The Oak Openings is a 1300 square mile region located in Lucas, Henry and Fulton Counties of Ohio, and Monroe, Wayne and Washtenaw Counties in Michigan.
The region sustains a mosaic of black oak savanna, oak woodland and wet prairie communities that persist on a series of post glacial beach ridges and swales. This area has long been recognized by naturalists as one of Ohio’s preeminent natural regions because of its rich diversity of vegetation. The region harbors more rare species than any other of a similar size in the state and sustains two globally rare communities, oak savanna and wet prairie.
Historically the Oak Openings Region may have covered over 1300 square miles, extending as far as neighboring Wood county in Ohio and Monroe and Wayne counties of Michigan. Although remnants of habitat do still exist in these outlying areas, conservationists focus primarily on the “Moseley” region. This is a portion of the original area identified by Edwin L. Moseley in his classic 1928 publication, “Flora of the Oak Openings”. At that time, and still today, this area represented the best preserved remnant of Oak Openings habitat in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan.
Previous to European settlement the Oak Openings was a pocket of prairie and oak savanna surrounded by the forests of the Great Black Swamp. Early settlers, many whom had just traveled through the dense forests of this swamp, called the area “Oak Openings” for its most obvious characteristics. Black and white oaks were the dominant trees and the landscape was very open and free of underbrush. Naturalist Lou Campbell describes what many settlers must have seen: “A short distance to the west (of Toledo) were hills of sand upon which only oak trees grew, and so sparse were the trees (that) a wagon could be driven in any direction through the patches of forest without the need of hewing a path.”
It’s impossible to separate the importance of the geological history, the ecological process and the influence of humans on shaping the landscapes in the Oak Openings Region. Each has had a lasting and continuing effect on one of the rarest and most significant natural areas in the Midwest.
Geology–Discover the driving forces behind the formation of this unique landscape.
Ecology–Explore the processes and plant and animal communities that make the Oak Openings unique.
People–Humans have always had an impact on the environment, learn how we helped shape this one.
Watch a video produced by WGTE (Toledo) on the Oak Openings of Northwestern Ohio. The video is broken down for easier navigation. Drag your the pointer over a chapter to view it.
- Ice Age
- War of 1812
- Saved from Destruction
- Scientific Study
- Land Purchases
- Toledo Goes West
- Plant Communities
- Oak Openings Region Green Ribbon Imitative- The Beginning
- Going Forward