A look at 4 of the most interesting state parks in Ohio
Monday, May 04, 2020
Editor’s note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, amenities at many Ohio parks may still be limited or closed entirely. Please check with your park of choosing before visiting.
Did you know Ohio has 75 state parks? Join me as I touch on a few of my favorites. I would love to visit every one of the 75 parks, but for now, I will share some interesting things about four specific parks.
I am starting with Dillon State Park because it is the closest to my home and is the one I have grown up near. It holds some wonderful childhood memories and features the first lake I learned to fish at. My grandmother, Evie Spires, took me to the back waters of Dillon and taught me how to catch bluegill at a young age. While the back waters still exist, it is hard to navigate, and the waters I fished are no longer accessible by shore.
Grandma instructed me to toss my line as close to a pole as I could because that is where the bluegill hung out. She was right! To this day, I use her strategy. The fishing is still good at Dillon; if you are ever there, try fishing at the marina or toss your line just below the spillway. The stripers and catfish are plentiful.
If fishing is not your thing, Dillon offers so much more. A horse camp and horse trails are available; for a link to the Dillon Bridle Trails, click here. The park also offers cabin rentals, frisbee golf, tennis and basketball courts, and several playgrounds.
Another interesting fact is that one of the nature trails has “knee trees,” better known as Cypress Knee. Dillon also has a walking trail around what we call “the mountain.” It is nicknamed so because you literally walk a paved and somewhat gravelly path all the way around a mountainous terrain. While the drinking fountain is long gone you can still see the remanence of where it sat.
As you begin down the path on the right sits a rock as old as time. It is used by the locals for picture taking. I have pictures of myself, and my children and their children on that rock as a child.
Next on my list is Salt Fork. While I listed it second, it is the largest state park in Ohio. It has 17,229 acres that offering everything from camping and bird watching to archery.
This park is one of six Ohio State Parks that offers a golf course. Built in 1972, the course is rated extremely challenging with an excellent layout. But I love Salt Fork for the same reason I love most of Ohio parks: the fishing. Many catfish tournaments have been held here over the last few years. The largest one I personally saw weighed approximately 45 pounds and was four feet in length.
So, if it is a shovelhead you are after — float your boat, drop your line and prepare for the fight of your life to reel in one of these monster cats. But monster cats are not the only thing lurking in or near this lake! It is rumored that Bigfoot has been sighted here, with more than 26 Salt Fork sightings reported to Don Keating.
Keating has been hosting the “Annual Bigfoot Conference” since 2005. The park hosts many events related to the beast, including monthly Bigfoot night hikes and adventure weekends. If you plan to camp here, I suggest sleeping with one eye open because you never know when the Ohio Grassman might come knocking on your RV door.
East Harbor is at the top of my list of state parks. I have been going here for most of my adult life. Every May, my family and I attend the white bass run in celebration of my daughter’s birthday and my anniversary.
If you go up in April, you will hit the walleye run, but my favorite is the white bass run. I do enjoy camping here in July when it is warmer so I can swim in the lake. The water is not deep, and you can walk out as far as the jetties unless a wave or two takes you down on the way out.
While there are no lifeguards on duty, it is safe. Just use common sense. An interesting fact about this park is that it contains the largest campground out of all 75 parks. It has 365 electric sites and 205 non-electric sites. While the skunks here are tame, that did not stop them from trapping my mother, Betty Norton, in the women’s bath house. This campground is abundant with wildlife, including fish-stealing raccoons.
This is a very memorable Ohio State Park for me because when my daughter, Hannah, had Stage 4 cancer at the age of three, we made a connection with a soldier by the name of Jacob Hostetler.
Jake was serving in Iraq at that time with my cousin, Robbie Harper. Long story short, we had received a postcard from Jake in 2003 while Hannah was in the hospital. His postcard, along with hundreds of others kept me going.
Fast-forward to Aug. 5, 2014, and we arranged to meet for the first time in person so we could thank this soldier and his wife, Mary, and their children for their support. We chose to camp at West Branch State Park to celebrate this joyous occasion.
Again, this is just one more reason state parks are so special. Another friend of mine, Tammy Goodrich, is familiar with West Branch as well. She mentions how nice the amenities and Holiday events are. The Halloween campout is one of the spookiest events and is enjoyed by all.
While each park has some interesting facts, my brother, Shane Norton, shared with me that the most memorable fact for him is that of the memories he made with his loved ones. I hope you get the chance to visit one of the 75 state parks in Ohio and make some memories of your own.
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