Buckeye Lake, Millersport, OH
Buckeye Lake is the heart of Buckeye Lake State Park near Millersport, southeast of Columbus. Buckeye Lake was originally impounded by blocking drainage into the South Fork of the Licking River with a dike. The project was completed to create a reservoir to serve the state’s growing feeder canal system but within a few years of the dike’s completion in 1830, the railroad made great economic inroads in Ohio. The feeder system was abandoned but Buckeye Lake was born.
A rich history of being a major local recreational area featuring dances and big-band musicians is now underscored by quieter modern day fishing, hiking, and other outdoor activities. The Buckeye Lake Amusement Park kept the local economy hopping in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Those days are gone but visitors keep right on coming. Buckeye Lake State Park is the state’s oldest state park and is the perfect example of what recreational funds can help foster.
Recreational boating is one of the top draws to the lake during warm weather. There are no horsepower restrictions and 3,300 acres of water where visitors enjoy motor boating, sailing, and paddling. Several state-owned boat ramps allow access. Skiing and other water sports are allowed in the lake’s designated open zones. A no wake restriction is in place on the rest of the lake and within 300 feet of the shoreline.
Several bass tournaments are held here each year. These contests take advantage of the good angling opportunities found here. Ohio Division of Wildlife fisheries biologists got good news during the 2009 electrofishing survey and found the largemouth bass population is rebounding from some quite low numbers. The biggest lunker sampled during the survey measured nearly 19 inches in length. Look for bass around the Cranberry Marsh, in channels, or along shoreline habitat such as docks, brush, and submerged weeds on the eastern end of the lake.
Crappie fishing is historically good at Buckeye Lake. The same ODOW survey showed that anglers can expect good catches of slabs in the coming years. Of the fish sampled by biologists, nearly three-quarters of them were at least 8 inches and over 40% were 10 inches or better. Most of the fish are located in the eastern end of the lake.
The ODOW has been stocking saugeyes and they’ve been doing well. During the survey it was discovered that 17% of them had already hit the 15-inch mark. Buckeye Lake is also a popular catfishing destination. Some of these cats are in the 27-inch range and tough customers to land. Stinkbait, chicken livers, and shrimp account for most the channel cats caught.
Lots of hybrid stripers are hitting the 15-inch mark and are one of the most powerful fish in the lake when hooked. The 18-inchers are likened to freight trains with fins. The hybrid striper fishing is best from the State Route 70 boat launch to Seller’s Point. Hybrid stripers will hit anything from crankbaits to chicken livers fished on the bottom.
Fishing doesn’t stop with the cold winter winds. The lake is open and productive for the ice-fishing crowd and it’s common to see shanties dotting the lake.
The public beaches at Brooks Park and Fairfield Beach provide restrooms and changing booths during the summer. The beaches are open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Kids have a special beach of their own at North Shore on State Route 79 in the Village of Buckeye Lake. Hot boaters can legally take a dip in the lake in the two designated boat-swim spots.
Bird watchers enjoy spotting great blue herons in and around the park. One of the heron’s largest Ohio rookeries is located on nearby private land.
Perhaps the best known of Buckeye Lake’s many features is the cranberry-sphagnum bog. The Cranberry Bog is now a National natural landmark and an Ohio state nature preserve. It may even be the only bog of its kind in the world. The Cranberry Bog broke loose from the bottom of the formerly marshy area sometime after the lake was impounded in 1826. It’s now a floating island consisting of sphagnum moss that supports pitcher plants and cranberries. Visitors can access this natural wonder by permit only from the state’s Division of Natural Areas and Preserves.
Hikers are free to wander where they will. You can also find picnic shelters, tables, and grills scattered around the lake. Lie in the grass and soak up the sun, read a book, or bring binoculars to watch the wildlife. It’s not hard to let the world go by and take a day off from the rat race in the lake’s peaceful environs.
For more information contact the Buckeye Lake State Park at (740)467-2690.