There is an island in the Black River, and you can boat or kayak by it today. There is a unique history behind this special spot, right here in the midst of an industrial river, on its way to being restored.
Kayaking to Bungart Island.
The Bungart Family owned the Island in the Black River, and it was used for farming operations for many years. Animals would be ferried over for grazing on the Island, and in the late 1800s, several black walnut trees were cut from the Island, floated down the River, and cut into lumber for use by the Bungart family [read more in Col. Vietzen’s “Yesterday’s Ohioans” publication]. Starting in the mid-1800s, there were several water-powered sawmills (later converted to steam sawmills) along the banks of the Canesadooharie (the Native American Indian name for the Black River). The Island, located just downstream from the confluence of the French Creek at the Black River, today is maintained by a local park district.
Peter Bungart, a friend of Col. Vietzen’s, with the giant fish fossil he assembled, Dunkleosteus terrell.
Peter Bungart, in the late 1800s was either born in a small log house on the Island or on the mainland, grew up to be a well-known paleontologist at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and today is known for assembling the giant fish fossil found in the Cleveland Shale formations along the shale outcroppings along Lake Erie. The giant, armored fish fossil is an extinct species of shark, known as Dunkleosteus terrelli. It had a bony exoskeleton and was larger than our present-day sharks. It lived here several hundred millions years ago, when this area was covered in a shallow, warm ocean, when Ohio was basically located where the Caribbean is located today.
Heron Rookery at the ghost town of Globeville along the Black River.
For several years we had planned to examine Bungart Island, formally documenting this historic landform. As a kayaker, Col. Nahorn had floated around it on different occasions. On May 11, 2015, we had the rare opportunity to visit Bungart Island. Vito Cammarata (of West River Paddle Sports, Vermilion River) and Robb Koscho (of LoCo ‘Yaks, Black River), both kayak consultants at the New Indian Ridge Museum, accompanied Col. Nahorn, and the group put in at Grumpy’s Black River Wharf in Lorain in the morning, after having a donut or two. The group headed out and traveled past the heron rookery, now located at the ghost town of Globeville.
Detail of an 1857 Township map showing the ghost town of Globeville, Bungart Island, and the French Creek’s confluence at the Black River.
The name of “Globeville” came from the Globe, a two-masted schooner about 84 feet long by 23 feet wide, rated at 157 gross tons, named and constructed there by an early settler, Augustus Jones, who built several of these types boats along the River. The Globe capsized in an 1839 squall bound for Detroit from buffalo, carrying pig iron. The crew was saved, but the Globe could not be saved and sank to the bottom of the Lake about six miles off of Cleveland. Globeville Road followed the route of the bends in the River along the north side of what partially became the Johnson Steel Mill. Note present-day Globe Avenue in South Lorain, which also is named for the old road. (The Village Pioneer – Volume 10 No. 1, March 2015, p. 4-5). “The largest steam sawmill in Sheffield, was that known as the Globeville mills, on Black River. This was undoubtedly the largest mill in Lorain County. Shipping plank was the principal lumber sawed.” History of Lorain County, Williams (1879). There was also a large mill located opposite Bungart Island, known as the Birmingham Mill. The mills likely started off as water-powered, but over the years, as demand grew and water power became less reliable, these mills were retrofitted with steam engines.
Black walnut trees are still evident along the Island’s edge and can be seen across the Island’s landscape.
The group also passed the restoration (environmentally speaking) areas and made note of these spaces. Soon enough the three kayakers had made it to the edge of Bungart Island.
Major beaver evidence was noted both on the mainland of the River and along the Island.
The group stopped on the downstream edge. Upon viewing Bungart Island, we noted black walnut (Juglans nigra) trees, generally young-mature, are sprinkled across the landscape. Some nice specimens of poplar trees are also evidenced, along with several poplar seedlings. There is an infestation of non-native, invasive garlic mustard, especially near the middle of the Island. Boxelder (Acer negundo) trees (seedlings to mature specimens in size) are quite numerous, and black willow (Salix nigra) are mixed in, in places. A few ash (Fraxinus spp.) were noted. Grape vines and some Virginia Creeper was also noted. May apples were a dominant wildflower in certain sections – some were noted to be of large size. Beaver evidence was noted quite readily both on the mainland stream bank and Island banks, along with some evidence of deer as well. Some phragmites were noted along the edges of the Island. One morel mushroom was noted as well.
Beaver evidence was noted along the Island’s edge.
A large hole was noted on the southern portion of the edge of the Island, which, upon further required investigation, might be the old foundation from a former Bungart log house. This was impossible to confirm at this time. While checking out the area, red-tailed hawks hunting and a bald eagle nearby were noted. A general tour of the perimeter of the Island was taken by kayak.
Along the edge of Bungart Island.
Kayaking around Bungart Island.
The weather turned out perfectly, and it was a most pleasant morning.