Calamus Swamp: A Columbus Audubon Preserve

Calamus Swamp, located 1.5 miles west of Circleville, Ohio, was generously donated to Columbus Audubon by Percy May family members Ada May Burke and Sally V. May, who wish to see it preserved forever. Calamus Swamp is a beautiful, diverse and rare wetland that was dedicated as a Columbus Audubon Preserve on June 3, 2000. Calamus’ 19 acres offer a unique glimpse into the glacial past that shaped Ohio’s landscape. It is home to several distinct plant communities and numerous breeding birds, and is an appealing resting spot for birds migrating through the Scioto River corridor.

Calamus Swamp Boardwalk View

A section of the boardwalk at Calamus Swamp overlooks the kettle lake.

Calamus Swamp is a 19-acre kettle hole, formed at the end of the last Ice Age when a chunk of ice separated from the glacial front and slowly melted. Most of Ohio’s kettle holes have disappeared from the landscape, due to ecological succession or drainage for development, especially agriculture and peat harvesting.

People interested in natural history have long known Calamus Swamp. In the 1930s, a student at The Ohio State University produced a master’s thesis describing the natural features of Pickaway County, and noted similarities in vegetation between Calamus Swamp and the nearby Stage’s Pond State Nature Preserve. The aquatic vegetation in Stage’s Pond has been almost completely eliminated, mostly due to excessive sedimentation and fertilizer runoff from surrounding lands. Consequently, Calamus Swamp serves as a relic of plant associations that formerly occurred in central Ohio glacial lakes. This wetland survives in a relatively pristine condition, primarily due to the exemplary conservation ethic of the previous landowner, Mrs. Ada Burke and her family. The family owned Calamus Swamp and much of the surrounding land for over 100 years, and always recognized the swamp as an unusual treasure worthy of protection. Because of their conscientious stewardship, the plants and animals of Calamus Swamp survive to this day. To insure that Calamus Swamp is protected for future generations to enjoy, Mrs. Burke donated Calamus Swamp and critical buffer areas to Columbus Audubon in 2000.

Calamus Swamp: a path winds through a meadow

A path winds through a meadow as you begin your walk through Calamus Swamp

Calamus Swamp is characterized by several distinct plant communities that support a number of unusual plants and animals.  Of special interest to birders are a number of waterfowl and marsh birds that use the area especially during migration. Prothonotary Warbler, Least Bittern, Common Moorhen, Virginia, Sora and Yellow Rails have been recorded at Calamus. The increasingly rare Tiger Salamanders is found here along with at least 8 species of frogs and toads. Over fifty species of butterflies and skippers are known from Calamus.

Columbus Audubon is proud to provide stewardship for Calamus Swamp. With a generous donation from Crane Plastics, in 2001 Columbus Audubon constructed a boardwalk partially encircling the wetland. We hope to complete the boardwalk in the near future. Other management challenges include changing hydrology and invasive plants and animals. Garlic Mustard is an ongoing issue in the surrounding woods. Forty percent of the trees are ashes, and Emerald Ash Borer is having its expected devastating effects. We try to address the invasive plant situation periodically and are removing those dead and dying Ash Trees that threaten visitors or the boardwalk. (Downed Ash Trees are not removed, but instead are cut down and left in place to provide habitat and food sources for other animals, including woodpeckers.)

Meanwhile, Calamus Swamp Preserve is there for you to enjoy. It’s located on state route 104 (east side), 1/3 mile south of its intersection with US 22 in Pickaway County, west of Circleville. It is open and available to the public at all times, and no permits are required. Please treat it with the respect due any natural area.