5 Ecotourism Finds in Northern Ohio.
Believe it or not, Northern Ohio is a hot spot of ecological awesomeness. With so much to offer–Cedar Point, giant indoor water parks, Lake Erie and a burgeoning wine scene–its ecological side is often times overshadowed. But when your good friend and travel companion is an environmental scientist, you’re bound to have some ecological adventures and the Lake Erie Shores and Islands did not disappoint.
We only had a couple of days in the region with our Travel Scientist, Stacy Carpenter of Blue Lion Training, but we were able to find these five eco-fun finds, which are a great way to make your Northern Ohio vacation not only a diverse one but also a green one.
Glacial Grooves | Kelleys Island
It’s hard to believe that it’s already been 18,000 years since a behemoth ice sheet cut across a massive slab of solid limestone bedrock on Kelleys Island. Seriously, it feels just like yesterday that the glacier scored the limestone, especially because the bedrock looks just as good today as it did back then with the exception of the grooves, of course. The limestone dates back to the Devonian Period and still contains marine fossils from that period, which occurred 350 to 400 million years ago. The glacial grooves are located next to the Kelleys Island State Park campground and public beach on the north side of the island.
Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve | Sandusky
The marsh and surrounding wetlands are a rarity these days in the Sandusky Bay, making up one of the last remaining undeveloped stretches of the region’s shoreline. Summer residents at Sheldon Marsh include red-tailed hawks, wood ducks, great horned owls, collections of songbirds, black-crowned night-herons and great blue herons. So, as you may have guessed, the marsh is a prime birding area. One of my favorite aspects of Sheldon Marsh is the eclectic environment we encountered while walking through the preserve, which consists of woods, wetlands and a white sand beach known as Barrier Beach. Though, my favorite part was the mile-long road that runs from the entrance to the beach, because it’s the first Cedar Point road and one of the first concrete roads built in Ohio. Built in 1913, the road only lasted until 1919, when a storm destroyed it, forcing Cedar Point to relocate its entrance. If you visit the preserve in the summer, be sure to look out for the blooming of the cardinal flower in the woodland swamp. Its tall red spikes are often described as America’s most beautiful wildflower.
Stone Lab | Gibraltar Island
As long as I can remember, I’ve always had a fascination with islands, in particular their history. So when we had a chance to visit Gibraltar Island just across the way from Put-in-Bay, I was psyched. This would be our second island within 24 hours and my first ever with a castle on it. Once a territory of Connecticut, Gibraltar Island has had a long history of wealthy owners, including Jay Cooke who built the 15-room Cooke Castle. The island even played a key role as a lookout point in the War of 1812. The land is now owned by Ohio State University, who uses it as an island campus. Aside from the Cooke Castle, the island’s other notable structure is the university’s Stone Laboratory. Visitors to Put-in-Bay can take an one-hour walking tour of the island, which gives a great overview of the research happening at Stone Lab as well as the history of the island. The tour also includes visiting the island’s glacial grooves, the exterior of Cooke Castle and Perry’s Lookout. The guided tours happen every Wednesday, mid-June through mid-August, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and cost $10–the proceeds go to supporting Stone Laboratory student scholarships. A water taxi ($6 round trip) departs at Boardwalk dock on Put-in-Bay at 10:45 a.m. For more info, visit: http://stonelab.osu.edu/tripsandtours/island-tours/#gibraltar
The Aquatic Visitors Center | Put-in-Bay
Set in a former state fish hatchery, Ohio State’s Aquatic Visitors Center is the best way to get an inside look into the world of Lake Erie’s microscopic inhabitants and observe native fish in the center’s 400-800 aquaria. I really enjoyed our tour through the center. Though, I can only imagine how much even more kids would love this place. Not only is it fascinating to see all the different fish, there’s also an interactive element to the center that makes it that makes it a lot fun. Additionally, children can borrow fishing gear and bait to fish off the nearby pier. The Aquatic Visitors Center is free to visit and is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday June through Aug. 18. For more details about the center, go to: http://ohioseagrant.osu.edu/avc.
Old Woman Creek | Huron
This is one of Ohio’s last remaining examples of a natural estuary. Trails split off from the Mike DeWine Center for Coastal Wetland Studies, which is a great place to start before hiking into the estuary. The center, which was renovated in 2003, provides an interactive look into this diverse ecological habitat. Old Woman Creek acts as a transition zone between the land and water. You’ll find an ecosystem of marshes, swamps, upland forests, tributary streams, open water and barrier beach as well as a number of native plants and animals, insects and spiders, like this Golden Orb Weave Spider Stacy wrote about. The center, which is located in Huron, is free to visit. For more information, visit the Old Woman Creek website.
What are your favorite eco-adventures in Northern Ohio?
Have you read our other northern Ohio stories, yet?
*We’d like to thank Lake Erie Shores and Islands for hosting us, and Ryan Whaley of Green Door Mediaworks for showing us around the islands and Sandusky. As always our thoughts and opinions are entirely our own.
*Please remember all photos on this website, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted and property of Beers and Beans Travel Website & Bethany Salvon. Please do not use them without my permission. If you do want to use one of them please contact me first. Thanks!