Know Ohio: Island Life in the Buckeye State


[Ashton] Today, we are talking about island life. And yes, we are still talking about Ohio. Okay, so maybe our islands aren't quite that tropical, but Ohio does have some pretty cool islands up in Lake Erie.

Ohio's islands form an archipelago. Take a look. An archipelago simply means a group of islands. Now, not all of the islands are part of Ohio, the largest island in the group, as well as a few smaller islands actually belong to Canada. However, Ohio does get to claim the majority of them.

These islands are concentrated in the western part of Lake Erie, and that's because this side of the lake is actually much shallower than the eastern side. Way back during the ice age, a glacier carved out Lake Erie. As the glacier scraped by, it was able to cut more deeply into the softer rocks of the east than the harder rocks of the west. Some of those hard rocks resisted erosion so much that they stayed above the waterline. In other words, they formed our islands.

You can find some of the best evidence of glacial movement in the rocks at Glacial Groove State Park on Kelleys Island. Another rock you can visit on Kelleys Island is called Inscription Rock. As early as the mid-1600s, Native Americans left messages in the form of pictographs etched into this large limestone rock. You can still see some today. No one knows for sure what the messages mean, but some believe they contain information about hunting conditions or travel plans.

For those of you who prefer a little sparkle on your rocks, you can find the world's largest geode on South Bass Island. A geode is a stone with a hollow space inside lined with crystals or mineral matter. And Crystal Cave in Put-in-Bay contains crystals up to 3 feet wide.

On South Bass Island, you can also find Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial. This giant column commemorates soldiers who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813. The battle was a turning point in the War of 1812. The monument also celebrates the lasting peace between the United States, Canada, and Britain. From the top of the monument, it's possible to see views of the other islands, all the way into Canada.

Today, Ohio's Lake Erie islands are busiest during the warmer months. Tourists flock over on ferries to visit restaurants and attractions, but when the colder months come around, the ferry stops running regularly, and many businesses shut down.

But there are some hardy folks who live on the islands year-round. In fact, the smallest public school in Ohio is located on South Bass Island in Put-in-Bay. This school serves students who live on other islands too, which means that in winter months, they take an airplane to school instead of a bus.

Now that's island life in Ohio for ya.

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