You know South Bass Island. (Although maybe you refer it to by the name of the party hotspot village, Put-in-Bay.) You know Kelleys Island. But can you name the more than two dozen other islands in Lake Erie?
Neither could I.
Thankfully, Middle Bass Island historian Michael Gora compiled a comprehensive list of the islands, in Ohio, Michigan, Pennysylvania, New York and Ontario, Canada.
- 14 Ohio islands in the Bass Island archipelago of Erie and Ottawa counties
- 22 other core islands, including Indian and Stony Point, close to Toledo; Middle and Pelee in Ontario and Presque Isle (which is now connected to the mainland) in Erie, Pennsylvania
Plus, Gora includes other island candidates, such as artificial islands and Johnson’s Island, a prison for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, in Sandusky Bay (and therefore not really in Lake Erie.)
See below for the full list of islands.
Plenty of islands are no longer inhabited. Even the biggest are fairly empty in winter, since ice makes them impossible to reach except by airplane. The year-round population of Put-in-Bay in the 2010 census, for example, was 138.
“Now that people want cars and want to be able to go shopping by car, the idea of living on an island where you can’t go anywhere becomes less attractive,” said Gora, who spends winters in North Carolina. “It’s just a very different way of life. Most of the year-rounders take some pretty long Florida vacations in the winter.”
As for the summer residents, many of the islands — including Millionaire’s and Hen — are home to private clubs.
Here are few interesting island tidbits.
Ballast: Cleveland Mayor George W. Gardiner, who founded the Cleveland Yachting Club and the Inter-Lake Yachting Association, created the Longworth Canoe Club at Ballast Island, where presidents Teddy Roosevelt, William McKinley, James A. Garfield, and Grover Cleveland all visited.
Gibraltar: Ohio State University and Ohio Sea Grant operate Stone Laboratory on Gibraltar, a chunk of sandstone with dorms, classrooms and a dining hall in Put-in-Bay harbor.
Green: Once home to a lighthouse that burned down on New Year’s Eve 1863, it’s now a wildlife refuge, managed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Mouse: U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes used to own and spend summers on Mouse Island, according to the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums. It was sold in the 1960s.
Rattlesnake: An 85-acre island with about 15 homes is a private club. “Rattlesnake Island Club is a great place for the entire family,” the web site says. “Kids can play at the pool, enjoy all the Island’s amenities, or wear themselves out on water sports. They have their own private island complete with it own nature trail teeming with wild life to explore! Perhaps the greatest thing about Rattlesnake Island is its Members. RIC is a place where fun loving people who have accomplished much in life can unwind and ‘let their hair down.’ What happens at Rattlesnake Island, stays at Rattlesnake Island. We are, after all, A VERY Private Resort!”
The rest of the 36 islands, according to Gora: