Our favorite family vacation destinations offer great angling opportunities, along with plenty of diversions for everyone. These proven hotspots will get you started! (June 2009)
Finding just the right mix of fun and good fishing for the annual family vacation week can be tricky. Luckily, Ohio's vacationing families have so many great options to choose from that everybody is guaranteed to have a good time. Fishing opportunities, family-friendly lodging, miles of hiking trails, historical sites and places to play and swim are plentiful in the Buckeye State.
Throw in the chance to explore caves, ride trains and learn more about the old horse-drawn canal boats, and what more could a family want?
Here's a roundup of some excellent family fishing vacation destinations to explore with your brood in 2009:
PAINT CREEK VALLEY
The Paint Creek region of Ohio is unique in many ways. The area lies at the very edge of the Appalachian Plateau and marks the divide between the hills of eastern Ohio and the flatter western portion of the state. Glacial activity here was not as common as in other parts of Ohio, but did leave behind a 75-foot gorge, which blooms with an extremely rare wildflower. Excellent fishing holes, family-friendly campgrounds, miles of hiking trails and interesting artifacts are all part of the vacation experience in the Paint Creek Valley.
Paint Creek State Park in Bainbridge is an excellent base camp for the ultimate family fishing vacation. The park has 197 campsites with electrical hookups. The campground has flush toilets, hot showers and laundry facilities. Two cabins are also available for rent complete with TV-VCR, microwave, refrigerator and gas fireplace. Pets are allowed on select sites.
Anglers at Paint Creek Lake can look forward to plentiful bass and crappies. The tailwaters of Paint Creek Lake are also good for saugeyes. The lake is also home to white bass, catfish and bluegills.
This lake was built for flood control, and water levels in the lake and tail waters can vary greatly, especially after heavy rains.
Call the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at (937) 365-1167 to hear a recording of current lake and tail water conditions.
Boat rentals are available at the marina. Three launch ramps provide easy lake access. There's a sand beach for swimming in the park, a camp store, plus basketball, volleyball and horseshoe courts. Mini golf is available on-site for a small fee.
The park's nature center has displays of native wildlife and fish. The park features four hiking trails ranging from .75 mile to 2.5 miles long. There are also 12 miles of mountain bike trails. Rock climbing is allowed along Harmony Trail and at Spillway Wall.
Contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at (937) 365-1470 for climbing information.
For camping information, call (866) 644-6727 or visit www. ohiodnr.com/parks/.
Or, stay at nearby Pike Lake State Park, 1847 Pike Lake Road in Bainbridge. The campground here has 112 sites, 80 with electricity. The campground has latrines, tables, fire rings and a camp store. There are also rental cabins. Pets are allowed on select sites.
The camp store offers rowboat, canoe, pedal boat and kayak rentals. Only non-powered boats and electric motors up to 4.5 horsepower are allowed here.
Pike Lake was drained a few years ago and then restocked. Anglers can now expect to find good numbers of bass, bluegills and channel cats.
There's a sandy beach in the park complete with changing area, showers and vending machines for snacks. The park has six miles of hiking trails that range from after-dinner-stroll easy to downright strenuous. The campground offers basketball and horseshoe courts plus a playground. The day-use area also has these amenities plus a disc golf course.
For details, call the camp office at (740) 493-2212, or visit the Web site at www.pikelakestatepark.com.
Another great place to camp and fish in this region is Rocky Fork State Park at 9800 North Shore Drive in Hillsboro.
There are 171 sites for tenting and trailers at the northwest corner of Rocky Fork Lake. Electric hookups are included at 96 of the sites, with full hookups at 45 sites. Pets are permitted on all sites.
The campground has hot showers, flush toilets, laundry facilities and a camp store. There's a launch ramp and tie-ups for campers with boats at the campground, and a total of six launch areas around the lake. A marina at the north beach offers boat rentals.
Rocky Fork Lake offers good bass fishing. Flathead catfish are most plentiful at the western end of the lake over the summer months. The lake is also home to saugeyes, crappies, bluegills and channel catfish.
There are two public beaches on the north and south sides of the lake. The state park also has hiking trails. Volleyball and other playground equipment are available at the campground and the day-use area.
The campground also has a basketball court and other games. A nature center is located near the campground. There's also a relatively new disc golf course about eight miles from the campground at the south beach, which may be reached by taking Blue Ribbon Road off Route 506.
Call (937) 393-4250 for marina information. For camping, call (866) 644-6727 or visit www.ohiodnr.com/ parks/.
If the family is all fished out and has explored the state parks to their heart's content, there's still plenty more to do in this neck of the woods.
