legs, and the preserve features an abundance of plants and wildlife.

Deer scamper throughout the Johnson Nature Preserve’s very accessible 7 acres, which is also home to birds, turtles and other Ohio wildlife. Wildflowers flourish along the trail. A wooden bridge halfway through the path provides lots of entertainment for kids.

If your kids are older, hike through Johnson Nature Preserve and into the Harris M. Benedict Nature Preserve, a 65-acre site owned by UC for research on deciduous plants and animals. It’s actually a national preserve, because of the amount of rare species that have been found there.

If you were a Cincinnati resident in 1999, you’ll remember the devastating tornado that hit the city. Montgomery was one of the areas most affected, and the nature preserve stands as a testament to the tornado’s damage. Some 90 percent of the trees at the Johnson Nature Preserve were destroyed. Animal habitats were wiped out. Native plants were violently uprooted. In the 20 years since, the preserve has flourished, with new trees and foliage sprouting through. (The wind from the tornado actually dispersed seeds across the preserve, resulting in the abundance of plant life you’ll see today.) Johnson Nature Preserve serves as a timely reminder that out of devastation can come beauty.

While Ohio remains on a strict ‘Stay-at-Home’ order, Mother Nature is boldly playing by her own rules. Spring is springing in Ohio, and we’re bearing witness to the most delightful changing of seasons. Trees are blossoming, flowers are blooming, temps are climbing and birds are providing a joyful spring soundtrack. It’s a much-needed reminder that this season we’re in, of darkness and uncertainty, shall pass. 

Johnson Nature Preserve is located at 10840 Deerfield Road in Montgomery. It’s free to visit and a wonderful place to explore this spring. However, please review Gov. DeWine’s Stay at Home guidelines, and be sure to practice social distancing while you enjoy the preserve with your kids.

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