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In your backyard: Buckley Island

A magnet for outdoor recreation, history

May 30, 2012
By Kevin Pierson - The Marietta Times ( , The Marietta Times

Situated in the Ohio River between Marietta and Williamstown, Buckley Island is a common gathering place for hundreds of boaters, swimmers and anglers each summer.

Buckley Island, one of the largest of the 21 islands owned by the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge, offers more than 235 acres, including underwater acreage, for recreation and wildlife preservation.

The island was purchased from the Nature Conservancy for $396,267.84 in 1998 for administration by the Secretary of the Interior through the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Article Photos

Photo submitted
The head of Buckley Island is a popular spot for boaters to stop for a picnic or a swim.

"We value (islands) because it helps maintain some of the historical landscape that was here," said Sara Siekierski, assistant refuge manager for the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge.

Buckley Island is a popular spot to stop, with the north side of the island offering smooth beaches frequented by swimmers and boaters.

"It's a neat feeling to be surrounded by the river," said Hallie Taylor, 34, of Marietta, who frequently visits the island.

Fact Box

Buckley Island

Located in the Ohio River between Williamstown and Marietta.

The island was purchased from the Nature Conservancy for $396,267.84 in 1998 for administration by the Secretary of the Interior through the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The island contains 160 land acres and 75.7 underwater acres.

Over the years, Buckley Island has gone by six names including Duvall, Meigs, Muskingum, Kerr's, Marietta and now Buckley.

Was referenced by President George Washington in 1770.

Source: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge; Louise Zimmer, Marietta historian.

If you go

What: Brown Baggin' Thru History, with Louise Zimmer discussing Buckley Island.

When: Noon to 1 p.m. Friday.

Where: Campus Martius Museum, 601 Second St., Marietta.

Cost: Free admission to program, discounted admission to Campus Martius Museum.

For information: 373-3750.

Taylor first went to Buckley Island when she was in high school, and each summer she finds herself once again resting on its banks. A couple years back, Taylor said she even helped the Marietta Family YMCA with its adventure camp, which had participants row over to the island.

Marietta Adventure Company owner Ryan Smith offers kayaks to take over to the island, and said he himself enjoys visits to Buckley, especially in the evening.

"The sunsets are fantastic over there," Smith said.

Along with boaters, swimmers and anglers, the wildlife refuge also permits archery hunting on Buckley Island for deer. To hunt deer on the island, hunters must possess a West Virginia hunting license and accept guidelines from the wildlife refuge to receive a permit.

Squirrels, rabbits and waterfowl can also be hunted on the island with the proper license and permits.

"It truly is a wildlife refuge," Smith said. "I've seen fox, deer, just an abundance of birds. It definitely is teeming with life and is virtually undisturbed."

Fishing is another popular draw for the island, particularly on the south side of Buckley.

Beginning in 2006, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, with the assistance of the late U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., began work on a series of rock features on the banks of the island.

Those rock features, which came at a cost of roughly $135 per lineal foot, are designed to reduce erosion of the island while also boosting the habitat for fish and mussels, Siekierski said.

The features were completed this year, and Buckley Island is the first island in the wildlife refuge to have the rock features finished, Siekierski said.

Along with the outdoors activities, Buckley Island is also rich in history.

President George Washington first made reference to the island in 1770, though it didn't have a name at the time. Working as a surveyor at the time, Washington estimated in his journal that the island was about two miles in length.

Since then, the island has had many titles.

"One of the many interesting things about the island is it has gone down through history with six different names," said local historian Louise Zimmer. "Behind each one of those names, there's a story."

Zimmer is presenting a discussion on Buckley Island at the Campus Martius Museum, 601 Second St., at noon Friday as part of Brown Baggin' Thru History.

The island saw everything from attacks by Native Americans in 1782, when a flatboat wrecked at the head of the island, to an amusement park in 1897.

The amusement park, which was installed by the Buckeye and Eureka Pipeline Company, was destroyed by a flood in March 1907.

After the amusement park was decimated by the flood, Jerry Buckley bought the island for $12,000 in 1911. The island remained in the Buckley family until it was purchased by the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Zimmer said.

A barn and the old Buckley farmstead still reside on the 160 acres of land that the island is comprised of, though they are no longer safe to be entered. There is also 75.7 acres of water attached to the island, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

There is no overnight camping permitted on the island, as it is open from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset.

"There are a lot of places to stop for a picnic break," Smith said.



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