Lying within the vast Darby Plains of Ohio, 76-acre Madison Lake State Park is small and peaceful. The 106-acre lake attracts anglers and offers excellent sailing, rowing and canoeing opportunities.
This area was first settled by pioneers in 1796. Jonathan Alder, who was captured by Indians as a child and released fifteen years later, was the first permanent white settler along Big Darby Creek in the Darby Plains. Darby Creek was named after a Wyandot Chief (Darby) who resided along the stream.
Settlers considered the Darby Plains and other Ohio prairies almost worthless and unsuitable for farming, reasoning treeless land must be infertile. Wood for fuel and building materials had to be hauled from distant woodlands, and the wet prairies became impassable during heavy rains. During dry periods, fires frequently swept the landscape, and early attempts to plow the soil were thwarted by the tough, thick prairie sod. Eventually, as drainage systems improved and the steel plow was invented, settlement increased on the prairie. The Darby Plains soon became a well- known and important livestock center where large herds of cattle were raised and shipped to eastern markets. Perhaps this is due to the tough prairie sod being more suitable for grazing than for tilling. The livestock sales at London, Ohio obtained a wide distinction throughout the central and western states among cattle and horse dealers. On the day before the sales, the various roads leading to London became clogged with droves of cattle. The cattle were brought from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and other states. Several thousand people would crowd the streets to witness the sales and transact business.
In 1946, a small tract of land in the area was deeded to the state of Ohio for the purpose of developing a lake. Under the supervision of the old Division of Conservation, a dam was constructed across Deer Creek. The lake was filled by 1947, and in 1950, the 106-acre Madison Lake was turned over to the newly created, ODNR Division of Parks and Recreation.
One launch ramp provides access to the 106-acre lake, which is ideal for sailing and paddling. Usually the only permitted motorized boats are those with electric motors, however beginning January 10, 2019, boats with all types of motors are allowed to operate on the lake as long as they maintain idle (no-wake) speed. This trial period ends October 31, 2020. ODNR will seek public comments at the end of each boating season before recommending a permanent change.
Dog Swim Area
A designated area allows off-leash access to the lake for supervised dogs. The dog swim area is located on the east side of the lake; parking is available nearby.
Fishing is popular here and anglers will enjoy plentiful catches of bass, bluegill, crappie, channel catfish and bullhead. A valid Ohio fishing license is required.
North end of the lake is a designated hunting area for migratory game birds only. A valid Ohio hunting license is required.
Ten picnic areas surround the lake. There are two shelterhouses, one on the east and one on the west side of the lake. Tables, grills, playground and latrines are provided. Shelterhouses are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
A 300-foot sand beach provides enjoyment for swimmers and sunbathers. Latrines are available. Swimming is permitted in designated areas. Please exercise caution while swimming at the beach.
A scenic 1-mile hiking trail takes visitors through woodlands and along the lakeshore.