"Like Red Marbles"

Cranberry Bog and all the ways it sparks the imagination


10/3/20233 min read

What it is …

… it’s an antique Cranberry Picker used at Ohio’s only floating, cranberry-producing sponge island, and you can see it at the Buckeye Lake Museum.

I asked a few days ago on social media if anyone knew what this item was used for, historically. It’s a good time to spotlight Cranberry Bog on Buckeye Lake because it’s just about harvest season for cranberries!

The book I’ve written (as well as the second in the series) mentions Cranberry Bog because a proposed resort in 1946 threatens to eat away at the mossy little island just east of where the amusement park was located in the early- to mid-1900s.

You can read lengthy accounts of how the bog came to be and what makes it so unique. For the context of this post, here are some nifty highlights (and I’ll link to sites at the end if this doesn’t do it for you):

  • What local folks often just call “the bog” is officially the Cranberry Bog Nature Preserve, as of the early 1970s. It’s also referred to as Cranberry Marsh and is Ohio’s only bog island.

  • It’s gradually shrinking due to waves from passing boats, ice, lake alkalinity etc. When the floating island first formed in the early 1800s as a result of creating a canal reservoir from the Big Swamp, it was about 50 acres in size. Today it’s less than a dozen. In the early 90s, a large chunk of it broke off and floated away, making its new home on the south shore of the lake.

  • The bog grows more than cranberries. It’s also rich in poison sumac, which is why this isn’t a video post of me picking cranberries. When someone from the historical society suggested I wear a HAZMAT suit to approach it, my sense of adventure went out the window. ODNR will grant a permit for access if you’re braver than I am. The volunteers at the historical society who had maintained it for a couple of decades were unable to access the bog for upkeep over an extended period of time when the lake was lowered.

  • Everything growing on Cranberry Bog is growing in sphagnum moss, not in dirt. I did get to explore it back when I was working as a reporter at The Beacon, and if you step off the boardwalk onto the moss, jumping on it feels like jumping on a waterbed or a sponge (which makes sense, because it’s a giant sponge).

In the late Donna Braig’s 1997 book, My Buckeye Lake Story, she recalls open access to the bog and “picking up the cranberries that looked like red marbles thrown across a green carpet.” Local residents gathered them for Thanksgiving dinner.

Pressed Together isn’t only a cliché historical novel about a small town newspaper publisher taking on some big development to save a bit of nature. But Cranberry Bog is an important, "real life" side conflict for a couple of the characters. Emily, the main character in Book One, is distracted by threats she thinks might be in response to her editorials about protecting the bog. But those threats gradually get scarier as they start coming from a far more sinister source and for a more sinister reason.

Check out the cranberry picker and other antiques from the lake at Buckeye Lake’s Historical Museum. Here are sites to visit if you want photos of and more in-depth information on the bog:


  • Deb Platt’s TrekOhio blog post with photos will make you feel like you visited: