Searching for Dragonflies and Damselflies

One of the key parts of this survey is going out and finding new dragonflies. As not everyone can just look out into their own backyard and find cool Odes, this means we have to look for other publicly accessible land areas.

If we look at our iNaturalist project, we can see that we have several large gaps of places people have not been able to report observations. Ideally, we would fill those gaps by locating potential habitats to visit.

This is a screenshot of the iNaturalist project as of August 2nd, 2017. There are plenty of obvious gaps in sampling, but hopefully we will soon remedy that.


Private Land:

Only go onto private property if you have landowner permission. Always ask before you go gallivanting onto new land. Individual homeowners can be approached for permission, though caution must be used when approaching those in rural areas. Most people are more than happy to have someone interested in their flying critters, but respect their decision to decline access for any reason.

Some tempting areas are owned by private companies, but are closed to public access for safety reasons. This is especially true for many of the quarry lakes and active mines across Ohio. Although a site may look tempting via Google Maps, that does not mean it is safe to access. Always ask before you try to go to these sites.

Getting to this stream or “lake” are both extremely dangerous. Many of the quarry lakes have sharp cliff faces that make it really challenging to get back out once you fall in. Others have hazards getting to the entrance or have heavy machinery running. They are not on the lookout for the stray naturalist when they are driving a route where no one should be. Other areas are active blast zones, so most quarries should be avoided unless you have talked directly with the crew manager.

Many quarries in Ohio have sheer cliff faces. Many have been remade into recreation lakes that might harbor a few Odonata species, but not all are publicly accessible. See people for scale in this photo. Taken by MaLisa Spring.


Most of these allow public access, but be sure to read signage and obey their rules indicating whether you can go off trail or are restricted to path only en-devours. Some parks we have obtained collecting permission, but contact MaLisa Spring first to verify.

Parks come in many varieties from municipal recreation parks to preservation parks that frown upon off trail use. Be mindful of location and general trail use policies as you are exploring your natural world. Some parks have given county/city wide park collection permission, so contact MaLisa Spring to see if we already have a permit for each area.

Around Columbus there are many Metro Parks and City parks. Not every county has a park system, but they are nice to visit to see some of the more common Odonata.

State Wildlife Areas:

Thanks to a collaboration with the Division of Wildlife, we have obtained a permit to collect Odonata from these areas. However, this permit comes with several stipulations which include notifying the district coordinator 24 hours in advance of entry into the site and having one of the listed permittes or sub-permitees present. Those included as official permittees or sub-permitees have already been contacted (unless they had an invalid email), so if you did not receive that email or are not on the provided list you can only sample when accompanied by someone else on the list. Contact MaLisa Spring ( for more details.

There are many state wildlife areas across the state, though they are not evenly distributed. These are different from Nature Preserves and Parks and generally permit large animal hunting. Zoom-able map can be found here:


Nature Preserves:

Some of these are open to the public whereas others are accessible on a permit-only basis. Do your research before you try going to a site. The ODNR website has a nice list of sites that allow public access versus require a permit to enter. Please let MaLisa Spring know if you are trying to gain access to Permit-Only Nature Preserves on behalf of the Ohio Dragonfly Survey.

Permit Only means you have to get permission to access the land before you show up. Please let MaLisa Spring know if you are trying to access nature preserves on behalf of the Ohio Dragonfly Survey.

There are many small state nature preserves across Ohio. This map is adapted from

Army Corps of Engineers: 

Limited collection is allowed on Army Corps of Engineers property as long as you follow ODNR requirements. As many of these sites are dams and locks, you should be mindful of water levels and areas that are off limits for safety reasons. The dams managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers are of particular interest because they have several types of aquatic habitat within close proximity. Many species of dragonflies and damselflies are picky about where they will develop with some preferring big lakes, whitewater,  riffles, or calm streams. For a better map of US Army Corps of Engineers locations, see their website. NOTE: many of the Army Corps of Engineers property borders on State Parks and State Wildlife areas. Be mindful where you are as you can quickly cross over to these properties without knowing it. We do not yet have collecting permits for State Parks.

Many bigger dams in Ohio are under the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers. Photo by MaLisa Spring

River and Stream Access:

If you want to try to get out on a river, stream, or lake, there are many boating and paddling access points across the state. It is worth checking out if you want to get out on the water. Also check out the scenic rivers program which offers events and lots of information on some of our better rivers in Ohio. See:

For the interactive map, see:
You might need to change some toe the settings under Legends and Layers to see the paddling access points instead of just boat access points.

This map shows some of the paddling and boating access points in Ohio.

Other areas to look for dragons:

Many cemeteries are public access, with a few near streams.

Garden centers with small ponds are another spot to check for Odes, especially Rambur’s Forktail.

I doubt golf courses would have much in the way of Odonata diversity as they are intensively managed for vegetation and heavily treated with pesticides. I’d be interested to see any reports of diversity from these sites.


Compiled Odonata Site Map:

Still can’t decide where to go? Below is a working map of a variety of potential locations to look for Odonata that have some form of water nearby. Most are public access, but a few require either governmental or landowner permission, so do your research before you go. This should give you a good starting point to plan a day trip to a new region.

Know of a good Ode site not on the map? Let MaLisa Spring know and she will add it.