Walter C. Best Wildlife Preserve is a 101-acre reservation located in Munson Township, 1.5 miles south of the City of Chardon. The Preserve’s natural habitats provide visitors the opportunity to enjoy a rich diversity of plant and animal life. It is Geauga Park District’s intent to protect this natural area in
Walter C. Best, founder of the nearby Best Sand Corporation, built a 30-acre lake in the
1960s because of his interest in waterfowl. After his death, his wife, Edna May, donated the lake and surrounding land to Geauga Park District. The Preserve was dedicated in 1988.
Click here for a beautiful slideshow of seasonal photos snapped by park friend Jim Marquardt.
Best Preserve can be accessed by two entrances along State Route 44. The street-front parking area features an entrance pergola and small picnic shelter as a popular rest stop. The south entrance leads to the Sunset Shelter with parking area, restrooms and access to trails.
The wildlife observation blind as well as benches and fishing platforms around the lake provide vantage points to relax and enjoy wildlife activity in a serene setting.
Walter C. Best North Entrance Pergola & Shelter, Sunset Shelter
Walking trails within Best Preserve include the paved Goldenrod and the Cattail Trails provide for a scenic walk or jog around the lake and fishing platforms. Waterfowl Walkway takes visitors to the Wildlife Observation Blind for enjoying waterfowl activity. Download
the trail map
Fishing is permitted along designated areas of the Best Lake shoreline. Gamefish include largemouth bass, yellow perch, and bluegill and other sunfish. Fishing platforms provide access to deep-water areas. Boating and wading are not permitted, nor is collecting live bait.
Fish may be taken only with rod and reel or cane pole; a current Ohio fishing license is required in accordance with state regulations. Collecting live bait is not permitted. Geauga Park District encourages catch-and-release practices to help maintain a balanced and healthy fish population.
Mammals such as woodchucks, chipmunks and squirrels are readily seen, while deer, raccoon, red fox, mink, and voles leave signs of their secretive presence. Muskrat and beaver are often seen in and around Best Lake.
More than 100 kinds of birds have been sighted at Best Preserve. While many are migratory visitors, the marshy meadows, thickets and wooded stream corridor harbor an outstanding variety of nesting songbirds. Nest boxes shelter bluebirds, tree swallows and wood ducks. The aerial courtship display of the male American woodcock can be observed at dusk on early spring evenings.
Many kinds of waterfowl visit Best Lake during the spring and fall migrations. Aquatic plants provide a soggy “salad bar” for ducks and geese. Fish-eating birds such as grebes, mergansers, gulls, loons,
terns and herons frequent the lake at various times of the year. A keen observer may spot an occasional osprey or bald eagle.
A patch of tall-grass prairie has been planted at Best Preserve using Ohio seed sources. Its flowers are an attractive nectar source for hummingbirds, many kinds of butterflies and other fascinating insects.
To maintain wildlife populations, sections of natural habitat must be protected from human disturbance. Areas declared off-limits to the public have been posted. Other measures taken to protect the Preserve’s natural elements and visitor safety are included with the Park District’s rules and regulations, posted on the park’s information boards.
Click the map below to see Walter C. Best Wildlife Preserve plotted by Google Maps and get directions.
From I-422: Exit I-422 at Route 44. Travel north 12 miles on
Route 44, past Mayfield Road (Route 322) to the park entrance on
the west side of street.
From I-90: Exit I-90 at Route 44. Travel south 9 miles on
Route 44 through Chardon Square to the park entrance.