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Salt Fork: The 'Crown Jewel' of State Parks

Published: March 25, 2013 12:00 AM
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CAMBRIDGE -- Salt Fork has often been referred to as the crown jewel of state parks. Initially proposed as a water source for Cambridge, the focus for Salt Fork Lake and the land around it shifted when state officials began to realize the potential for a recreation area on the site that is now Salt

Fork State Park. Starting in 1956, land was procured to build a reservoir to serve as an alternate source of water for Cambridge.

But four years later, state officials were instead acquiring land to built Salt Fork State Park the largest of Ohios state parks with 17,229 acres of recreational facilities.

Located in the unglaciated portion of Ohio, Salt Fork is said to have derived its name from a salt well used by Native Americans which is located in the southeast corner of the park.

The earthen dam for Salt Fork Lake was completed in 1967 and the lake offers an abundant amount of fishing opportunities with sizable populations of largemouth bass, crappies, bluegills, walleyes and muskellunge.

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Today, the lake offers one of the largest inland beaches in Ohio at 2,500 feet and modern bathhouses have been built to provide toilets, showers, lockers and a snack bar.

Boats with unlimited horsepower are permitted on the 2,952-acre lake with combined speed and ski zones. There are 10 boat launch ramps at the lake and boaters can camp on boats in no wake zones within 50 yards of the shore, although swimming from boats is only permitted in designated areas.

Two marinas are located in the park with more than 450 rental docks, comfort stations, gasoline fuel stations, parking facilities and concession areas. A variety of boat rentals are available.

Construction of recreational facilities began in 1968.

In 1972, the spacious pine beam and stone Salt Fork Lodge opened with an atmosphere and flavor of the grand park lodges built at the turn of the century.

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Today, Salt Fork Lodge has 148 guest rooms with a dining room, coffee shop, snack bar, gift shop, lounge, indoor game area, sauna, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, vast lobby areas and meeting rooms that can accommodate up

to 450 people.

Other amenities available include tennis, volleyball, basketball and shuffleboard courts, 400-foot swimming beach, boat launch ramp and docking facilities.

Salt Fork State Park also offers 37 two-bedroom cottages in hillside and lakeside locations with fully furnished living and dining areas, a kitchen equipped with cooking and eating utensils, bathroom with a shower and a screened porch.

Seventeen chalet cottages feature gas log fireplaces and hot tubs.

Salt Fork State Park is a popular camping destination featuring 192 sites with 50-amp electric service. Twenty sites are full-serve with sewer and water hookups and 18 are wheelchair accessible sites. Group and horseman camps are also available at the park.

Over the years, the park has constructed heated shower houses, flush toilets, a dump station, separate beach and boat launching and docking facilities for the campers.

The park offers 14 hiking trails, 19 miles of snowmobile trails and more than 12 miles of bridal trails.

Picnickers can enjoy nine scenic locations including a wheelchair accessible site throughout the park with tables and grills available.

Two shelters near the main beach are available for reservation. Both locations include paved parking for more than 100 vehicles, 20 amp electric service, eight picnic tables and a group grill.

Winter recreation, weather permitting, includes sledding, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, ice skating, ice fishing and ice boating.

Hunting is permitted at Salt Fork State Park in designated areas. Cottontail rabbit, gray and fox squirrels, deer, grouse, quail, woodchuck, raccoon, mink, muskrat, beaver, wild turkey and waterfowl are abundant game animals that call Salt Fork home.

A valid hunting license is required for all hunters.

Two popular tourist destinations at the park are the Kennedy Stone House dating back to 1837 and Hosaks Cave.

Contact the Salt Fork State Park office, 439-3521, for additional information.

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