You probably haven’t heard of this hidden Dayton nature preserve

We all know by now that the Five Rivers MetroParks system is pretty special. So you shouldn’t be surprised that there are some hidden gems in the bunch that you probably haven’t explored yet.

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Woodman Fen, Dayton’s only fen (we’ll get to that in a minute), is located at 2409 Newcastle Dr. While it’s not a traditional park, it is one of the MetroParks’ conservation areas, and is open to the public.

Woodman Fen has a 1,800 boardwalk that's ADA accessible. PHOTO / (Five Rivers MetroPark)s (Five Rivers MetroPark)

A fen is a type of wetland that’s similar to a bog. According to Wikipedia, fens are “minerotrophic peatlands, usually fed by mineral-rich surface water or groundwater.” 

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Woodman Fen is a 33-acre natural area that is a groundwater-fed wetland. Fens contain thick deposits of peat and support many rare and unusual plants. Restoring the fen has included planting over 100 types of native wetland plants.

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Hit the trails to discover local wildlife: “Take the short Woodman Fen loop to view spring migrants, such as gray-cheeked thrush, Connecticut and mourning warblers, and Philadelphia vireos. Deer, nesting Cooper’s hawks and great horned owls also may be in sight.” Pro tip: the 0.6 mile loop nature trail is messy, as the majority of the fen is covered by up to six feet of black muck and peat. 

Woodman Fen, located at 2409 Newcastle Dr. in Dayton, is a 33-acre natural area containing a rare groundwater-fed wetland known as a fen. PHOTO / (Five Rivers MetroParks) (Five Rivers MetroParks)

Other features of the fen include an 1,800-foot ADA accessible boardwalk that snakes around the wetland and keeps your feet dry. It’s the longest boardwalk in the MetroParks system, and includes three small observation deck. 

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The 7-mile-long Iron Horse Trail connects Centerville’s Iron Horse Park to the South with Creekside Trail to the north using a combination of trail, shared roadway and wide sidewalk. Along the way, the trail passes by the northern boarder of Woodman Fen near the Woodman Drive intersection. 

Woodman Fen is a nature preserve open to the public. PHOTO / (Five Rivers MetroParks) (Five Rivers MetroParks)

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According to the MetroParks website, “wetlands are a unique habitat within MetroParks and are known as ‘nature’s kidneys’ for their special water filtering ability... When water flows through a wetland, special plants and microbes remove suspended soil and nutrients from the water. This helps the wetland plants grow and improves the water quality. Woodman Fen Conservation Area is an excellent example of a wetland where storm water from the surrounding neighborhood is cleaned by wetlands MetroParks created before being released to a stream.”

Woodman Fen. PHOTO / Five Rivers MetroParks

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Want to go? 

WHAT: Woodman Fen

HOURS: 8 a.m.-10 p.m. April 1-Oct. 31, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Nov. 1-March 31

WHERE: Main entrance at 2409 Newcastle Dr., Dayton. Free parking available.

PET POLICY: Dogs are welcome, but, for the safety and comfort of all patrons, must be leashed and under control at all times.

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