UDH Hdr-Mirror Lake 1888


The University District as it might have looked 17,000 years ago. Less the mountains of course. Photo of Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, Alaska from USGS Photo Library.

In Central Ohio, most of the erratics are small, just pebbles and cobbles. Some are bigger. Some are boulders. Some are huge. The enormous Sunbury Erratic near Delaware is 18 feet long by 22 feet wide by 8 feet tall and is estimated to weigh 200 tons. An unknown additional amount of it is hidden underground. Another large erratic occurs at the south end of Griggs Reservoir where a huge rounded gneiss boulder protrudes from the soil. The exposed potion is 10 feet long by 13 feet wide and 4 feet tall. How much more lies below is unknown. Yet another big erratic sits at the mouth of a ravine in Wyman Woods Park in Grandview.

In the University District, a sizeable erratic was found near Waldeck and E. 16th Ave. back in 1905. The 6 foot by 8 foot by 5 foot granite erratic weighed 16 tons. Ohio State’s Edward Orton Jr. had it moved to a place of honor in front of Orton Hall (named for his father) on the Ohio State campus. It still stands there today.

Supposedly the hauler complained to Orton and demanded more money for hauling the stone, saying it weighed more than expected. Orton refused to pay more and offered him the option of taking it back where he found it. The hauler relented.

Other erratics on the Ohio State University campus include the Class of 1892/WWI Memorial in front of Bricker Hall, hauled to campus from the Iuka Ravine, and the Bucket and Dipper Society stone in the Mirror Lake hollow, unearthed during construction of the Main Library in 1913.

The erratics in Ohio were scraped off of the Canadian Shield, a large area of extremely ancient igneous and metamorphic rock in northern Quebec and Ontario.

In 1971, Ohio State geologists dated the Orton Hall stone by examining concentrations of rubidium and strontium. They found that the rock crystallized 998 million years ago—before man, before mammoths, before the dinosaurs, before trilobites, before just about everything except algae. These dates are consistent with rocks in the Canadian Shield and make our local erratics the oldest things in the neighborhood--even if they're relatively recent arrivals in Ohio.

Orton Boulder

Large glacial erratic in front of Orton Hall on The Ohio State University campus. Originally from area of Waldeck and E. 16th Ave.


The last ice age left other marks on the local topography.

One day, back in 1906, William Clifford Morse, an undergraduate geology student at Ohio State University, was out walking through the woods and fields east of campus, admiring some of the new houses rising there. As he walked near the old Neil Mansion, he came upon a city crew digging a trench on E. 16th Ave.
When Morse saw the soil cross section the workers had revealed, he knew at once what he was seeing. The landform and profile he was looking at were those of feature known as an esker.

Esker cross-section.

Morse's photo of the Columbus Esker cut through by E. 16th Ave. near Indianola. View looking south. From Ohio Naturalist, February 1907.