Buckeye Lake, constructed as a canal feeder lake in 1826, is Ohio's oldest state park. The park has long been a popular vacation spot and today offers endless water-related recreational opportunities including swimming, skiing, boating and fishing.
In order to provide interconnecting waterways for a growing state, a canal system was developed in the early 1800's. The system required feeder lakes to supply the water necessary to maintain the four-foot canal water level. Because of their location, areas such as St. Marys, Indian Lake, Lake Loramie, Guilford and Buckeye lakes were to be developed as part of the project.
The canal project was formally started by Governor Jeremiah Morrow on July 4, 1825 in a special ceremony near Newark. In attendance was New York's DeWitt Clinton, the father of the Erie Canal. Ohio's canal system was becoming a reality.
Construction of the dike blocking drainage into the South Fork of the Licking River began in 1826 and was completed in 1830, forming the Licking Summit Reservoir which would eventually become Buckeye Lake. Before impoundment, the forests were not cleared leaving large tracts of timber and brush emergent in the newly formed lake.
As the water level rose, several large mats of sphagnum moss broke loose from the bottom and became "floating islands". Other islands were created because the land was above the water level.
During the canal era, canal boats traveled along the original western end of the lake. This lake however, was not large enough to supply the necessary water for the canal so it was enlarged. Later, in order to provide an even larger amount of water, another lake was developed north and west of the original one. A dike, known as "Middle Wall", separated the Old Reservoir and New Reservoir. This dike was used as a towpath for the canal.
With the advent of railroads, the canal system became outdated. Many miles of canal fell into disuse and were abandoned or sold. In 1894, the General Assembly of Ohio set a policy whereby the feeder reservoirs were established as public parks. At that time, the name of Licking Summit Reservoir was changed to Buckeye Lake.
By 1900, there were numerous cottages and several amusement parks around Buckeye Lake. In the early 1900's, as recreational use increased and power boats became popular, the "North Bank" was reinforced and the "Middle Wall" removed. Development continued around the lake. During the 1940's and 50's, many folks traveled to the Buckeye Lake Amusement Park to see big-band stars, dance and picnic.
In 1949, when the Ohio Department of Natural Resources was created, the area officially became Buckeye Lake State Park.
3,100-acre Buckeye Lake is designated as an unlimited horsepower lake, but pontoons, sailboats, canoes and rowboats are also common. Nine launch ramps provide access to the lake (some may be closed during dam reconstruction) and 135 seasonal docks are available to rent. Local marinas offer fuel and other items for sale.
Anglers enjoy fine catches of perch, bluegill, crappie, muskellunge, largemouth bass, channel catfish and bullhead catfish. A valid Ohio fishing license is required.
The entire lake is open to waterfowl hunting in season. Waterfowl blinds are available at Buckeye Lake by lottery.
Four picnic areas with tables and grills are situated in quiet spots overlooking the lake. Three large shelters are available for reservation online or by calling (866) 644-6727. Mini shelters are available on a "first come, first served" basis.
Two public swimming areas have parking and latrines. Beaches are open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Swimming is permitted during daylight hours only. Swim at your own risk. Pets are NOT allowed on swimming beaches.
Under the proper conditions, park visitors can enjoy ice skating, cross-country skiing, ice fishing, and ice boating.