Welcome to the Carlisle Reservation home page. Carlisle is the largest of the Lorain County Metro Parks, encompassing 1,917 acres when included with Forest Hills Golf Course which lies at the northeastern end. Carlisle Reservation also offers a large variety of events and activities throughout the year, and is home to the administrative offices for the entire park system. From Holiday Lights to horseback riding to stargazing, Carlisle Reservation is a place you’ll want to get to know better.
The Visitor Center:
A Great Place to Start
If you’re new to Carlisle or to the Lorain County Metro Parks in general, the Visitor Center is a great place to start. You’ll find information about all the parks in the system, with personal help available at the information desk during regular business hours, 8am-4:30pm.
While one side of the Visitor Center houses the administrative offices, the other side is open to the public and has several interesting places to see. For the kids there’s the Children’s Play Space—a colorful split-level playroom with plenty of places to crawl and climb to encourage that sense of exploration. Kids and adults alike can enjoy the wildlife observation room to get a close-up look at a variety of birds which feed at an array of bird feeders just outside the windows. The observation room also hosts one of three Nature Nook gift shops in the park system. If you’re looking for a reservable meeting room, the visitor center has two: the Black River Room and the Carlisle Room that are available to rent for organization meetings and trainings, or private parties. Call (440) 458-5121 to learn more about reserving the room.
Raptors, Railroads and
Just outside the Visitor Center, the Raptor Center is open to the public and houses several raptors with descriptive placards (see the Raptor Center page for more details.) The Maple Sugar Shack is not far away, where maple sugaring demonstrations are held in February and March. The Little Green Choo – a little train children and adults can ride on- is also housed at the Carlisle Visitor Center. It travels along an asphalt trail and winds through fields and forest. The trail is open for hiking when the train is not running. Special events include the Halloween Fair and Holiday Lights, which have become traditions for many and continues to grow over the years.
The Equestrian Area - More Than Horses
The Equestrian Area, just a bit further southwest on Nickel-Plate Diagonal Road, is not just for horses, although horse lovers find it a favorite place to ride. Easily recognized by an outdoor arena with stands and judge's stand, the area is strictly BYOH (Bring Your Own Horse) with trailer parking beside the arena. Once you’re saddled up there are over 6 miles of equestrian trails to follow through all kinds of terrain, and the arena itself is open for public use.
But you don’t need a horse to take full advantage of the equestrian area. Surrounding trails attract everyone from cross-country runners to dogsledders to the casual stroller. If you’re a serious stargazer you might be interested in the Nielsen Observatory right across the road from the equestrian arena. This facility has two large telescopes and offers programs year-round presented by the Black River Astronomical Society, as well as special programs for schools, scouts, and other groups. Click here for a program listing or call the Carlisle Visitor Center for more information.
Check out www.loraincountyohc.net for upcoming events and updates on horseback riding throughout Lorain County.
The Duck Pond Picnic Area
There’s still one more place to see at Carlisle--the Duck Pond Picnic Area. Centered around two large connected ponds, this area attracts a variety of aquatic wildlife and is a favorite of fishermen (Ohio fishing license required.) The area also includes a reservable picnic shelter and small playground, and a trail-head that leads to the other parts of the reservation.
The Most Diverse Habitat in the Park System
Along with being the largest reservation in the Lorain County park system, Carlisle also has the most diverse natural habitat, including wetland, field, scrub/shrub, prairie, and forest. Much of this variety is due to its location along the transitional area between the great eastern forest, which once ran to the east coast, and the great western prairies which spread out to the Rocky Mountains.
The west branch of the Black River flows through the park and has created extensive wetlands and bottomlands along both its present and former paths, dominated by box elder, willow, walnut, sycamore and cottonwood. On higher and drier ground, Carlisle’s forests include combinations of ash, elm, sugar maple, beech, red oak, basswood, tulip and hickory.
Some notable species in the area include pumpkin ash, butternut, closed gentian and fox grape (native to Ohio and precursor to the modern grape)—all together a wide variety of flowers and trees, many of which are on the special concerns list because they are quickly disappearing in Ohio.
Build it and They Will Come
Habitat management at Carlisle (and throughout the park system) involves a kind of “build it and they will come” philosophy. As habitats are encouraged or created, wildlife begins appearing on its own. Prairies at the reservation have in fact been encouraged through planting of native Ohio prairie grasses such as big bluestem, Indian grass, orchard grass and little bluestem. These grasses typically reach 7 or 8 feet in height--considerably taller than the short grass prairies of the western plains, which usually reach only 2 and 3 feet in height.