My Trip to Cranberry Bog; The world’s only Island Bog
Cranberry Bog is a Bog completely surrounded by water on Buckeye Lake near Hebron, Ohio. It is the only bog of its kind in the world. Today Cranberry Bog is just 10 acres in size and likely will not survive another few decades. Both of these facts are because Cranberry Bog is not itself a natural phenomenon.
In the 1800s the state of Ohio was largely undeveloped and there were few if any reliable means by which to transport goods in and out of the state. Inspired by the recently built system of canals in New York the Ohio legislature set out to build what would be called the Erie Canal which connected Lake Erie to the Ohio River, connecting the two bodies of water which form the northern and southern borders of the state of Ohio (a distance of nearly 300 Miles). In order to achieve this monumental feat it was necessary to find elevated sources of water which could feed the canal with water to maintain the necessary depth of water. These “feeder lakes” were created artificially by damming up rivers and bogs. Such was the birth of “Buckeye Lake”. Before being flooded Buckeye Lake was a massive bog filled with plant life brought south from Canada by the glaciers which formed north and central Ohio’s characteristically flat terrain. When this bog was flooded a 50 acre section of bog floated to the surface of the lake forming Cranberry Bog. Ordinarily a bog grows from the outside of a lake towards the center which is why this Bog is so unusual.
Above is Cranberry Bog as it is today and to the right is a typical bog notice that cranberry bog is an island while the Triangle bog to the left grows from the outside in.
A bog is distinguished from a swamp or fen by its growth on top of Sphagnum moss and layer of peat below which makes the bog soil and water extremely acidic. The acidity is so great in fact that it almost completely inhibits bacterial activity which has in some cases allowed bodies submerged in a bog to remain almost perfectly intact centuries after death. Because of bogs high acidity they tend to be very poor growing conditions for most types of plants and those that do grow there grow almost nowhere else. This is what brought me to the Cranberry Bog, to witness the yearly blooming for two species of bog orchid which only grow in the bog environment.
This is the flower which brought me to the Cranberry bog.
The Cranberry Bog is a short boat ride from the site of the old Buckeye Lake theme park which once was one of Central Ohio’s greatest attractions bringing people from all over the country. After penetrating the ring of trees and poison sumac on the periphery of the island we came into a clearing filled with orchids, ferns and the bog’s namesake cranberry plants.
In addition to the Orchids, Cranberry Bog also hosts two of Ohio’s species of carnivorous plants, the pitcher plant and the sundew. It is believed that carnivorous plants evolved their penchant for killing in order to gain access to nutrients which are exceedingly rare in the nutrient poor bog soil.
This is the sundew. It gets its name from the sticky, bug trapping substance which coats its leaves which resembles dew.
Here is a cluster of pitcher plants. These plants have a cup shaped leaf which insects tend to fall into where they decay and release their nutrients for the plant to absorb.
Cranberry Bog’s gradual decline over the past century is a direct result of its unnatural formation. Bogs require constant acidity to maintain their characteristics and because the lake water of Buckeye Lake is comparatively basic the island is slowly deteriorating. It is almost impossible to alter this unique habitats fate however it isn’t gone yet and was a sight to behold.
Arrow Arum and Cinnamon Fern are two other notable plants on Cranberry Bog.