A while back, I was asked to create a field trip, which would then be raffled off with the proceeds supporting Operation Feed. Stephen, who works in another agency of my department, placed the winning bid, and he and seven of his friends joined me yesterday to visit a truly unique site.
Cranberry Island State Nature Preserve, which lies just off the north shore of Buckeye Lake, in Licking County. Cranberry Island is often referred to as a "floating island", although it isn't free-floating. Back in the 1820's, canal systems were hailed as the future of transportation systems, and construction of the Ohio & Erie Canal was in full swing.
A low but vast valley occupied the region between Columbus and Zanesville, just south of Heath. Canal engineers thought that by damming and flooding "The Great Swamp", they'd create an ideal canal feeder lake, and thus blocked and diverted flow from the South Fork Licking River and inundated the "swampy" valley, which in reality was anything but a swamp.
By today's standards, the inundation of this low valley would be considered an environmental tragedy by most, as there were hundreds if not a thousand+ acres of open sphagnum bog blanketing the area. Such a boreal habitat would have been commonplace in Ohio for several thousand years after the departure of the Wisconsinan glacier, our last ice sheet, but by the 1800's boggy environs had become quite rare.
This island is indeed unique, as it's thought to be the only acidic sphagnum bog surrounded by a lake. The usual state of affairs is that bogs form around the margins of glacial lakes, and then slowly take over the lake and fill it in with vegetation. Here, the opposite is true. A chemical clash between alkaline lake waters and the acidic bog substrate means that Cranberry Island is slowly "melting"; being dissolved by the lake. As alkalinity increases along the shoreline, trees gain a foothold and grow. When trees get large enough, they tend to topple and take big chunks of the bog with them. Some experts think that the island may only last for a few more decades.
IN THIS POST.
Greater Buckeye Lake Historical Society recently took over management of Cranberry Island, and they are doing a fabulous job of handling the stewardship of this state treasure. I'd highly recommend setting up a tour through GBLHS and making a visit to the island. Access is by permit only, and besides, you need a boat to get there, so GBLHS is your gateway to the wonders of the world's only "floating" bog island.
The Society also has a fabulous museum located at 4729 Walnut Road right in the heart of the community of Buckeye Lake and only minutes from the boat ramp from which Cranberry Island tours depart. Stop in and visit when you're out at the lake.
Today was the annual Cranberry Island Open House, and the hard-working staff of the Greater Buckeye Lake Historical Society probably shuttled several hundred bog enthusiasts out to Cranberry Island. Or, if they weren't bog enthusiasts before their trip, they probably were by its conclusion. I hope this big day went well, and thanks again to the Society for taking such excellent care of Cranberry Island!