Lake Erie Islands

NE view from Perry's Victory
Northeast view from Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial on South Bass island, Ohio.

NPS Photo

Oliver Hazard Perry used Put-in-Bay Harbor as a base for his fleet and from there that he sailed to fight his historic battle. Directly across the bay is Gibraltar Island. One of the early owners of Gibraltar was a Civil War financier named Jay Cooke. Cooke later sold Gibraltar to Franz Theodore Stone, and it was eventually donated to the Ohio State University. The three story building on the western edge of Gibraltar is Stone Laboratory, used primarily for research by university graduate students.

Rattlesnake Island, consisting of 85 acres, is located 2 miles northwest of Put-in-Bay, past Gibraltar Island. Some claim the island was once covered with rattlesnakes, while others say the name is derived from the shape, with the two tiny islands off its western tip representing the rattles. Today Rattlesnake is a privately owned resort.

Looking in a westerly direction, 15 miles distant, is West Sister Island. Currently a National Wildlife Refuge and a haven for many species of shore birds, it was near West Sister that the Battle of Lake Erie came to an end, and American control of Michigan, northern Ohio, and the Old Northwest was assured.

To the left, just off the western tip of South Bass, is Green Island. Lighthouses on Green Island have guided vessels through the islands for decades. It is also the scene of some of the best walleye fishing on the Great Lakes. Green Island is owned by the State of Ohio. Starve is a tiny two acre island off the southern shore of South Bass Island.

Also visible in a southerly direction is Catawba Point and Marblehead Peninsula. Inside Sandusky Bay, off the south shore of Marblehead, is Johnson's Island. In October, 1861, Johnson's Island was designated as a Confederate prisoner of war camp and by 1863, when in full operation. As many as 2,600 Confederate officers and men were imprisoned there. Just off the northern tip of Catawba, near Miller's boat dock, is Mouse Island, named for its small size. At one time belonging to the Rutherford B. Hayes family, Mouse Island is now owned by a private corporation.
Southwest view from observation deck of Memorial looking towards the Village of Put-in-Bay.
SW view of South Bass Island from the observation deck at Perry's Victory & IPM.

NPS Photo

Having nearly 3,000 acres, Kelleys Island to the southeast is the largest of the American islands, being twice the size of South Bass. The most famous glacial grooves in the United States are found at Glacial Grooves State Park. Kelleys is also the site of Inscription Rock, 32 feet long and 21 feet wide. Inscription Rock is a pictographic history of the Erie Indian tribe. The Erie's, who gave their name to the lake, were wiped out on Kelleys Island in the 18th century by the mighty Iroquois nation.

Middle Island to the east is the nearest Canadian island, and is also the southernmost land mass in Canada. Another Canadian neighbor is Pelee Island, just under 10 miles to the northeast. At 36 square miles Pelee is by far the largest island in the lake, dwarfing Put-in-Bay's 2 square miles. Pelee is primarily farming land, but is also a famous fishing resort having been patronized by Presidents Cleveland, Harding and Taft.

The residential area to the east of the Monument is called East Point and just across the channel to the northeast is Ballast Island. Legend has it that Perry stopped here upon the arrival of his fleet and collected rocks along the shoreline for use as ballast on his vessels. Ballast Island is also privately owned.

To the north lie the other Bass islands, Middle and North Bass. During the latter part of the nineteenth century the Bass Islands were known as the wine islands due to the quantity of grapes and the fine wines produced here.

Other islands visible to the North on clear days include: Hen and Chicken Islands, and also the East Sister and Middle Sister, all in Canadian waters. The Middle Sister was used by Perry as a stopover when transporting General William Henry Harrison's army prior to the capture of Fort Malden and the Battle of the Thames on the Canadian mainland.

We have just made a complete circle, giving you a capsule history and a birds-eye view of the Lake Erie islands. Many changes, some good and some bad, have taken place since the days the Indians first visited and the days Oliver Hazard Perry's fleet navigated these waters.

For additional information on South Bass Island here is a link to the Chamber of Commerce website>>

Last updated: March 10, 2017

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Put-in-Bay, OH 43456


419 285-2184

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