North Shore Loop Trail
Kelleys Island State Park
This approximately, one-mile hiking trail provides a pleasant and informative look at a diverse mix of Kelleys Island’s flowers, trees, shoreline, glacial markings and architectural history. Located on the northwest end of the island and part of the Kelleys Island State Park, the North Shore Loop Trail entrance is just to the west of the state park boat and trailer parking lot.
This area at the northern end of Division Street was once a thriving community associated with the Kelleys Island Lime and Transport Company North Bay quarry. It consisted of company housing , a company store, rooming houses and the quarry industrial complex. One of the first sites on the trail is the remains of the Kelleys Island Lime and Transport Company’s loader. The structure, built in 1888, was used to load crushed limestone into rail cars to be taken to the dock and limekilns.
As the trail reaches the shoreline hikers can view Canada’s Middle Island to the north, and just beyond it is Pelee Island, the largest island in Lake Erie and the southern-most inhabited area of Canada. Eight miles to the west are the Bass Islands—North Bass, Middle Bass and South Bass (Put-In-Bay).
Depending on the lake’s water level, hikers can choose to walk along the path in the woods or also attempt a walk along the rocky shoreline. This area’s limestone shoreline, known as an Alvar or limestone prairie is part of the State of Ohio’s Natural Areas and Preserves.
Along the wooded trail are eastern cottonwood, eastern red cedar, green and white ash, and maple trees, as well as a beautiful variety of seasonal wildflowers and poison ivy. Our state tree the Ohio buckeye, as well as yellow buckeye trees, can also be seen on the North Shore Loop Trail.
The stone foundations aside or near the trail are from buildings that were used by the KIL&T Co. workers or its operations. The quarry workers were usually immigrants from Italy, Germany and other European and Slavic nations.
Kelleys Island State Park
East Quarry’s main entrance is about a mile East of Division on Ward Road. Additional entrances for hikers can be found on Monagan and Woodford Roads. This quarry was part of a much larger quarry to the west of Division. The Kelleys Island Lime and Transport Company began quarrying this area around 1933 and continued until 1940. The quarry started at Division Street and ended at the head of Horseshoe Lake. The quarried material was hauled west under a bridge on Division Street via a narrow gauge railway. Some of the tracks of the abandoned rail line can still be seen beneath the waters of the lake.
Horseshoe Lake is a rapidly aging lake abundant with plant, fish and aquatic life. Hikers and many wildlife species use the trails around the lake. The several miles of trails afford hikers a spectacular view of Kelleys Island’s trees, wildflowers, glacial markings and fossil preserves. The quarry at one time was the bottom of the Devonian Sea. Scattered throughout is a marvelous record of the marine, invertebrate animals, which abounded on the floor of the sea. Here you can find fossil remains of corals, brachiopods, gastropods, pelecypods, cephalopods, crinoids and stomato-poroids. Glacial scraping marks can also be seen on the upper edges of the quarry and an abundant variety of birds have been spotted from Horseshoe Lake.
Among the trees along the East Quarry trails, are: The American basswood, a highly regarded timber tree that was used by Native Americans to make rope by first soaking the bark in water to remove the non-fibrous portions; osage-orange is the single species of its genus and was originally restricted to the southern U.S.; black cherry, a beautifully colored wood used for fine furniture and cabinets; hackberry, honey locust, chinquapin oak; and the eastern hop hornbeam or “weed tree”, which is distinguished from other trees by its bark which has a shreddy appearance with broken shaggy plates that curve away from the trunk.
The remnants of old fence lines in the East Quarry are typical on Kelleys Island. Due to the shallow soil in most areas, islanders used barrels filled with rocks to hold the fence posts. There are several areas on the island where remains of these fence lines can be seen. Also visible near the trails in the East Quarry are fences made of rocks gathered by the farmers when they cleared the fields for planting in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.
North Pond State Nature Preserve
Kelleys Island State Park
A visit to Kelleys Island North Pond State Nature Preserve is an opportunity to view nature at its finest, a true unfolding of life’s mysteries. The scenery and wildlife constantly change, are never dull and are always colorful and exciting.
Two hundred years ago Kelleys Island was nearly all forest. During the latter part of the 19th Century most of the island trees were harvested for timber. The wood was used to run steamboats operating on the Great Lakes or for construction in the fast-growing cities along Lake Erie. The Kelleys Island North Pond State Nature Preserve, located within Kelleys Island State Park, is a wonderful haven offering a glimpse back at how the island would have appeared to its very first visitors and settlers—members of Native American groups such as the Wyandot, Erie, Delaware and Shawnee.
