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Goll Woods: an enchanted forest


Jamie Murphy, Northwest Preserve manager, says Goll Woods abounds in wildlife and has trees up to 200 years old.

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ARCHBOLD - It's the ``Enchanted Forest” in a cornfield countryside.

It's a haven for wildlife amid stately trees and damp bogs, ringed by farm fields.

Goll Woods Nature Preserve may be Fulton County's finest piece of wild land that almost nobody knows about.

The state of Ohio describes the 321-acre nature preserve as “the last essentially undisturbed remnant of primeval forest in northwest Ohio.”

Few cars park in its lots. Few groups visit to walk its shaded paths, listen to its bird songs, or enjoy its solitude.

Approaching from the south, County Road 26 suddenly becomes a dark tunnel of trees, the entrance to a still and shadowy place.

Goll Woods is one of the largest of about 60 sites managed by the Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserve.

State nature preserves are not parks, and some are not open to the public, said Jamie Murphy, manager of nine northwest Ohio sites. They are meant to be educational and scientific areas preserved for observing plants, animals, and geological features.

“But the public is welcome at Goll Woods, for hiking, watching birds, and enjoying nature,” she said.

On a recent warm summer morning, Miss Murphy walked through the preserve.

“We'll start here, at these hetuck, the Indian word for buckeye,” she said.

Within Goll Woods, moisture, soil type, and sunlight vary to such extent that at least three forest types are seen, according to the Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves.

An enormous bur oak tree, 112 feet tall, is a striking sight along the trail.

“It's the biggest tree here now, probably more than 200 years old,” Miss Murphy said. She pointed to its first branches, 50 feet up the trunk. “It's reaching for the sunlight,” she says.

The bladdernut tree, with its hanging seed pods, grows throughout the woods.

“You won't see them many places,” Miss Murphy says.

Also here are paw paw trees, with distinctive maroon flowers and banana-like fruits.

The thick forest, strewn with fallen trees and undergrowth, abounds with wildlife, Miss Murphy says.

The northern half of Goll Woods is a large stand of pine trees planted in plantation order. The Tiffin River meanders along the site's northwest edge.

The road along the river passes Goll Cemetery, deeded to German Township in 1965. Southward from Goll Woods, the road runs two miles to the Lockport covered bridge on the Northwest Ohio Rivers Council Memorial Trail.

Peter and Catherine Goll, who came to the United States from France in 1836, settled there. Their farm grew to 600 acres but much of the hardwood forest never was cleared.

In 1966, Florence Goll Louys, a descendent of the first settlers, sold the land to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. It became a preserve in 1969.

Goll Woods is located in southwestern Fulton County, three miles northwest of Archbold.

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