Perched atop the white cliffs of South Bass Island, this unique 33-acre park is a scenic landmark when viewed from the water, and in turn affords visitors great views and access to Lake Erie. The wooded campground and serene lakeside picnic area offer a quiet retreat from the bustle of Put-In-Bay. South Bass Island's companion park, Oak Point, offers facilities for boaters and picnickers close to the heart of town.
Prior to the late 1700s, the Lake Erie Island region had been occupied by Ottawa and Huron (Wyandot) Indian tribes. After the Revolutionary War, the land was granted to the former colonies, and land development companies. However, the native Americans had not given up their own claims to these lands, resulting in ongoing conflicts with settlers. The British also remained in the area, harassing American ships, and encouraging the Indian resistance.
In 1807, John Pierpont Edwards of the Connecticut Land Company, was granted ownership of the Bass islands. Edwards deeded the islands to his son, John Stark Edwards, settled on South Bass Island in 1811, and successfully cleared 100 acres and raised a crop of wheat within the first year. In June 1812, the U.S. declared war against Great Britain. Later that summer, the British recaptured their Revolutionary War stronghold, Fort Detroit, and ramped up the conflict. The Lake Erie Islands were evacuated.
A young naval officer, Oliver Hazard Perry, established a Lake Erie fleet to reassert American dominance on the lake. In September of 1813, Perry maneuvered his ships to the well protected cove at South Bass Island's Put-in-Bay. Perry is reputed to have discovered Perry's Cave as he prepared for the upcoming battle. Despite setbacks and his inferior fleet, Oliver Hazard Perry defeated the British commander Robert Barclay in a harrowing battle on September 10, 1813. Perry declared, "We have met the enemy and they are ours." The victory gave the Americans control of Lake Erie and led to the ultimate defeat of the British in the War of 1812.
John Stark Edwards died in 1813. His brother, Alfred, assumed control of the island and cut many of the island's trees for timber in the 1830s and 40s. South Bass and the other islands remained sparsely settled until 1854, when Jose DeRivera purchased five of the islands. At first he turned Put-In-Bay into a sheep ranch with a herd of 2,000, but eventually he converted the island into a fruit farm. Despite the extreme northern location, the islands have the longest frost-free period in Ohio due to the stabilizing effect of the lake. By 1880, grapes and wine were the South Bass Island's sole agricultural products, and became known as the "Wine Islands." Several island wineries still exist today.
The campground offers 128 sites with non-electric and electric sites with 50-amp service, and some full-hookup sites with 50-amp service.
51 electric sites
10 full-service sites with electric, water and sewer hook-ups
9 non-electric sites
58 sites are for tents only.
Campground offers flush toilets, showers, and a dump station
Pet are permitted on designated sites
A youth group camp is available by reservation for organized groups
A public launch ramp near the picnic area provides access to Lake Erie.
Watercraft rentals are available nearby, including power boats, fishing boats, kayaks, and personal watercraft.
Twenty docks for either daily or overnight rental are available at Oak Point State Park, on the northwest side of the island near Put-in-Bay.
A fishing pier for shoreline fishing is located near the park entrance. A fish cleaning house is located in the campground. A valid Ohio fishing license is required.
The Lakeside shelterhouse seats up to 50 people and can be reserved. In addition, Oak Point, on the northwest side of the islands near Put-in-Bay, has a small picnic area with tables. Water and restrooms are available nearby.
A small stone beach provides access for swimming in Lake Erie. Swimming is permitted in designated areas. Please exercise caution while swimming at the beach. Swim at your own risk.
Under the proper conditions, park visitors can enjoy ice skating and ice fishing.
A small area of glacial grooves is located near the group camping area.