The North Pond, a 30-acre sanctuary with forest, marsh and hiking trail, is Ohio’s only state-managed, lake embayment natural pond. Lake embayment ponds occur within the coastal zone of the Great Lakes. These ponds’ water levels rise and fall with the lake. Of the 12 original embayment ponds on the Erie islands, North Pond is one of only three remaining and the most intact. The others are on Middle Bass and North Bass Islands.
The North Pond State Nature Preserve features a mile-long trail partially covered by a recycled plastic boardwalk and a raised observation deck. A visit to North Pond any time of year offers colorful views of diverse and beautiful species of trees, plants and wildlife.
While there are no ancient trees due to the deforestation mentioned earlier, the North Pond provides a look at a wide variety of species. One of the most abundant trees on Kelleys is the juniper, more commonly known as the eastern red cedar. A robust tree able to thrive in the shallow limestone soil of Kelleys Island, the juniper is a conifer with a blue, fleshy cone that resembles a berry. This cone/berry is a favorite winter food for many birds. Red cedars surround the North Pond parking area and are prominent at the trailhead. Red cedars may live for 300 years.
The thin, twig-like growths forming nearly impenetrable thickets throughout the island and at the North Pond trailhead is osier drummondii dogwood. Its flexible twigs can be used in the making of baskets.
Also seen at the trailhead are sumac, redbud, blue ash, hackberry, various oaks, red maple, red elm and beautiful wild flowers and plants. Near the road nodding wild onions can be seen. These plants’ stems form an “s”-curve when its fruit, a white flower, forms. Low-growing, fern-like herb robert is a spring-blooming perennial geranium seen growing throughout the trail.
Down the slope there is a definitive rock ledge. This was the ancient shoreline which 2-3,000 years ago divided the island into two islands, separated by a shallow water basin. The ancient shoreline runs from the northern shore to the far western side of the island. This area, known for its fertile though shallow soil, is called the Sweet Valley. Lighter colored rocks laid along the ancient shoreline were placed there in more recent times when the land was cultivated by island farmers.
The tallest trees in this area are cottonwoods. These trees can attract nesting eagles. Several pairs of eagles have been spotted in various locations on Kelleys Island. Wild grapes colonize where the trees fall. The orange-flowered trumpet creeper attracts hummingbirds and insects and blooms in August and September. The white-flowered thoroughwart or bone-set flower is credited through folklore with curative powers including the setting of bones.
Throughout the island and the North Pond State Nature Preserve is an abundance of poison ivy. Easily recognized by its “leaves of three” and best avoided by people, poison ivy is one of the most necessary plants for the many birds and deer who feast on its berries and vegetation. Young box elders, which are also plentiful in this area, can be mistaken for poison ivy, but are distinct in that they have five to seven leaflets per stem.
Trumpet creeper, a southern Ohio plant, is a non-native plant that can become a pest. It can be seen along the trail blooming in June and July.
A special feature of Kelleys Island North Pond State Nature Preserve is the mile-long recycled plastic lumber boardwalk. Employees of the State of Ohio’s Natural Areas and Preserves and volunteers, including Audubon members, constructed the boardwalk. The boardwalk represents one of five plastic lumber demonstration projects being implemented as part of a multi-client research project. Project partners include: Ohio Division of Recycling and Litter Prevention, Battelle Memorial Institute, The American Plastics Council, the Plastic Lumber Trade Association, Louisiana State University, Underwriter’s Labs, Engineering Mechanics Group, McClaren Engineering, New York Department of Development, Rutgers University, and the Composites Institute.
The boardwalk is needed because when the lake’s water rises the lower areas of North Pond can become drenched with up to 12 inches of water. With the ongoing drenching and drying out of this area a variety of plants can be seen depending on the moisture levels.
The boardwalk extension heading off to the right leads hikers to the Kelleys Island State Park sand beach. The extension beyond the observation deck loops around and directs hikers back to a dirt path which later connects to the main entry path.
North Pond is a very healthy example of a natural, undisturbed area, with distinctly zoned plant communities. Standing on the observation deck is an ideal place to view these communities from the center out. In the center/wettest area of the pond water lilies can be seen. Straw-colored umbrella sedges lie closer to the bank. As the land becomes less wet on the outer reaches of the pond, there are buttonbush shrubs, with round button-like fruit. Continuing away from the pond are the ferns and shrubby willows, followed by the swamp forest which includes several species along with green ash and cottonwoods, the dominant forest species. There are a wide variety of grasses, rushes and sedges throughout the North Pond State Nature Preserve.
