Prior to European settlement in the early 1800's Ohio contained about 1000 square miles of prairies which comprised about 2.5% of the vegetation of the state. These prairies were mostly scattered around the western half of the state and varied in size from a few to several thousand acres.
This map shows the location of prairies prior to settlement based on original survey notes. The vast majority of these prairie were converted to agriculture. However, a few remnant prairies still can be seen.
Some of the best are located in frontier cemeteries, or along railroad right-of-ways. Four major concentrations of prairies occurred in Ohio prior to European settlement.
One of the largest concentration of prairies occurred in the Darby Plains west of Columbus.
Small, but excellent remnants of this prairie ecosystem can be seen today in Madison County at two frontier cemetery state nature preserves: Bigelow Cemetery Prairie and Smith Cemetery. Another site to visit is Milford Center Prairie which is located within a power line right-of-way.
These three sites preserve some of the last examples of the Darby Plains prairies.
Many prairies also occurred in the Sandusky Plains Region near Marion. Small remnants of these prairies can be seen at the Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area and at the Claridon Railroad Prairie on the east side of State Route 98.
Many prairies occurred in the Oak Openings Region near Toledo. This area consisted mostly of Oak Sand Barrens and wet sand prairies. An excellent example of a wet sand prairie is preserved at Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve.
Some of the best sand barren prairies are located within The Nature Conservancy's Kitty Todd Preserve. Additional sand barrens occur within the Oak Openings Metropark.
Prairies also occurred south of Lake Erie and Sandusky Bay. Two excellent sites remain where prairie remnants can be visited.
The largest remaining prairies in Ohio can be found at Resthaven Wildlife Area west of Castalia.
An example of a Lake Plain sand prairie can be explored at Erie Sand Barrens State Nature Preserve in Erie County.