In the central Ohio Valley, the most important remaining wetland is a 2500-acre spread of level river bottom farmland on the shore of the Ohio River, known as the Oxbow. The Oxbow is a broad floodplain where the Great Miami River empties into the Ohio. This area where three states - Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky - come together, is near Lawrenceburg, Indiana, seventeen miles downstream from Cincinnati. It is named for a small prehistoric horseshoe, or oxbow-shaped lake, formed when flood waters cut a new course for the Great Miami River, isolating a meander in the old stream bed. There is not a building on it. Almost every year it is flooded with shallow waters that deposit nutrients from upstream. This annual enrichment, plus a water table close the surface, makes the Oxbow area a highly productive land for farming.
This traditional agricultural use is vitally important to migrating birds. In the spring and fall thousands of ducks, geese, and shorebirds funnel into this rich feeding and nesting area. Grain dropped by corn pickers and combines provides much of the food for visiting waterfowl. The Oxbow is a heavily-used staging area where migrating birds refuel and rebuild their energies. The area is essential to their success on long flights between distant northern breeding grounds and southern wintering areas. Without the Oxbow these migrants might reach their northern nesting areas without the reserve strength essential to raising new broods of healthy young birds.
This is why the Oxbow is the most important wetland area in the mid-section of the Ohio Valley, drawing the tri-state area's largest concentrations of ducks and herons. Birders have listed 280 species of birds on this area, among them ducks, geese, shorebirds, raptors, and songbirds. Sixty-six species of fish live here.
A 2010 survey by board member and botanist, Dr. Denis Conover, listed 472 vascular plants in the Oxbow protected area. Board member Dr. Steve Pelikan has been interested in the flies of the Oxbow area and has a web site with photos of some of these lesser known insects.
In the summer of 1985, political and business leaders announced plans to create a major new port authority and build a 700-acre commercial barge shipping center on this floodplain. To some, the idea seemed to make economic sense. But others knew that the Oxbow area was already serving well in its natural state. Sportsmen had long used the area for hunting and fishing. Conservationists explained that the Oxbow was a key area of vital importance to native wildlife. They enlisted the help of the local Audubon Society, Sierra Club, and other conservationists. They began writing letters and calling their state representatives. Once legislators understood the complex nature of the Oxbow and its value for wildlife, they dropped plans for legislation that would have created the port authority.
Conservationists had now been alerted to the fact that the Oxbow area might no longer be safe from development unless they made serious concerted effort to protect it. Their determination led to the birth of Oxbow, Inc., which rapidly became one of the more active and successful conservation groups in the Ohio Valley.
Within two years, Oxbow, Inc. grew to 700 members and raised more than $50,000 in generous private sector gifts ranging from a few dollars to thousands of dollars each. It had also made its first land purchase, a strategically located 27.5 acre block of farm land in the heart of the Oxbow area. As funds permitted more land and conservation easements were purchased. Oxbow now owns over 850 acres of wetland with another 260 acres under easement to prevent development.
Function: Preserve, protect, and improve the flood plain wetland at the mouth of the Great Miami River -- This is an active process that requires land acquisition, land management, and dedication to constant diligence in this stewardship
Highest priority to the preservation of the migratory stop over and resting area -- The Oxbow is a flood plain wetland with several permanent lakes, ponds and marsh areas. The main purpose for the existence of Oxbow, Inc. is to preserve the area as a wetland functioning as a major migratory stopover for a large variety of migratory birds, particularly waterfowl and shorebirds, and as a resting/roosting area for a wide variety of waterfowl and wading birds during the summer and fall months. In winter, the area serves as a hunting ground for raptors and a resting area for wintering waterfowl.
Active land management is required to preserve the Oxbow Area -- In order to preserve the function of the Oxbow the land must be actively managed. Land management tools such as agriculture, limited burns, control of noxious plants and destructive wildlife may be necessary to preserve the function of the Oxbow area.
Multiple uses can coexist within the nature conservancy -- Fishing, hunting, birding, and other activities associated with the enjoyment of nature can coexist in the Oxbow area. Not all uses can be accommodated in every area but through creative management the Oxbow can support a variety of uses while maintaining its main function as a wetland preservation and wildlife conservation area.
Accessibility to all encourages ownership and participation -- Members, sponsors, visitors and others dedicated to protection of the environment need to feel close to the Oxbow and to be able to view and participate in the experience provided by interactions with the Oxbow area. Persons with limited mobility should also have the opportunity enjoy the Oxbow experience.
The Oxbow is a source of knowledge -- The Oxbow is a classroom for teaching all generations about ecology and the close interaction between wildlife and their habitats. Educational activities for children and adults will bring knowledge to new generations that they may also be encouraged to preserve the natural world. It serves as a model of how a group of dedicated individuals can have a significant impact on the environment by working together with farmers, land owners, businesses, local and state governments, regulatory agencies, and other environmental organizations (both profit and non-profit) to achieve a success.
More information can be found by visiting http://www.oxbowinc.org/index.html