Conneaut Marsh old growth   Dale Luthringer
  Dec 05, 2006 20:27 PST 

This is an update to an earlier post from 2/2006 concerning a small old
growth area on the edge of Conneaut Marsh, known locally as the Great
Geneva Marsh, approximately 7 miles from the I-79 Meadville exit:
CM_west_view_mergeA.jpg (129758 bytes)
Conneaut Marsh west view
CM_west_view_mergeB1.jpg (121849 bytes)
 Conneaut Marsh west view 2

I have visited the area several times now over the last year and briefly
reported on it at the Fall ENTS Rendezvous in Holyoke. It is a very
interesting site to me. Yes, it is small, only 3.6acres, but contains
what I believe are some very old trees. The following 7 species should
easily surpass 150 years in age:

Black oak
Pin oak (not in above old growth area, but in nearby stand along marsh
N. red oak
Swamp white oak
White oak
Am. Beech
Black gum

CM_Am_beech1.jpg (195759 bytes)
 American Beech
CM_black_gum1.jpg (186225 bytes)
 Black Gum
CM_black_oak1.jpg (167931 bytes)
 Black oak
CM_N_red_oak_snag1.jpg (178172 bytes)
 Red Oak snag

Some species like the white, black, and N. red oak should easily make
200 years, with white oak possibly surpassing the 300 year mark. The
site is unique in that it is adjacent to an old canal towpath that ran
along the edge of this long marsh. Why this small section was left
spared is still currently a mystery to me. A nearby resident who
attended one of my interpretive hikes at Cook Forest told me of a stand
on the northwestern edge of the swamp that reminded him of my
description of this area. Who knows what else is hiding in various
state and private holdings in the area. I’ve only surveyed about 1 mile
of the northern side of the marsh on State Game Lands property.

CM_east_view1.jpg (57549 bytes)
 Conneaut Marsh east view

The Conneaut Marsh averages close to ˝ mile wide, being just over 1 mile
across at its widest point, and 12.3mile long. It is home to some very
interesting and rare critters like the Eastern massassagua rattlesnake,
Am. Bittern, and clapper rail.

The history of the swamp goes well back before the French & Indian War
era of the 1750’s. Natives had old trails around it, or cut through it
at its northern end where town of Conneaut Lake now stands.   North of
Conneaut Lake, another swamp forms which is named the Pymatuning Marsh.

CM_oak_escarpment2a.jpg (175478 bytes)
 Oak escarpment
CM_OG_window3a.jpg (191074 bytes)
 Conneaut Marsh Window

For me, it was the first time I was able to measure pin oak in its
natural setting.   A select few pin oak on the edges of the marsh
appeared very old with low drooping twisted limbs that resembled
barbwire. They were also difficult to reach. Most being on hummocks
located on the edge of standing water in the marsh. The hummocks
weren’t too far from dry land, say about 100 yards, but traveling those
100 yards was quite the challenge with having to pass through the high
tangled mess of shrubs, reeds, mud holes that’ll easily suck you in up
to your thighs, and swarms of mosquitos. Carl & Tony… this place would
definitely rate a high MI (Mutiny Index) from our spouses and
girlfriends. This trip is not for the faint of heart…

I’ve also had the opportunity to fish part of the area. The color of
the water in the entire marsh is a very dark tea color. It’s probably
the best place to fish for bowfin in the entire state. Bowfin are a
very odd looking fish. The dorsal fin runs about 2/3 the length of its
entire back, just about touching the tail fin. The tail fin is rounded
and often has a dark spot near its top. The head is somewhat flattened
and to me has a type of bullhead/eel/musky appearance. Its mouth is
full of teeth, and is known to charge waders/swimmers when they get too
close to their beds to the breeding season. They can become quite
large, 3-5ft I’ve read in some sources.

They are a blast to catch, often breaking the surface of the water many
times. The fight is similar to that of a lively smallmouth bass, but
one that is grotesquely overweight. They are a protected species in the
state. It’s a pity that many fisherman throw them on the bank instead
of throwing them back in the water… the meat is said to have a very poor
taste. They are a predator, and often times in a heavily fished area,
they are sometimes the only fish you catch. Either fisherman clear out
the desirables, or the bowfin clears out most of the other fish. Just
watch when you go to take out the hook… just when you think they’ve
given it their last burst of energy, beware… I caught one with a double
treble hook Rebel crayfish lure. Let’s just say when the fish shook
violently in my hand, one of the treble hooks let go of the fish and
attached to me… which put me in a very precarious situation as that now
the violently wiggling fish and I were BOTH attached to the same lure.
My stepson thought the whole thing was quite amusing as he watched me
remove the hook that attached me to the fish using his coveted forceps,
darned if I’m not going to have to get myself one of those things. I’ve
been ‘noodlin’ long enough!