The Fort Hill State Memorial, a prehistoric Native American hilltop earthworks, is three miles south of Cynthiana. The enclosure spans 40 acres. The stone-earthen wall is 40 feet wide at the base, varies from 6 to 15 feet in height and stretches 1.5 miles in length. There are also nature trails here to explore.
Call (937) 588-3221 for details.
Families that enjoy a strenuous hike will want to explore the Deer Trail (marked with blue blazes). The trail crosses Baker Fork, Reed Hill and Jarnigans Knob to a natural bridge, and circles Fort Hill before looping back to the parking lot.
The Seip Mound State Memorial, built by the Hopewell Indian tribe, is three miles east of Bainbridge. This geometric burial mound is 240 feet long, 160 feet wide and 30 feet high and is the cent
ral mound in a grouping of geometric earthworks.
Call (614) 297-2300 for information.
Serpent Mound State Memorial is the largest serpent effigy mound in the U.S. This uncoiling serpent built by the Adena Indian tribe is 20 feet wide and nearly one-quarter a mile long. The museum features pottery, artifacts, implements and models depicting the mound's creation.
Call (937) 587-2796 to arrange a visit.
For more local history, visit the Harris Dental Museum in downtown Bainbridge (614-486-2700), or head for the Adena State Memorial, which is the restored home of Thomas Worthington. The memorial includes the restored 1807 mansion and a 13,000-square-foot museum.
For subterranean adventure, take the family to Seven Caves in Bainbridge, where illuminated caves have walkways with handrails traversing waterfalls, cliffs and canyons. The largest of the caves is 315 feet long, 30 feet wide and 15 feet high.
Call (937) 365-1283 for information.
A visit to the Kincaid Hatchery in Latham will interest anglers of all ages. The facility has fish-rearing ponds and indoor concrete raceways teeming with young muskies, walleyes, striped bass, Coho salmon, and rainbow and golden trout.
Call (740) 493-2717 to arrange a visit.
For more information about the Paint Creek Valley region, see DeLorme's Ohio Atlas and Gazetteer, Map 77.
SALT FORK STATE PARK
Salt Fork State Park, Ohio's largest, has so much going for it that the family may not leave the premises all week! The campground here has 192 sites with electricity. At least 20 sites are full service. The campground has heated shower houses, flush toilets, and its own beach, and boat launching and docking facilities on the shores of Salt Fork Lake. Pets are allowed on select sites.
Or, stay at the Salt Fork Resort and Conference Center for all the fun of being in a state park with all the comforts of home. The resort, centered on a massive pine beam and stone lodge built in the 1970s, has 148 guest rooms and 54 cottages. The lodge has indoor and outdoor pools, a hot tub, game room, fitness center, gift shop, lounge, full-service restaurant, basketball, volleyball, tennis and planned family and children's activities.
Rental cottages sleep six and come fully equipped with cookware and utensils.
The state park has an 18-hole golf course, a nature center, two marinas that offer a variety of watercraft rentals, seven boat launches and multiple picnic areas.
Explore the Kennedy Stone House or Hosak's Cave, hike 14 miles of trails, visit the nature center or send the kids to attend the summer nature program.
In 1837, Benjamin Kennedy, whose ancestors hailed from Ireland and Scotland, bought 80 acres here and constructed the two-story house from native sandstone quarried locally. The house has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1975.
Hosak's Cave has offered shelter to many a passerby over the years. Legend has it that Confederate General John Hunt Morgan and his cavalry used the cave during the Civil War. During the famous Morgan's Raid through Ohio, he engaged federal troops in a skirmish near the park.
There are multiple swim areas, including one of the largest inland beaches (2,500 feet) in the state. There's a miniature golf course at the beach near the nature center. Basketball courts may be found at the beach and near the park office, and playgrounds have been built in the campground and at the beach.
Salt Fork Lake holds good numbers of largemouth bass, walleyes and muskellunge. Plentiful crappies and bluegills will keep younger anglers entertained for hours. Fishing is said to be especially good in many of the embayment areas and along an artificial reef on the north branch of the lake.
For more fishing information, an Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife Office is conveniently located near the main park entrance.
For information, call the park office at (740) 439-3251. For reservations, call (866) 644-6727. Or visit www.dnr.state.oh.us/ for more Ohio State Park information.
If the family does need more stomping grounds, the 8,279-acre Salt Fork Wildlife Area is adjacent to the state park. Or for other fishing opportunities nearby, head to Atwood, Seneca or Tappan lakes. All three lakes are part of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District. Shoreline and boat fishing are allowed, and each has a launch ramp.
