Fun on the Side, Kelleys Island, Ohio

Kelleys Island, a charming island in the western basin of Lake Erie in northern Ohio, has a wonderful beach. Kelleys Island also offers many other adventures.

A fun way to get to Kelleys Island is to use the ferry service that docks at the Marblehead, Ohio, peninsula. The dock itself is located at 510 West Main Street in Marblehead, just off Route 163 East (East Perry Street). The ride lasts about 20 minutes. This family-run ferry operates hourly year around (closed Christmas), even late at night. This service is for both passengers and vehicles.

The Kayla Marie provided an interesting ride to Kelleys Island. When the wind stirs up those Western Basin waves, standing on the deck feels like the Tilt-a-Whirl at an amusement park. It can take a few trips to grow "sea legs." There were no benches on this ferry.

The Kelleys Island Ferry Boat Line in Marblehead can accommodate all types of vehicles, big or small, and there is ample parking for those passengers wishing to leave their vehicles behind. Before heading to the dock, passengers can sit on tables under a shelter (center) and buy soda pop from the vending machines, or they can sit in a carpeted waiting room with both vending machines and separate facilities (far right). Fares are one-way and there is a charge for parking.

This is the deck of the Kayla Marie, after all passengers and vehicles had disembarked at Kelleys Island. This image was taken June 13, 2013, around 4 pm with temperatures of about 70 degrees F (21 C). The ferry docked at the landing on Kelleys Island's East Lakeshore Drive, near the Seaway Marina (which has a diner, convenience store, gas pumps, and laundry facilities). The island itself is four miles east to west and two miles north to south.

This trail is located near the Seaway Marina. One end is located at the North Bay Beach on Kelleys Island, and begins as a sandy footpath but quickly becomes a boardwalk that wends its way through the 30-acre North Pond State Nature Preserve. Bird and plant observation opportunities abound; plus, it's just a lot of fun to take a stroll on the planks, which are made from recycled plastic.

This image was taken around 3 pm on June 15, and shows the pathway through one of the Western Basin's few remaining wetlands. According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the North Pond was created as Lake Erie retreated from its Ice Age shoreline. The boardwalk is about a mile long; continuing along the path will lead to the North Pond itself and an elevated observation deck.

The North Pond Boardwalk has many stands of daisies, which appeared to be in full bloom in mid June 2013, with temperatures around 75 degrees F (24 degrees C). Other plants that may be seen on this pathway include bulrushes, the swamp rose mallow, pond lilies, and wapato. As industrialized as Ohio is, a walk through here is a welcome respite from the work-a-day world.

Countless volunteers created this boardwalk. According to a sign posted along the way, the planks are an experiment on the "performance and durability of plastic lumber." This boardwalk opened up in October 1999, and is part of Kelleys Island State Park. According to Ohio Department of Natural Resources officials, the path enables people to closely view endangered plant and animal species without adversely impacting them.

The coolest, grooviest place in Lake Erie is the Glacial Grooves State Memorial on the northern side of Kelleys Island. This ice-age icon shows how glaciers moved south and west from Labrador, Canada, into Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin over a period of 5,000 years, stopping at what is now Chicago. This Wisconsin Glacial Advance scoured out the Great Lakes some 25,000 years ago.

The Glacial Grooves attraction is open year around during daylight hours. By going up these steps, visitors can turn left and begin walking the 400 foot (122 meters) length of the striations. The Ohio Historical Society began administration of this 3 1/2 acre site in 1932; fencing was erected to protect the limestone in which the grooves were made.

To get an awesome view of the Glacial Grooves, just go up the stairs . . .

These glacial grooves are about 35 feet (10 1/2 meters) wide and reach a depth of ten feet (three meters).

This view of the striations looks back toward the wooden steps at the entry way. Visible in the upper right are installed plaques that feature more information about this site. Also at the upper right, but just out of view, is a shady spot where visitors can sit down, relax, and perhaps search the Web for even more information about the Glacial Grooves. Be careful as mobile phones may toggle between U.S. and Canadian providers, possibly increasing charges.

Several examples of prehistoric marine life are trapped in the limestone bedrock of the Kelleys Island Glacial Grooves Memorial. The most prominent example in the center of this image (which was taken at the entrance of the exhibit) is that of a horned coral. These carnivorous corals had calcite skeletons and dwelled on the sea floor some 350-400 million years ago. Also seen in this area (but not visible in this image) are brachiopods, which look like modern-day clams.

It was time to leave Kelleys Island on June 16. The ferry operates regardless of the weather. The air was thick and misty, and some passengers huddled under the dock shelter. Most of the images on this web site were taken with a waterproof, shockproof, inexpensive digital camera just for these conditions.

The Shirley Irene is another ferry boat that takes passengers and vehicles back and forth between Marblehead and Kelleys Island. Unlike the Kayla Marie, this ferry has two levels plus benches.

One last view of Perry's Monument on Put-in-Bay shows that the previous evening's heavy storm hadn't completely left the western basin. The coot runner in the foreground had difficulty righting its course. Only the largest industrial ships out on the lake that morning were impervious to the waves.

As the ferry passes the Cedar Point peninsula, the lighthouse at Marblehead will come into view. Thus, the trip to Kelleys Island will end where it began, at the dock on West Main Street.

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