Ohio’s Forbidden Island

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PHOTO: Historic West Sister Island Lighthouse.  A lighthouse was established on the westernmost point of West Sister Island in 1848 to mark the west end of the South Passage through Lake Erie’s Bass Islands.
PHOTO: Historic West Sister Island Lighthouse. A lighthouse was established on the westernmost point of West Sister Island in 1848 to mark the west end of the South Passage through Lake Erie’s Bass Islands.

When I think of Ohio, my mind is instantly filled with images of Buckeye football, blustery cold winters, theme parks and presidential elections. Actually, a lot of thoughts fill my mind when I think of the mighty state of Ohio – but never once has the mental image of secluded and distant islands ever entered my mind when I hear mention of the 17th state.

All of this has changed, however, when I learned of West Sister Island, “Ohio’s Forbidden Island”.

Located in western Lake Erie, nearly ten miles from the Ohio shoreline and roughly eight miles from Canadian waters, the 77-acre island is one of the most secluded isles in all of the Great Lakes.

Rumored to be the final resting place of missing Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa, it was widely speculated that after his abduction in Detroit, he was brought by boat to the island and buried. This theory lends itself to some credibility as the island’s jungle-like environment would have made discovery of his remains difficult.

But if you’re interested in escaping to this uninhabited island to check it out for yourself, you had better think twice! The land is strictly off limits to your kind. According to the Smithsonian, “humans are not allowed to set foot on the island and can only observe it from boats around the perimeter.”

Serving as Ohio’s only designated Wilderness Area, the land is jointly owned by the United States Coast Guard and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Most of the island’s canopy is covered with tall hackberry trees, while polygonatum and a great variety of ferns, wildflowers, mushrooms, and other plant life can also be found.

As incredible as a secluded and uninhabited island may be, the chances are that even if you had the opportunity to visit it, you wouldn’t want to. The forbidden island is also referred to as “Vomit Island” due to the large number of birds vomiting and defecating from high in the trees.

If this isn’t bad enough, poison ivy covers nearly all of the ground.

Still the island does hold some level of mystique to it. Used during the Second World War by the United States Army for artillery practice, West Sister Island possibly holds more secrets than any other Ohio community!

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