Wondering what to do at Put-in-Bay this spring? The early season is a wonderful time to explore the islands’ natural areas. While most are available year-round, due to migratory bird patterns and floral and fauna blooms, spring is a spectacular time to hike the trails and take in the views of these island hidden gems.
The large downtown park was given to the Island in 1866 by Jose DeRivera St. Jugo who owned the Island. The area is really two parks: four fifths of the park is managed by the three DeRivera Park Trustees as established in the trust that DeRivera set up; and the remaining fifth of the park (near the Jet Express Dock) is operated by the Village of Put-in-Bay. At this picturesque waterfront park you will find children’s playgrounds, picnic areas, fountains, walking paths, and a public restroom and bathhouse for boaters using the downtown docks.
Jane Coates Wildflower Trail and Ladd Carr Woods
Located on Put-in-Bay Road, about 1/4 mile north of Maple Leaf Cemetery, Jane Coates Wildflower Trail is a nature trail protected by the Lake Erie Islands Conservancy and now owned by the Put-in-Bay Township Park District. The surrounding woodlands of blue ash, hackberry, and chinquapin oak shelter spring wildflowers such as wild hyacinths as well as Dutchman’s Breeches, appendaged waterleaf, wild phlox, and Jack-in-the-Pulpit. It can be a great place in spring and fall for migratory songbirds and warblers. A bench on the back portion of the trail is a great place to sit and bird watch. The 1/2 mile trail is named for Put-in-Bay artist Jane Coates who was a jeweler, painter, and conservationist.
Massie Cliffside Preserve
This eleven-acre shoreline parcel on the East Point of South Bass Island includes cliff habitat and a great dock for fishing. It was purchased with Clean Ohio Conservation Funds, Coastal Estuarine Land Conservation Program, private donations, and land owner donations in 2015. Dedicated August of 2016, it has a trail system to link visitors from the State Route 357 parking lot all the way to the lake for bird-watching, walking, photography, and nature study.
Oak Point State Park
This 1.5-acre park, the smallest in Ohio's state park system, is a companion to South Bass Island State Park. It offers facilities for boaters and picnickers and scenic panoramic views close to the heart of Put-in-Bay. Get there early to watch the sunrise!
Scheeff East Point Nature Preserve
Scheeff East Point Nature Preserve is 9-acre parcel of water front property protected by the newly formed Put-in-Bay Township Park District. The preserve is located at the very end of East Point, about two miles from downtown Put-in-Bay. The preserve offers visitors a ½ mile walking path, great bird watching opportunities, and shoreline access for fishing. The property is open from dawn to dusk daily.
The Scheeff Preserve is host to two nesting bird populations: Tree Swallows and Purple Martins. Tree Swallow nesting boxes are about 25 feet apart. Tree Swallows sweep the air about forty feet above the park and catch extremely small flying insects including flies, mosquitoes, leaf-hoppers, and midges. Each adult swallow consumes 2,000 insects per day and they feed 6,000 insects per day to their nestlings. Tree Swallows winter in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean and fly several thousand miles to return to roost sites at the Scheeff Preserve in early April. The eggs appear in May and nestlings fledge in July.
There are two Purple Martin rigs at the Scheeff Preserve. East of the Rocky Mountains, Purple Martins will only nest in man-made housing or gourds. At one time, South Bass Island was home to one of the largest roosts in Ohio with an estimated 250,000 birds. Purple Martins are the largest member of the swallow family in North America and also eat flying insects. Purple Martins winter in South America and fly 5,000 miles each April to return to the preserve.
South Bass Island State Park – Hotel Victory Ruins
The park contains 33 acres of wooded campground. The camping area is located on the ruins of the old Hotel Victory, the largest summer hotel in the world in the 1890’s. Containing 625 rooms, the hotel boasted the only swimming pool in the U.S. in which men and women could swim together. The remains of the swimming pool are clearly visible. Built in 1891, the Hotel Victory burned to the ground on August 15, 1919, in an enormous fire. Other visible ruins include a pedestal from the 13-foot-tall Winged Victory copper and bronze statue that decorated a hotel courtyard.
South Bass Island State Park also contains one of the island’s only public swimming beaches, though the shoreline is more rocky than sandy. Popular park activities include boat, Jet Ski, and kayak rentals for exploring the rocky cliffs around the island.
All information and editorial copy is courtesy of the following: Put-in-Bay Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau (www.VisitPutinBay.com), The Lake Erie Islands Conservancy (http://lakeerieislandsconservancy.org/), and Ohio Department of Natural Resources (http://parks.ohiodnr.gov)