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State Submerged Resources > Ohio


One of the Great Lakes states, Ohio has 312 miles of shoreline along Lake Erie. Some of the state's major rivers include the Cuyahoga, the Miami, the Ohio, and the Sandusky rivers. A little over 8% of the state (3,875 square miles) is covered by water.

What is Ohio's maritime heritage?

Ohio's waters in Lake Erie, along with its rivers, have long been used for transportation whether by dugout canoe, flatboat, schooner, steamboat, or freighter. The city of Cleveland, founded in 1796 on the Lake Erie shore at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River, became and remains one of the largest ports in the Great Lakes for bulk freight shipping. The city of Marietta, founded in 1788 at the confluence of the Muskingum and Ohio rivers, became a center for building riverboats that is remembered today at the Ohio River Museum.

In addition to the state's natural waterways, a network of canals extending over 810 miles was created and operated during the first half of the 19th century. The Ohio and Erie Canal connected Cleveland to Portsmouth and the Miami and Erie Canal linked Cincinnati to Toledo. This heritage is preserved at Lockington Locks, the Piqua Historical Area State Memorial, and the Ohio and Erie National Heritage Canalway.

What sites are underwater?

The Ringler dugout canoe, discovered in Ohio's Savannah Lake, is one of the oldest watercraft found in North America. The canoe was made more than 3,800 years ago using stone tools and fire to hollow out the 22-foot log. Stored at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, it is too fragile to display but a cast replica is on exhibition.

More than 2,000 ships have been lost on Lake Erie, perhaps 600 in the waters of Ohio. Information and photographs on 28 of the 277 known wrecks in Lake Erie is provided on the Ohio Sea Grant's website, Shipwrecks and Maritime Tales of the Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail.

The side-wheel steamer Anthony Wayne is one such ship. Built in 1837 to carry cargo and passengers, it was one of the earliest steamers to ply Lake Erie. The ship was lost in 1850 after two of its boilers exploded with much loss of life. Discovered in 2006 off the coast of Vermilion, researchers have begun studying and documenting the shipwreck.

Who takes care of Ohio's underwater archeological sites?

Created to promote knowledge of history and archeology, especially of Ohio, the Ohio Historical Society maintains an inventory of the state's archeological sites including submerged sites. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is responsible for developing and implementing the state's coastal management program. Abandoned submerged property in Ohio's waters of Lake Erie belongs to the state and the two agencies work together to advance the preservation and protection of abandoned submerged property of historical and archeological importance for the benefit of the public. The state works with volunteer groups like the Maritime Archaeological Survey Team whose mission is dedicated to "preserving Great Lakes history one shipwreck at a time."

What permits do I need to study shipwrecks?

You need a permit from the Ohio Historical Society and permission of the relevant state agency to conduct archeological studies on state property. In the case of abandoned submerged property located on, in or in the immediate vicinity of and associated with a submerged watercraft or aircraft in Lake Erie, you must obtain a permit from the Department of Natural Resources and have approval from the Ohio Historical Society.

What laws concern underwater archeology in Ohio?

The laws governing the state coastal management program, including permitting for submerged watercraft and aircraft, are codified in 1506.1, et seq., of the Ohio Revised Code. Laws covering the programs of the Ohio Historical Society are in 149.30, et seq., of the Code. Regulations relating to the respective programs are in the Ohio Administrative Code in 1501 and 149.

Related Websites:

Cleveland Underwater Explorers
Great Lakes Historical Society and Peachman Lake Erie Shipwreck Research Center
Ohio and Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor Travel Itinerary
Ohio Maritime Archaeological Survey Team