Middle Island is one of 22 islands within the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge. These islands stretch along 362 miles of the Ohio River from Pennsylvania to Kentucky. Although the islands are on the Ohio River, 2 are actually in Pennsylvania, 18 are in West Virginia, and 2 are in Kentucky. Because the Middle Island in St. Marys, WV, has a bridge, it is the most accessible and most popular of all the islands. In addition to hiking, the island also has a wildlife blind so you can see deer, fox and various species of birds without interfering with the animals.
What Makes It Great
Because Middle Island has a bridge, it’s really easy to access. All other islands in the refuge require a boat to get to, so Middle Island is the most popular of the 22 islands. Immediately after crossing the main bridge onto the island, you are on a flat gravel road. This road is 1.5 miles and well-maintained, making it the perfect spot for walkers who prefer to stroll along a lesser (automobile) traveled road. On any given afternoon, you will likely come across several other walkers/runners along this trail, but few cars. Midway along the 1.5-mile gravel road, there is even a port-a-potty. There is no visitor center on the island, but there is an information board with maps for visitors.
Not only will you see other humans along the road and trail, you will likely spot some wildlife, too, like deer, rabbits, groundhogs, and foxes. You have a greater chance of seeing wildlife along the grassy 3.5-mile hiking trail that starts at the end of the gravel road. The hiking trail is easy, but it’s always a good idea to keep a map handy.
Who is Going to Love It
Middle Island is perfect for families with young children. The informative signs, coupled with the close proximity of wildlife, make it not only educational, but also a true adventure for a young hiker.
In addition to families, birdwatchers should add this island to their bucket list. At various times throughout the year, birdwatchers can see wood ducks, geese, and great horned owls. Close to Middle Island, there is an active great blue heron rookery, and between March and November, you can regularly spot this majestic bird. During the colder months, people have even spotted eagles and ospreys.
Some of the best fishing in the Ohio River is right around the refuge islands, and Middle Island has bank fishing access. Check out the West Virginia fishing regulations for more information.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
When traveling to Middle Island, do not plug "Middle Island" into your GPS. That will not lead you to the island's access bridge. Follow these directions instead: In St. Marys, turn off West Virginia State Route 2 onto George Street and head 0.1 mile to the end of street where you will find the bridge.
The bridge is fine to drive on. It has a steep incline and what seems to be a dead end that is actually a 90-degree turn to the right. At the bottom of the bridge is the gravel road. There is parking here, and a visitor's board with information about the refuge. Along the gravel road there are a number of wide spots where you can easily park.