Middle Island: home of forest and wetlands

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A steel bridge links the West Virginia mainland to Middle Island, occupied by settlers in the late 18th century and farmed almost continuously until the island became part of the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge in 1995.
Today, the island is a mix of clearings, wetlands, sloughs, restored tracts of forest, and a small fringe of mature forest.
Its 235 acres include loamy former cropland that was once some of the most productive corn and soybean fields in West Virginia.
Several thousand sycamore, green ash, swamp white oaks, hickory and other trees native to the island have been planted since the refuge acquired the land.
The Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge extends nearly 400 miles from Kentucky to Pennsylvania and is made up of 22 islands. Only Middle Island is accessible by bridge, from the town of St. Marys.
A road and a hiking trail gives access to the preserve.
Visitors can take a self-guided driving tour of the island along a 1.5-mile dirt road with stops for five roadside interpretive signs.
A 1.5-mile hiking trail follows the other edge of the island, and includes a stop at a wildlife viewing blind on a bluff overlooking a wetland slough that is often teeming with waterfowl.
The covered viewing blind also can be reached via a 1,000-foot accessible trail leading from a parking area off the island's access road.
For more information about the Ohio islands, visit refuges.fws.gov.