West Sister Island

Shady hackberry trees, WWII history and great blue herons

Wooded area of West Sister Island
A lighthouse was established on West Sister Island in 1848
West Sister Island, Ohio's only wilderness area
West Sister Island was designated to protect the largest wading bird nesting colony in the Great Lakes

Location: Ohio
Size: 77 acres
Year Designated: 1975
Fast Fact: Ohio’s only wilderness area; humans are not allowed to set foot on the island and can only observe it from boats around the perimeter.

Throughout the 20th century, those who sailed on Lake Erie’s vast waters could count on the guiding light of a lighthouse located on the west side of West Sister Island. The lighthouse became automated in 1937, but the island’s importance was only just beginning. The same year, the island became a designated wildlife refuge—it’s an important habitat for all sorts of animals, but especially the blue heron, North America’s largest heron, which makes its home on West Sister Island.

In WWII, the island was used for artillery practice (luckily, overall, the island’s wildlife populations did not significantly decline because of this). Today, humans aren’t allowed to set foot on the island to protect the habitat, but interested visitors can observe the island and heron population by boat.