The Islands of Lake Erie

searchIn early October I visited Erie Pa. to sit on a panel about Climate Change at an event called the Community Resiliency Summit.  The summit was hosted at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center, which sits right on the edge of Lake Erie. I am a long time Philadelphia resident but I grew up in the Chicago area, with Lake Michigan practically on my doorstep.  Being near one of the Great Lakes for a few days was very exciting to me since I’ve never been to Lake Erie before.    I learned that during the summer months over 300,000 people visit Erie for their summer vacations.  I decided to delve deeper into the wonders of the fourth largest of the Great Lakes, and the tenth largest lake on Earth.

The water provided by Lake Erie for waterborne commerce, navigation, manufacturing, and power production has led to intensive industrial development along its shore, but the basin’s moderate temperatures have also encouraged recreation and agriculture.  Lake Erie is the warmest and most biologically productive of the Great Lakes, and the Lake Erie walleye fishery is widely considered the best in the world.   ISLANDS What I found fascinating is that there are about 37 islands in Lake Erie, about 19 of them inhabited to some extent.   Most of the islands are officially in Ohio, but some are part of Ontario Canada, with only one actually being part of Pennsylvania.  Some, such as Presque Island, the only Pennsylvania “island”, are former islands and now are actually peninsulas with natural forest areas and state parks.   Others have small populations such as Pelee Island, population 171 people, (an important flyway for migrating birds) or south Bass Island with its 631 residents.  Populations on some islands swell in the summer months.  Other islands such as East Sister Island are small, with very little besides thousands of birds.   A few are privately owned such as Mouse Island (owned by the family of former President Rutherford Hayes), and one, such as Kafralu is man made. I really enjoyed visiting Erie PA., but I’m not so sure I’d encourage travel there in December.  The winters there can be fierce.   It’s a 6½-hour drive (404 miles from Philadelphia to Erie) but I think it could be worth the trip in the summertime.  (Amtrak goes to Erie.  You might try taking the train).