Worth a Visit: Ohio’s Kelleys Island

Kelleys Island, Ohio© 2009 Ohio Tourism DivisionGrooved rock outcrops on the island are unmistakable evidence of glaciers on the move during the last Ice Age, which ended around 8000 b.c

Take the ferry from Marblehead, Ohio

It is not known how long Kelleys Island was inhabited by people of the Erie or Cat nation before they were destroyed by the Iroquois in the late 1600s. But these first settlers are credited with leaving an enigmatic memorial: Inscription Rock, a large flat-topped slab of limestone covered with Native American pictographs of humanlike creatures, birds and animals, and smoking pipes that have never been deciphered. The inscriptions, which have now been nearly obliterated by the elements, were copied by U.S. Army captain Seth Eastman in 1850; a reproduction of his work is placed at the site.

Kelleys Island was resettled in the early 1800s. By 1910 it had a population of more than 1,000 and a thriving economy based on limestone quarrying, agriculture, winemaking, and fishing. Today only about 375 people inhabit the island year-round. Ecotourism is the major industry, and fishing, boating, swimming, and dining facilities are plentiful.

Visitors can ferry their cars over from Marblehead but may prefer to rent bicycles or golf carts on the island to get about. About a 10-minute bike ride from town is Glacial Grooves. The limestone, scored to a depth of several inches by the tremendous force of a moving glacier, gives the appearance of smoothly rounded gray waves. Best times to visit are in spring through late fall.

Open year-round. Accessible by ferry or boat spring – fall.

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