Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Great Black Swamp

What is (or was) the "Great Black Swamp" of Ohio?

[from Wikipedia] Originally a glacially-created wetland in NW Ohio, the Great Black Swamp was not continuous swampland, but comprised a variety of habitats. The lowest areas, constantly flooded, consisted of deciduous swamp woods, including ash, cottonwood and sycamore trees. Higher ground, with better drainage, sported beech, maples, basswood and tulip trees. There were some high ridges, moraines created by debris left behind by the glaciers, where oak/hickory woods dominated. The non-forested areas were marshes and wet prairies.

Settlement of this area in the early 19th century was complicated by endemic
malaria and by the difficulty of traveling through the wetlands. A corduroy road was constructed in 1825, and was paved with gravel in 1838, but travel between Fremont and Perrysburg could still take days or weeks during the rainy season. During the "Toledo War" (1835-36) the militias of Michigan and Ohio couldn't even find each other in the swamp to fight. (To this day, a battle occurs between Ohio and Michigan every November, in honor of the war. Of course, Ohio [State] is always the victor!) Beginning in the 1850's and continuing for 40 years, the swamp was drained for agriculture and to promote travel, especially building the railways.

[from Ohio DNR literature] The Lake Erie marshes were famed for waterfowl hunting since the late 1800's, and wealthy landowners operated the region primarily as private shooting clubs. Beginning in the 1950's, ownership of much of the original 30,000 acres of private property has come under the management of the Ohio Division of Wildlife, Ohio Dept of Natural Resources, and is managed not only for the "hook and gun club," but also for birders.

Crane Creek, Magee Marsh, Black Swamp Bird Observatory, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge - all of these names are part and parcel of the original Great Black Swamp and are the Mecca for birders in spring migration. In particular, the Magee Marsh boardwalk (originally known as the Crane Creek bird trail) is a major birding hot spot from late April through May. More than 150 species of returning migrant songbirds, including 38 species of warblers, stop here to rest and refuel before attempting the long crossing over Lake Erie. The remaining 7 acres of forested beach habitat is the perfect migrant trap, and the boardwalk elevates the viewer so the tired birds are right at eye level.

For Kenn Kaufman's notes and daily updates on the birding at Magee Marsh, as well as maps, places to stay or eat, visit the Black Swamp Bird Observatory's web site here:


Susan Gets Native said...

I can hardly wait! Aiiiiiiii!

Susan Gets Native said...

And I have been trying to email you, but it keeps coming back.