Put-in-Bay draws plenty of summer visitors, but it's still possible to find a few quiet spots on the island to relax and enjoy the island's natural charms and maybe find a little solitude.
The end of State Route 357 at the island's most easternmost point t is a popular place to watch sunsets over Lake Erie, but if you want to enjoy the sunset scene a little more quietly, check out the Scheeff East Point Nature Preserve.
The 8.8-acre plot of land offers a short hiking trail, a place for shore fishing and access via canoe or kayak.
Park at the nature preserve's parking lot just short of end-of-the-road gathering spot and hop out to walk the trail loop that leads through meadows, tall grasses and a few trees out to a small patch of rocky beach on the lake.
The preserve is a good habitat for the Lake Erie Water Snake, migratory birds, waterfowl and shoreline plants.
Plenty of Purple Martins and tree swallows populate the preserve. Birdwatchers also report seeing Ruddy Tumstones, Sanderlings and, very occasionally, a rare Purple Sandpiper at the preserve.
The preserve with its 1,700 feet of rocky Lake Erie shoreline is also a preferred spot for the Lake Erie Water Snake, a non-venomous and endangered snake unique to the Lake Erie Islands.
I went for a walk at the preserve near sunset on a warm summer day, and while I didn't see a lot of birds or snakes (thank goodness!), I did see plenty of bunnies hopping down the trail as I wandered to down to check out the beach.
The preserve originally belonged to Conrad and Katherine Bruchner, grape growers who came to the island from Germany in 1857. The couple established a vineyard, and a fifth generation of the family still lives on South Bass Island.
Developers once had their eye on this land with the idea of building nine homes here.
Residents and friends of the island rallied to raise the $2.6 million needed to purchase the land as a preserve. Rose Scheeff, who spent nearly fifty happy summers on the island with her husband Bill, made a major contribution that helped allow the Western Reserve Conservancy purchase the park with the help of the Lake Erie Chapter of the Black Swamp Conservancy. The Put-in-Bay Township Park District now owns the land.
The Lake Erie Chapter of the Black Swamp Conservancy was also instrumental in purchasing a plot of woodland and the building that is now the Lake Erie Islands and Wildlife Center.
Stan Wulkowicz grew up at Put-in-Bay, but he and his wife Joanna moved to Anchorage, Alaska where they both taught science classes at school for many years.
Stan became fascinated with taxidermy, and when the couple retired to live in Put-in-Bay, they brought Stan's collection of stuffed animals with them and opened the Alaskan Birdhouse Museum in 1993.
The couple closed the museum in 2003, but offered to donate the collection and the building to the Lake Erie Island Chapter of the Black Swamp Conservancy if the group agreed to purchase the 1.8-acre plot of land the building sat on.
The community rallied to help make the sale happen, and re-open the museum in 2008.
The site also has 1.2 acres of woods, a short tail, two caves and a frog pond.
The center opens daily from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day. It opens 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays in May and September.
Cost is $3 per adult, $2 for children and seniors, free for children age 5 an under or $8 per family.
Check out the Lake Erie Islands Nature and Wildlife Center's page on Facebook for the latest event listings and links to other nature-related news.
Thanks to the Lake Erie Shores & Islands Visitors Bureau and Miller Ferries for sponsoring my visit to Put-in-Bay, providing lodging, ferry transportation, help arranging visits to South Bass Island and Put-in-Bay attractions for my review, with no further compensation. I was free to express my own opinions about the stay and experiences, and the opinions expressed here are mine.
© Dominique King 2014 All rights reserved