We're standing on more than a mile of shale and sandstone. Laid down more than 300 million years ago by an ancient sea, these layers are the real foundation of the Rock 'n' Roll Capital of the World. Since then, Northeast Ohio has weathered the effects of shallow, mile-wide rivers, deep glacial cuts and several former Lake Eries. Joe Hannibal, curator of invertebrate paleontology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, explains some of the region's geological characteristics.
The Other Lake Eries: Cleveland was once at the bottom of a lake known as Lake Wittlesey. Created by the ice age's glacial push and subsequent pull, the configurations of our Great Lake over the millennia have created land formations we hardly notice, says Hannibal. In Lorain County, for example, ancient offshore sandbars or beaches run along Middle Ridge Road, Center Ridge Road and North Ridge Road. "The ridges mark the former shorelines of the lakes that preceded Lake Erie," he says. "Those things occur along the margin of the lake."
The Heights: Perched atop the Allegheny Plateau, the Heights (Cleveland, Garfield and the rest) sit at up to 200 feet above the elevation of downtown Cleveland on the Great Lakes Plain. The intersection of those two landforms creates a very steep slope, known as an escarpment, at Cedar Hill in Cleveland Heights. The best place to see the elevation change, according to Hannibal, is from the Garfield Monument in Lake View Cemetery.
Cold Filtered: When the glacier receded, it left behind holes. Some filled with peat from decomposed vegetation to create wetlands, such as Kent Bog or Summit Lake. Others filled with groundwater filtered through glacial sediment to create more than 100 smaller, clean-water lakes, including Aurora's Geauga Lake and Twin Lakes in Kent.