When the pond is dry, swamp rose mallow, a native hibiscus, grows in the pond area along with bur marigolds (the stick-tight plant). Other plant life surrounding the pond includes smart weed, which is recognized by its small pink spike that stands upright. This plant earned its name because of a peppery taste that makes your mouth “smart.” Willow twigs, like those seen surrounding North Pond, were used by Native Americans as a curative for headaches and later used in the development of aspirin. Red, late summer-blooming cardinal flowers and the May-blooming wild blue iris can be seen alongside the boardwalk.
When there is water in North Pond, mosquito fern covers portions of the surface. Mosquito fern received its name because it may rapidly cover ponds and has been mistakenly thought to discharge mosquitoes. In actuality the fern is often introduced into ponds because it is thought to control the amount of mosquito larvae. Mosquito fern floats on the top and resembles duckweed.
Birds in Abundance
Dozens of bird species have been sighted at the North Pond State Nature Preserve. From chipping sparrows, purple martins, indigo buntings, various warblers and even black-capped chickadees at the trail head; to an array of waterfowl, herons, northern kingbirds and red-winged blackbirds nearer the observation tower…more than a half dozen species not spotted elsewhere on the island have been noted here.
From the observation tower hawks, herons and other aquatic animal life have been seen. In addition, deer, muskrat, Lake Erie water snakes, salamanders and squirrel have been spotted along or near the preserve’s trail.
Between 1976 and 1982, brothers Thomas and Brooks Jones donated parcels totaling 21 acres on a narrow strip of land that juts from the island’s northeast corner called Long Point. This area is a vital stopover site for migratory birds crossing Lake Erie — particularly warblers, which prefer mature forests close to the lake for their rest stops. In recognition of the Jones brothers’ generosity in donating Long Point to the Cleveland Museum, in 2006, Long Point was renamed the Jones Preserve. Since 1996, the Jones Preserve has been a key research site for certified bird-bander and Museum Research Associate Tom Bartlett. Tom, wife Paula and other volunteers have mist-netted and banded over 4,000 spring migrants here. This is a protected preserve and to explore the preserve, the Museum requires the permission of a Museum Docent.
One of five parcels of land owned and managed by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. This 24-acre preserve is located on the northeast side of the island, on Monagan Road, just west of Ward Road. The preserve is home to a small forest of the island’s only rock elm trees, which are an Ohio-threatened species, found only in four other locations in the state. In addition to the rock elms there are wafer ash and prickly ash, members of the citrus family, the only two Ohio citrus-family trees. Many additional trees, butterfly weed, tufted vetch and green milkweed can be seen while strolling through this beautiful and well preserved tract. Fox snakes and a variety of birds, including the eastern screech owl, black-capped chickadees and the orchard oriole have been noted in this preserve.
Ed Curilla Preserve
This 15-acre preserve is owned and managed by the Kelleys Island Park Board. It is located off of Huntington Lane, on the southwest corner of the island, the Preserve sits roughly 1/4 mile away from the Lake Erie coastline and walking distance of the village’s downtown. The Preserve contains 3-acres of Great Lakes Alvar which is characterized by exposed limestone bedrock, thin soils with high pH levels, and sparse vegetation. The 1/2 mile trail provide access throughout the property’s forests, wetlands, and globally unique alvar habitat, which supports rare plant species. These habitats provide important resources for migrating birds, reptiles, amphibians, dragonflies, damselflies, and other wildlife. Along the trail hikers will find an overlook the the adjoining quarry and information plaques that tell a bit of the history of the island.
This 59 acre Preserve is within walking distance of Kelleys Island’s downtown. Access the Preserve from Bookerman Road approximately 550 feet west of the intersection of Bookerman Road and Division Street. A gravel drive provides access to the protected property along the northern boundary. This Preserve can also be accessed from the south from the northeast corner of the Ed Curilla Preserve. The Huntley-Beatty Quarry provides visitors with opportunities to hike and explore the unique ecological and geological features of the island. The preserve contains an excellent example of the globally imperiled Great Lakes Alvar habitat that support rare and endangered species. Surveys have revealed a dozen State Endangered plants growing on this property, including Caribbean spike-rush and Philadelphia panic-grass. This Preserve is known for the Lakeside Daisies that bloom every spring and the long pond, called The Cut, that was created when the Preserve was an activity quarry providing water for the steam engines.
This is located at the intersections of Woodford Rd and Monaghan Rd. This 18.5 acre Preserve will protect the only red cedar forest habitat in Ohio. From trails on this Preserve you can see one of the 3 eagles nests that are located on the island.