By Larry Moore
Summer is here and that means vacation time. Ohio has a wide range of natural beauty and historical sites to attract summer visitors. The geography changes whether traveling north, south, east or west. Our family often goes to the northern Lake Erie region for vacations which include site seeing, historical homes and, of course, fishing. We’ve spent a great deal of time in the Western Basin area.
We have also enjoyed the eastern Mentor-on-the-Lake region. Somehow we had missed the more central Lake Erie region. That was corrected this spring with a visit to the Lorain County area. I discovered some great scenic diversity, a beautiful river and exciting destinations.
The first stop for the road trip was for some sight-seeing and a picnic at Findley State Park. The park is located about half way between Ashland and Elyria in southeastern corner of Lorain County. Once a state forest, the 838-acre park is heavily wooded with stately pines and various hardwoods.
The park draws visitors from the Akron, Medina, Elyria and even Cleveland areas.. The facilities are first rate offering 90 electric and 181 primitive campsites. It is perfect for the more natural tent or backpack camper. The 93-acre lake, which allows electric trolling motors only, is a popular fishing destination with a lot of bank access fishing. There are two-launch ramps including a new kayak ramp. Paddling is an increasingly popular activity at the scenic lake. Additionally, canoes, rowboats and kayaks can be rented at the marina.
In addition to the hiking trails, there is a mountain bike trail that attracts cycling enthusiastic and clubs to the park. Local mountain bike enthusiast Patrick Miranda was preparing for a ride. He explains, “The bike trail is popular for local club races and recreational riders. It is a 9-mile trail around the lake. The trail is fairly flat although it is considered to be technical because of the tree roots, ruts and lots of tight turns. I love riding in the woods and then into the more open areas around the lake.” Findley State Park offers a lot of natural beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities in the populous area of northern Ohio. It makes a great camping spot for those on a trip to the Lake Erie region.
Each day offered a new adventure. A visit to the Common Ground, located at The Cindy Nord Center for Renewal, provided the opportunity to go on the Canopy Tour adventure. It is a long-time nature center and outdoor education facility. They feature many earth camps and youth nature education programs. The canopy tour, or zip line, is a new addition. Zip lining is rapidly becoming a an activity with many dedicated fans who travel to ride different lines, much like roller coaster aficionados.
I’ve done several zip lines in the past so being in the area I wanted to try the Common Ground Canopy Tour. The zip line takes you above and through the woods. Many of the landing points are on different species of trees providing a perfect educational opportunity. The two and a half hours off the ground were a perfect combination of relaxation and exhilaration. The very dynamic guides engaged us with nature facts and trivia. Along the way we learned to lean out from the platforms trusting our equipment. The last stop offered a unique descent back to earth as we rappelled from the platform.
The trip was capped with a wonderful evening cruise. The tour, which departs from the downtown Lorain river landing, included stops at the restored historic Lorain Harbor Lighthouse and a ride up the Black River. The Lorain Lighthouse is locally known as the “Jewel of the Port” and is owned by the Port of Lorain Foundation. Volunteers have poured many hours into the restoration efforts to save the lighthouse.
Their work was made a little more difficult that all materials must be taken to the lighthouse by boat or barge. The lighthouse was originally built in 1917 and decommissioned from service in 1965. Initially it was slated for destruction. Today it stands as a restored beacon at the entrance of the Lorain harbor. Recently the original lens used in the lighthouse was located and returned to Lorain where it is on display at Lorain Port Authority Offices along the Black River.
The Black River drains over 467 square miles in the Lorain and Medina area. The long-term effect of heavy industry, especially the steel mill operations, had left the river basically dead. The riparian corridor, fish habitat and floodplains were gone. Conservation restorations efforts were started with the removal of over 1 million cubic yards of steel processing slag that is still being recycled.
Nature, when given the opportunity, will return and it has to the Black River. Today the river is alive with vegetation plus fish and wildlife have returned. Fish habitat structures have been installed. Fishing, boating and kayaking are now all popular recreational activities along the river. The Black River is a conservation success story.
Whether it was the thrill of the zip line through the woods and over the East Branch of the Vermillion River or ‘relaxing on a sunset Lake Erie and Black River Cruise, Lorain County provided the perfect backdrop to a great vacation. Learn more about Lorain County at www.visitloraincounty.com/ or call the Lorain County Visitors Bureau at 800-334-1673.
Larry S. Moore is a Greene County resident and long-time outdoor columnist.