Kelleys Island, known as Lake Erie's Emerald Isle, is a fascinating destination for nature enthusiasts, and a relaxing retreat for vacationers. The island is renowned for its unique geological, ecological, and archaeological features, and popular for its recreational offerings and picturesque landscapes. The 677-acre state park is located on the northern shores of the island.
Evidence that ancient civilizations inhabited this area include several prehistoric mounds and earthworks on the island. Mysterious petroglyphs carved into a massive limestone boulder known as Inscription Rock are believed to date back to the 1600s or earlier. Prior to the 19th century, the Lake Erie Island region was inhabited by Ottawa and Huron (Wyandot) Indian tribes and visited occasionally by European explorers.
In the early 1800s, Kelleys Island was known as Cunningham's Island, after an early settler who lived and traded with the Indians. Cunningham left the island as tensions escalated in the War of 1812. After the war, a small timber operation was established on the sparsely populated island to provide fuel for Lake Erie's first steamer, "Walk on the Water". In 1833, businessman Datus Kelley, along with his brother Irad, began systematically purchasing parcels until they owned the entire island. The Kelley brothers developed infrastructure for shipping along with timber operations, limestone quarries, and orchards and vineyards. In 1840, with a population of 68, the community was renamed Kelleys Island. The diverse workforce of immigrants from a number of European countries gave the island a reputation as a melting pot where various cultures and customs were tolerated.
Wine production was introduced in 1842, and by the early 1900s, dozens of wineries were active on the island, with the largest, the Kelleys Island Wine Company, producing 500,000 gallons of wine per year. In 1891, various independent quarry operations producing high quality building stone as well as flux stone, were consolidated as the Kelleys Island Lime and Stone Company. The merger resulted in a continuous quarry pit stretching more than a mile across the island. Most of the quarry operations ceased by 1940. Commercial fisheries were active from the mid 1800s until the mid 1950s.
Kelleys Island State Park was cobbled together from properties acquired by the state of Ohio, including lakefront property and the beach purchased from the village of Kelleys Island, the north pond and adjacent land, and the historic East Quarry, formerly mined by the Kelleys Island Lime & Transport Co. The glacial grooves near the north shore were set aside as a State Memorial in 1932. Kelleys Island became a state park in 1956.
A lakeside campground offers 126 sites with electrical and non-electric campsites.
43 non-electric sites (11 are premium)
46 electric sites
35 sites with full hook-up (water and electric)
Pets are permitted on designated sites
Showers with flush toilets
Volleyball court playground
Picnic shelter available on a "first come, first served" basis
Youth group camp that can accommodate up to 50 people is available by reservation for organized groups
A double-lane launch ramp ocated on the island's north shore provide access to Lake Erie.
Kayak rentals are available at the sand beach from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Lake Erie is known as the "Walleye Capital of the World." A valid Ohio fishing license is required
A stone pier and shoreline fishing are offered on the island's north shore. A fish cleaning house located in the campground is free to register campers, and for a small fee, to non-guests.
Limited hunting, including bow hunting of deer, is permitted in designated areas of the park. Check with the park office for details. A valid Ohio hunting license is required.
The park features two picnic areas.
A picnic shelter is available to campers in the campgrounds on a "first come, first served" basis
A 100-foot public swimming beach on Lake Erie is located within easy walking distance from the campground.
Swimming is permitted in designated areas during daylight hours only.
Swim at your own risk.
Pets are not permitted on the swimming beach.
North Pond Nature Preserve - 1 mile - easy; paved boardwalk with observation deck
North Shore/Alvar Loop Trail - 2 miles - moderate hiking and intermediate mountain biking; hilly and rocky
East Quarry Trail - 5 miles - novice and intermediate mountain biking; moderately level with rocky terrain
Under the proper winter conditions, park guests can enjoy ice skating, cross-country skiing, and ice fishing.