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Published: Sunday, 6/17/2012

Ohio can't deep-6 lakeless state label


Ahh, the Internet. That infinite font of useful information and useless falderal, blended with an equal dose of just plain bunk. Well, the chaff keeps rising to the top, if we can mix our idioms for a minute.

A persistent piece of Internet legend claiming that Ohio has no natural lakes -- zero, none, zippo, nada -- just refuses to die. This fable is ready to assume its place in the web hall of lame fame alongside that rock solid offer to send Bill Gates the email addresses of 50 friends, and he'll mail you a check for $500.

Apparently, this piece of lore got its start when the answer in a trivia game listed the claim as "true" -- Ohio has no natural lakes, only reservoirs and man-made lakes. It kept multiplying and striking again from that point, like the slain head of the Hydra in Greek mythology.

A site called "Fingertips: Fun facts about the world around us" states emphatically that "There are no natural lakes in the state of Ohio. Every one of them is man made." Wikianswers.com makes the same erroneous claim.

The fallacy refused to die, prompting the state to issue a formal report detailing the 100-plus natural lakes in Ohio larger than five acres.

"I have periodically been bombarded with this," said Len Black of the water planning unit of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Black, who wrote the document that listed Ohio's naturally occurring lakes, the county where they will be found and their surface area, said the glaciers had a big hand in carving out the lakes long before the Internet and its many phony claims existed.

"We do have a number of natural lakes, and most of them were formed post-glacially," Black said. "Glaciers tend to obliterate land forms, and many of these lakes were formed as the remnants of the glaciers melted away."

Black explained that the glaciers came and were gone several times in the history of the area that is now Ohio, with the last visit coming within the last 10,000 years. That trip left plenty of evidence the ice masses had been here, including the lakes.

"Considering all of the lakes they have in states such as Minnesota, Ohio has relatively few in comparison, but there are certainly a number of natural lakes here, and they were here to begin with," Black said.

The natural lakes of five or more acres are found in just 21 of Ohio's 88 counties, and none is located in Lucas or Wood counties, according to the state report. Summit County has the most lakes on the natural list with 34.

There's Fudger Lake, Big Lake, Little Lake, Silver Lake, Black Lake, Crystal Lake, Ruby Lake, Spring Lake, and Mud Lake. There is also a body of water called Hitler Pond, and then there's Congress Lake in Stark County. Given its name, we can only assume this 200 acre body of water is impossible to navigate, because of an excess of red tape disguised as algae.

To add to the confusion, Ohio's largest natural lake, with the obvious exception of Lake Erie that we share with three states and the province of Ontario, is called Aurora Pond. This Portage County lake has 345 acres.

Ohio has two basic types of natural lakes -- the glacial and kettle-hole lakes initially filled with melting ice, and the oxbow lakes that took their shape when floods or erosion separated a bend in a river from the rest of the main waterway.

Black said in general, Ohio's natural lakes are relatively small and not great sources for water supply. Some have been modified by man, with outlets frequently installed.

The hope Black holds is that this Internet legend will eventually die, but he knows that is doubtful.

Of course, people still see Elvis at Walmart, and they still worry that if they don't forward a certain email to 10 people within 10 minutes, someone will die -- I read it on the Internet.

Contact Bladeoutdoors editor Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6068.

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