Saving Crane Swamp 

A 193-acre expansion of Killbuck Swamp in Holmes County

Total Project Cost: $894,627
Balance to Raise: $331,247 (as of 11/13/22)


An Opportunity to Expand Killbuck Swamp with Another Outstanding Wetlands. Crane Swamp borders 1.73 miles of an unchannelized and naturally sinuous stretch of Killbuck Creek. Lying in Killbuck Creek’s floodplain, Crane Swamp is regularly inundated by water, creating both permanent and seasonal wetlands. Although concerted efforts have been made over the years to make Crane Swamp suitable for farming, the swamp refused to drain. 167.45 acres of the project consist of open water, wetland marshes, and a young riparian forest. 25.54 acres consist of an abandoned railroad corridor that runs through Crane Swamp all the way up to Spatterdock Pond, one of the four existing tracts that make up Killbuck Swamp Preserve. At 2.25 miles in length the railroad corridor provides an opportunity to connect Crane Swamp with the existing preserve by way of a level, dry, and easy-to-follow hiking and birding trail.

Rare Species found at Crane Swamp. Preserving the riparian wetlands and 1.73 miles of Killbuck Creek will provide breeding habitat for a variety of aquatic organisms, both vertebrate and invertebrate. This varied habitat contributes to the high number of uncommon, state-listed and sensitive species that have been found in the region, including: unusual species like brook lamprey and American eel; sandhill crane, state threatened; and common gallinule, sora rail, prothonotary warbler, red headed woodpecker, and river redhorse- all of these are listed state species of concern.

Rich in Amphibian Life. Ten frog and toad species have been recorded as residents of Killbuck Creek’s Wetlands. Anecdotal stories from local residents relay the deafening sound of spring peeper choruses in the spring at the acquisition site, including the clacking of wood frogs in early March and the underwater croaking of pickerel and leopard frogs. The wet meadows are full of leopard frogs, and several were observed even in early November as we toured the acquisition property. As the waters warm, early summer dusks are filled with the banjo twangs of green frogs, the purring of eastern gray treefrogs, and the bass chug-a-rums of bullfrogs. Recorded in the larger wetlands region are: Eastern American toad, Fowlers’ toad, gray treefrog, northern spring peeper, western chorus frog, bullfrog, green frog, pickerel frog, northern leopard frog, and wood frog.

A stunning 17 species of salamander species have been recorded in the Killbuck Creek’s Wetland region, including Jefferson, spotted, silvery, small-mouthed, eastern tiger, hellbenders, dusky, two-lined, long-tailed, northern spring, four-toed, common mudpuppy, red spotted newt, northern redback, northern ravine, northern slimy, and northern red. Crane Swamp’s numerous vernal pools bode well for our anticipation of documenting many of the above listed species within its boundaries once longterm studies can be conducted.

Rich in Reptile Life – Snakes & Turtles. Crane Swamp provides ideal habitat for northern water snakes, common garter snakes, queen snakes, milk snakes, and black rat snakes, snapping turtles, painted turtles, and stinkpot (musk) turtles.

Mammals. There are many large, well-recognized mammals found in the wetland habitats associated with Crane Swamp, including beaver, muskrat, river otter, mink, weasels, skunk, opossum, raccoon, coyote, and whitetail deer.

Outstanding Sightings of Waterfowl, Shorebirds & Songbirds. Some resident songbirds nest in higher elevation tracts nearby but utilize the wetlands to feed. These include cliff, bank, rough-winged, and barn swallows, all of which feed on insects on the wing. Other insect feeders that frequently visit the swamp include the cedar waxwing, great-crested flycatcher, blue-gray gnatcatcher, American redstart, downy and hairy woodpeckers, and northern flicker. Over 70 species of water birds, shorebirds, raptors, and songbirds have been recorded during the breeding season in these wetlands and woods, indicating the rich and varied diversity of habitats in close proximity to each other. In addition to water birds and waterfowl, the Killbuck Creek riparian corridor is important for neotropical migrants who stop for resting and feeding as they migrate through, or in some cases, to stay on for the summer as resident breeding birds. These include numerous species of songbirds such as cuckoos, swallows, kinglets, thrushes, warblers, vireos, flycatchers, orioles, tanagers, and the predatory hawks.

Visitor Services Planned.  If we are successful in saving Crane Swamp and the abandoned railroad corridor, our plan is to install a trailhead parking lot and hiking trail that will span 2 miles from Crane Swamp to the existing Killbuck Swamp Preserve. This trail will offer visitors access to a semi-remote, quiet area more suitable for birdwatching, wildlife photography, and observing scenery unlike any other trail found in Holmes County.

The Arc of Appalachia is working once again in tight partnership with Killbuck Watershed Land Trust (KWLT) to save Crane Swamp. Due to the success of last year’s Killbuck Swamp campaign, the Arc and KWLT have joined forces again to save Crane Swamp.The preserve will be co-owned by both the Arc and KWLT and will be protected with strong and enduring natural area covenants. The Arc has once again taken primary responsibility for raising the funds for site acquisition and visitor service development. A Clean Ohio grant has already been approved for the project, bringing in substantial awards that are already accounted for in the balance (shown above). We now seek funds from the general public to bring the project to completion.

Killbuck Watershed Land Trust manages 10,000 acres of conservation easements and two nature preserves in the multi-county region containing Killbuck Creek’s watershed. KWLT has assumed primary responsibility for the day-by-day management of the Killbuck Swamp preserve, including the Crane Swamp expansion, and is seeking funding for its long-term stewardship. Click here to support KWLT and help build their Killbuck Swamp Stewardship Fund to sustainable levels. 

Map of the Killbuck Swamp Nature Preserve with the proposed Crane Swamp expansion shown in green.

Killbuck Swamp Preserve Map with Crane Swamp in green
Crane Swamp. Photo by Janet Kohr.

Crane Swamp landscape. Photo by Janet Kohr.

Killbuck Creek as it winds through Crane Swamp. Photo by Janet Kohr.

Crane Swamp borders 1.73 miles of an especially sinuous stretch of Killbuck Creek. Photo by Janet Kohr.

An ancient snapping turtle seen at Crane Swamp. Photo by Andrea Jaeger.

An ancient snapping turtle found at Crane Swamp last May. Notice the usual bark-like texture of its carapace has been worn away due to this specimen’s advanced age.

Marsh Wren, photo from Shutterstock

The rattling calls of Marsh Wren can be heard at Crane Swamp.