Lake Erie ridges

Why were flatland inland campsites, east of Detroit, sandy like those near the ocean? That’s what I asked myself one year when camping near Ypsilanti, Michigan, during a weekend trip to visit the Henry Ford complex.
I learned a clue during our tour of Greenfield Village. In the Printing Office, we discussed the boring flatness of northwest Ohio, where slight rises in the land are called ridges, with a historical presenter.
I first encountered those ridges when I played music in 1991 at Pioneer Days, a craft festival at Mill Hollow Bacon Woods Park in Lorain County. The park lies in a horseshoe bend of the Vermilion River where a steep shale cliff interrupts North Ridge Road, forcing the road to make a slight detour, a surprising vertical intermission in the topographically drab landscape. North Ridge is one of many ridge roads that cross Lorain County, trending northeast to southwest parallel to the Lake Erie shoreline: Middle Ridge, Center Ridge, Chestnut Ridge, Sugar Ridge, and Butternut Ridge.
The ridges are remnants of beaches formed when Lake Erie lay at higher levels over the last few thousand years, sometimes as much as 230 feet higher than at present. A major stage of the Wisconsinan Glacier raised the lake to about 738 feet above sea level about 13,000 years ago; it was called Lake Whittlesey in honor of Charles Whittlesey, the geologist and topographer with the first Geological Survey of Ohio in 1837-38.
The ridges of the former shoreline are some of the most prominent and well preserved in Ohio and were used by Indians and then settlers to pass through the swamps of northwest Ohio. They were succeeded by highways, such as U.S. Route 30 west of Delphos and U.S. Route 20 west of Norwalk and east of Cleveland. The flat terrain is former lakebed.

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