The landscape of rural Guernsey County appears as a patchwork of forested hills, open meadows and misty valleys threaded by numerous streams. At the heart of this region is Salt Fork State Park, encompassing the woodlands and fields flanking Salt Fork Reservoir. As Ohio's largest state park, Salt Fork boasts 17,229-acres of recreational facilities to suit nearly every taste.
Historically, this part of southeastern Ohio was one of the first areas of the state to be settled by the pioneers emigrating westward from the crowded eastern seaboard. Some of these settlers may have followed Zane's Trace into the Ohio wilderness - a route that led a few families into the Guernsey County area. From Zanesville east to the Ohio River, the Trace became part of the National Road, a major east-west transportation route constructed in 1811. Today, the old National Road is known as U.S. Route 40 and passes near Salt Fork State Park.
One of the early residents of Guernsey County, David B. Kennedy, constructed a beautiful stone house overlooking Sugar Tree Fork in 1837. Built from locally-quarried stone cut into 3' x 1' x 1' blocks, the Kennedy Stone House is a sturdy reminder of bygone days. Because of its unique and enduring construction, the house is listed in the National Register of Historic places and can be visited throughout the year.
While the southeastern U.S. was the most important staging area for many Civil War battles, southeastern Ohio saw a few skirmishes, too. Morgan's Raiders, a small group of Confederate soldiers, made excursions into the Salt Fork area under constant pursuit from Union Troops led by General Shakelford.
As the 19th Century progressed, industry continued to develop in Ohio, and many of the southeastern Ohio counties came into prominence as coal-producing areas. Responding to the demand for this important fuel source, Guernsey County became one of Ohio's leading coal producers. Abundant reserves of clay allowed the development of a thriving pottery industry in the county as well. The present impoundment at Salt Fork dates back to 1956 when planning for the lake was begun. The reservoir was originally slated to become a water source for the city of Cambridge, but the potential for the area to become a major recreation area in the state was so great that, in 1960, land acquisition was begun to create a state park. The earthen dam was completed in 1967, and construction of recreational facilities began in mid 1968. The spacious Salt Fork Lodge was opened in May 1972.
172 sites with electricity (50-amp)
40 full-service sites (electric, sewer and water hookups)
Heated shower houses, flush toilets, dump station, a separate beach, boat launching and docking facilities for campers
18 sites are wheelchair accessible
Group camp areas for youth and adult organizations, available by reservation
Horsemen's camp is available
Pets are permitted on all sites
The park has a 12-station walk-through range on Park Road 1 near the entrance to the campground. Stations 1 through 11 are field tip only and station 12 accommodates broadhead tips.
Boats with unlimited horsepower are permitted on the 2,952-acre lake. Combined speed/ski zones are marked by buoys.
There are 8 boat launching ramps on the lake.
Boaters may camp on their boats in no-wake zones within 50 yards of shore. Swimming from boats is permitted in designated areas only.
Two marinas include 469 rental docks, comfort stations, gasoline fuel stations, parking facilities, concession areas and a variety of rental boats.
The park offers a dog park, about an acre in size, with lake access for dogs to play and swim off-leash. There is a picnic table within the area with room for guests to bring their own camp/lawn chairs.
Sizable populations of largemouth bass, crappies, bluegills, walleyes and muskellunge are present. Fishing hotspots include many small bays as well as an artificial reef on the north branch of the lake. A valid Ohio fishing license is required.
Salt Fork features a top-rated 18-hole golf course with a practice putting green, driving range, pro shop and snack bar. A shelterhouse is available for reservations. Tee time reservations are recommended and can be made online or by calling (740) 432-7185.
Hunting is permitted on designated areas. Check-in with park or wildlife officers for delineation of these areas. An ODNR Division of Wildlife office is located near the main park entrance. A valid Ohio hunting license is required.
Cottontail rabbit, gray and fox squirrels, deer, grouse, quail, woodchuck, raccoon, mink, muskrat, beaver, wild turkey and waterfowl are abundant.
Several picnic areas with tables and grills available in scenic locations around the lake.
Three ADA accessible picnic areas with hard surfaced paths, accessible latrines, parking and tables; one is located at the golf course, and two at the horse camp.
The park’s 2,500-foot public swimming beach is one of the largest inland beaches in Ohio and offers enjoyment for swimmers and sunbathers. A concession stand and showerhouse are available to visitors. Swimming is permitted during daylight hours only. Visitors swim at their own risk.
There are 14 named scenic hiking trails in the park:
Forest Crest Nature Trail - 0.32 Miles - Easy
Archery Trail - .29 Mile - Easy
Deer Run Trail - 1.5 Miles - Moderate
Valley Brook Loop Trail - 0.8 Miles - Moderate
Hosak's Cave Trail - 0.1 Miles - Moderate
Sunshine Brook Nature Loop Trail - 0.53 Miles - Moderate
Morgans Knob Loop Trail - 0.84 Miles - Moderate
Morgans Knob Trail - 0.62 Miles - Moderate
Pine Crest Loop Trail - 1 Mile - Moderate
Beach Point Trail - 1 Mile - Moderate
Stone House Trail - .81 Miles - Moderate
Gunn's Glen Trail - 2 Miles - Moderate
Shadebush Trail - 1.9 Miles - Moderate
Portion of the Buckeye Trail - 6.86 Miles
A moderate 19-mile trail is available for snowmobiling.
Under the proper winter conditions, park guests can enjoy sledding, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, ice skating, ice fishing, and ice boating.
A miniature golf course is located at the beach, near the park's nature center; it is open Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Playgrounds are found in the campground and at the beach.