CM_scarlet_oak_champ_8_2x108_7a.jpg (153095 bytes)
 Scarlet Oak Champ 8.2 cbh x 108.7

Here’s an up to date list of all the trees I’ve measured encompassing
both the 3.6acre old growth area, and other sites out of the old growth
area along the towpath and adjacent 1 mile length of surveyed marsh.
The cottonwood from an earlier post actually turned out to be a black
gum! The bark was so deeply furrowed during the January 2006 trip to
the area that I mistook it for cottonwood. It wasn’t until my October
2006 trip that I was able to observe the tree with its leaves. The tree
had the appearance of great age and was right on the edge of standing

Species                        CBH     Height   Comments

Am. Beech                    9.9        78.1+
Bitternut hickory            3.6        68.1
Black gum                     8.5 (2x) 69.2
Black oak                      13         N/A
Black oak                      10.1      78.1+
Black oak                      5.4        82.3+
Black oak                      13.9      84.1+
Black walnut                  ~10       N/A       based covered with
multiflora rose, sorry Bob, didn’t bring my flack suit that day
Black walnut                  3.6        78.1+
Black walnut                  6.7        84.1+
Cucumbertree                2.7        66.6
E. hophornbeam            2.6        46
Green ash                     ~4.9      75.1+
Green ash                     5.8        78.1+
N. red oak                     12.5      snag
N. red oak                     13.5      snag
N. red oak                     11.7      84.1+
N. red oak                     11.4      87.1+
N. red oak                     11.6      90.1+
N. red oak                     11         93.1+
N. red oak                     12.2      93.1+
N. red oak                     9.6        100.6
Pin oak                         5.4        69.1+
Pin oak                         7.8        72.1+
Pin oak                         3.7        75.8
Pin oak                         5.5        78.1
Pin oak                         5.6        84
Pin oak                         5.8        91.7+
Pin oak                         8.5        97.1
Red maple                     3.2        84.1+
Scarlet oak                    N/A (2x) 93.1+
Scarlet oak                    8.2        108.7
Shagbark hickory           3.6        80.2
Shagbark hickory           3.3        81.9
Shagbark hickory           7.8        86.2
Shagbark hickory           3.8        87.1+
Shagbark hickory           8.3        89.7
Silver maple                   3.6        72.1+
Swamp white oak           3.1        71.8+
Swamp white oak           7.7        72.3
Swamp white oak           8.2        87.1+
White oak                     10.8      N/A
White oak                     11.4      69.1+
White oak                     ~11.6    78.1+
White oak                     11         87.1+
White oak                     9.2        90.1+

CM_bee_tree1.jpg (193058 bytes)
 Bee Tree

A number of large ancient oaks in this area, at least 1 white oak and 4
N. red oaks, had paper wasp nests either hanging from them, or had nests
within them. I got to the point where I had to approach all large and
old trees with caution. Sometimes I was warned of hives by the droan of
bees, sometimes by the smell of sweet honey in the air. Before I
learned to be cautious, I almost walked straight into a hanging wasp
nest as I snaked the D-tape around the tree. God was definitely looking
out for me that day.

Most trees were not exceptional in height, but were remarkable to me in
girth and age in regards to bark, crown, and butt swell appearance. The
Conneaut Marsh Rucker Index follows:

Species                        CBH     Height   RI

Scarlet oak                    8.2        108.7    90.37
N. red oak                     9.6        100.6
Pin oak                         8.5        97.1
White oak                     9.2        90.1+
Shagbark hickory           8.3        89.7
Swamp white oak           8.2        87.1+
Black oak                      13.9      84.1+
Black walnut                  6.7        84.1+
Red maple                     3.2        84.1+
Am. Beech                    9.9        78.1+
Green ash                     5.8        78.1+

All in all, the small old growth area is a very interesting site to
explore and easy to find. If you can ID old growth from crowns as you
drive, you should be able to see this site as I did right from the
highway, especially when the leaves are off the trees.


CM_I79_north_view1.jpg (74529 bytes)
 I-79 North View
CM_I79_south_view1.jpg (68469 bytes)
 I-79 south view

From I-79 exit 35 interchange to RT285W
RT285W to RT19N (as you drive RT19 across the marsh, the I-79 bridge is
parallel to your right (east))
After you cross the marsh, old growth and parking area are immediately
to the left (west side of road), if you went up the hill, you went too


Re: Conneaut Marsh old growth   Jess Riddle
  Dec 21, 2006 07:48 PST 


Excellent report. The descriptions and background information really
help to flesh out what I remember from your presentation at the Forest
Summit. The diversity of oaks species seems fairly impressive for the
latitude and small area. The heights don't blow me away either, but
the girths are nice. The Rucker Girth Index is 10.0' using the
largest walnut, but ignoring the one uncertain white oak
circumference. Hopefully using the Rucker Girth Index more will help
to highlight other sites like Conneaut Marsh that lack a towering
canopy, yet still have significantly large trees.