Atwood Lake is known for its good northern pike fishing. Atwood and Tappan both hold saugeyes. All three lakes offer good fishing for largemouth bass and are home to channel catfish, crappies and bluegills.
If there's an animal lover in the family, don't miss Deerassic Park Education Center, about six miles off Interstate routes 70 and 77 on U.S. Route 22. The park is home to a herd of white-tailed deer and is the future location of the Ohio Whitetail Hall of Fame Museum complex. The deer enclosure here allows for up-close observation of these popular game animals.
For details, call (740) 435-3335 or visit www.deerassic.com.
The family history buff might enjoy visiting Roscoe Village in Coshocton. This restored 1800s canal town features several historic buildings, unique shops and eateries, themed festivals and living history tours.
The kids may especially enjoy exploring an authentic canal boat built into the hillside in the center of town, and then taking a horse-drawn canal boat ride down a restored portion of the canal. Call (740) 622-9310 or visit www.roscoevillage.com.
Plan a visit to the Dickens Victorian Village in Historic Downtown Cambridge, where 60 displays bring "Olde England" and early American history to life.
To learn more about this innovative public art exhibition, call (740) 439-2238.
The Hopalong Cassidy Museum, 127 South 10th Street in Cambridge, houses an extensive collection endorsed by William Boyd, a Cambridge native who played cowboy star Hopalong Cassidy, the hero in 28 western novels written by Clarence E. Mulford in the 1920s, '30s and '40s. Boyd acted the part in some 60 feature films and many hour-long television programs. Admission is free.
Call (740) 432-3364 for more information.
During the summer months, Cambridge is home to the Guernsey County Farmers Market, held Fridays on the Court House Square. More than 25 small farmers and producers display their wares here -- everything from produce, herbs and flowers to candles, clothing and Amish-made baskets.
e information, call (740) 679-3566, or go online to www. guernseycountyfarmersmarket.com.
Go on a shopping adventure at the Salt Fork Flea Market at 68947 Tyner Road about five miles north of Cambridge.
The flea market is open from 9.m. to 5 p.m. from April 1 through Thanksgiving. Shoppers will find antiques, tools, collectibles, crafts, fishing and hunting gear, glassware, furniture, appliances, lawn and garden products and more.
Call (740) 517-5569 for more information.
Families lucky enough to be in the region June 20-21 can enjoy the Southeastern Ohio Renaissance Faire held at the Cambridge City Park. The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with opening ceremonies each day. Vendors, patrons and entertainers stroll around in medieval garb.
Attendees have the opportunity to toss a peasant or perhaps be knighted by Queen Lavender of Fey.
Admission is the donation of food for a local food pantry. Call (740) 432-6990 for details.
Fair warning -- if there's a glass collector in your family, you may never get them out of Cambridge! Boyd's Crystal Art Glass shop at 1203 Morton Avenue offers factory tours and a showroom where cameras are allowed.
Call (740) 439-2077 or visit www.boydglass.com.
Mosser Glass, at 9279 Cadiz Road, also offers tours where visitors may watch artisans create antique reproductions, paperweights, glass animals and collectibles. Reservations are recommended.
Call (740) 439-1827 or visit www.mosserglass.com for details.
If that's not enough to keep your glass collector going, visit the Cambridge Glass Museum to see over 4,000 pieces of glass and pottery produced from 1901 to 1954.
Call (740) 432-3045 for more information.
Or, head to the Degenhart Paperweight and Glass Museum at 65323 Highland Hills Road to see glass making and its history in Cambridge and the Ohio Valley region.
There's a gift shop and research library on-site, plus collections of Midwestern pattern glass, 20th century paperweights and examples of blown, cut and art glasswork.
Call (740) 432-2626 or visit www.degenhartglass.com.
For a change of pace, take the kids for a ride on the Byesville Scenic Railway on 2nd Street in Byesville. This train transports passengers back to the days when coal mining was the major industry in Guernsey County.
Hear tales of the local minors, sing along to "I Owe My Soul to the Company Store," and enjoy the 90-minute trip back in time. Tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for children and kids under 3 ride free.
Call (800) 933-5480 for more information.
For more information about this region, check DeLorme's OAG, Map 61, or call the Cambridge and Guernsey County Convention and Visitors Bureau at (740) 432-2022 or visit www.visitguernseycounty.com.
For Ohio fisheries information, visit www.ohiodnr.com and select "fishing."
For questions not answered on the Web site, call the Ohio Department of Natural Resources at (800) 945-3543 or e-mail them at wildinfo@dnr. state.oh.us.
For additional travel information, contact the Ohio Office of Travel and Tourism at (800) 282-5393 or visit www.discoverohio.com.