Ohio’s Buckeye Lake is one of the oldest reservoirs in America. Its shores touch three counties in Ohio. But most interesting is what floats within its coasts: a cranberry bog.
The floating island is the only known to exist in the U.S. and supports rare flora, including round-leafed sundew and pitcher plants, which are both carnivorous. Orchids, like pink Calopogons or pogonias, also bloom there. The dominant vegetation are cranberry plants, and they bloom in June of each year.
The unique island ecosystem, known as Cranberry Island, was created by glaciation. When the Wisconsin Glacier was pushing its way south, experts say cold air surrounding it pushed boreal vegetation (marked by cone-bearing trees) along with it. As the glacier receded over the course of thousands of years, southern plant species reclaimed areas they had lost. Meltwater began to accumulate in river valleys during this time, and sphagnum moss took hold, providing an ideal growth area for cranberries.
In the 1900s, state engineers flooded the valleys to create a feeder lake for the Ohio – Erie canal, and all but the most buoyant bog land was placed underwater. Buckeye Lake at that time had the right acidity for growing and supporting the sphagnum moss, a pH of around 4.5, and Cranberry Island spanned 50 acres or more.
Nowadays, the island is threatened by waters that are becoming more basic. And the National Natural Landmark is today only eight acres in size. Studies conducted by the National Park Service and Ohio Department of Natural Resources found that there is nothing that can be done to save it. Eventually Cranberry Island will disappear.