Ohio used to be VERY Wet. Long before most of us were born, Ohio was an extremely wet state. Vast expanses of wet prairies, marshes and swamps covered as much as 20% of the state and wetlands were prominent landscape features in every quadrant of Ohio. Beginning in the mid-1800’s, farmers labored to create rich agricultural fields by lowering the water table in wetlands and getting newly fallen water off the land fast. This feat was accomplished by straightening and deepening creeks and streams, digging out deep drainage ditches, and burying thousands of miles of clay tile, turning rich wetland soils into croplands. We were ambitiously thorough.
Ohio’s Vanished Wetlands. Today Ohio has a higher percentage of tiled farm fields than any other state in the nation. An astonishing 90% of Ohio’s wetlands have completely disappeared, and a much higher percentage of wetlands larger than 50 acres have been lost as well. The two states in the nation that have lost the greatest percentage of their wetlands are California, and perhaps surprising to most readers, Ohio. Even though wetlands are now one of Ohio’s most endangered ecosystems, there are no laws protecting even the ones that remain, so long as they are being drained for agricultural purposes. The only conservation practice that preserves wetlands in Ohio is to buy them and protect them under natural area covenants.