ABOUT KELLEYS ISLAND
With a land mass of twenty-eight hundred acres (four square miles) and almost eighteen miles of shoreline, Kelleys Island is the largest American island situated in the western basin of Lake Erie. Located three and one half miles north of Marblehead, Ohio, its latitude is forty-one degrees thirty-five minutes north and eighty-two degrees forty-two minutes west.
Kelleys Island is a remnant of an old Devonian limestone ridge carved out 12,000 years ago during the Pleistocene era. The limestone bedrock of Kelleys Island generates a thin, alkaline soil much different from the low-lime glacial till that covers much of Northern Ohio. And a different world it is. The island soil supports its own kinds of plant and insect life. Because it provides many diverse habitats it is also host to a variety of visiting birds during spring and fall migration.
The island offers many windows to Ohio’s distant pass. The north and the south ponds are two significant inland bodies of water on the island. Both are beach strand impoundments that are located within the reaches of the north and south bays. The rich biotic diversity of these two marshy ponds was very attractive to the island’s native occupants. Ancient mounds or earthworks, a petroglyph (Inscription Rock), a large enclosed woodland village, and other habitation sites are associated with the north and south ponds.
The ice age left a footprint on Kelleys Island. Hard granite boulders frozen into the ice at the bottom of the mile-thick glacier left grooves (Glacial Grooves State Memorial) as they scraped against the softer limestone. At fifteen feet deep and thirty-five feet wide, Kelleys Island’s glacial grooves are believed to be the largest glacial striation in the world. The grooves are densely studded with fossils of ancient marine invertebrates that abounded on the muddy floor of the warm and shallow Devonian Sea 350,000,000 years ago.
Also exposed by the action of glaciers, Kelleys Island’s north shoreline harbors a rare type of plant and animal community known as an alvar (North Shore Alvar State Nature Preserve). The alvar occupies a horizontal bench of limestone bedrock kept free of vegetation by ongoing environmental factors. Sheltered in the moist, mossy crevices is the northern bog violet (Viola nephrophylla) only found here in Ohio and farther out on the ledge another rarity, the Showy Orange Lichen can be seen.
When you hike the trail at the North Pond Nature Preserve you traverse the ancient shoreline running in an east-west band across the northern third of the island. This takes you through Sweet Valley, a prelacies channel filled with fertile soils. This thirty-six acre preserve is the best example of a natural Lake Erie Island pond in Ohio. North Pond represents an excellent undisturbed area with exceptionally fine aquatic plant communities. North Pond is home to a state endangered plant species, Pond Arrowhead, commonly known as Wapato.
Kelleys Island has it’s very own State Park providing ample camping facilities along the north shore as well as several miles of hiking trails that lead you through the remnants of an old quarrying era. Along with the State owned lands are five parcels, ninety-one acres of preserves, owned and managed by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Most noteworthy of which is Scheele Preserve where you can view Rock Elm (Ulmus thomasii) and possibly discover an Eastern Screech Owl roosting in an Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana).