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18 of the Best Lakes in Ohio for an Enjoyable Holiday

By | Last Updated : 20th July 2021

Ohio, a landlocked state, has many human-made and few natural lakes. Distributed all over the state, each has something to offer to its visitors according to their preferences. Whether you’re looking for a lake with unlimited horsepower to enjoy speed boating or seeking a calm and peaceful lake for a relaxing holiday, you’ll find it all here. Besides enjoying summertime water activities, the lakes also provide ample winter recreational opportunities, including ice-fishing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and so on. With the scenic beauties all around teamed with the clean surroundings, it’s hard to leave the place once you’ve set foot here.

Lakes in Ohio

Lakes in Northern Ohio

1. Lake Erie

Lake Erie in Northern Ohio

One of the key attractions and southernmost of the Great Lakes is Lake Erie. You can take a ferry ride to the lake’s various islands, including Kelleys, Middle Bass, and South Bass, all of which provide multiple recreational activities. You’ll find many beaches here to spend a leisurely time. In addition, Lake Erie is home to one of the nation’s oldest and largest Cedar Point Amusement Park. Avid birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts can walk to the nearby Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge to see the eagles, blue herons, egrets, deer, coyotes, and foxes.

Other state parks also reside in the lake’s shoreline, like Marblehead Lighthouse State Park, where you can enjoy lighthouse tours and make a visit to the museum there. Maumee Bay State Park features a scenic trail, a nature center, two sandy beaches, and many other facilities.

With plenty of things to see and activities to do, a day is not enough to cover everything. You can consider staying in any one of the campgrounds located on the islands.  

Fishing: Fish populating the lake include smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, rock bass, catfish, crappie, lake trout, steelhead, rainbow trout, brown trout, and chinook salmon.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, tubing, jet-skiing, water-skiing, picnicking, sightseeing, camping, hiking, birdwatching, wildlife viewing

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2. Mosquito Reservoir

Mosquito Reservoir in Northern Ohio

Surrounded by forests and marshes, Mosquito Reservoir is one of the largest lakes in Ohio. With five launch ramps here, you can easily get into the waters with your boats. Since there is no horsepower restriction on boating, it is a haven for speed-lovers. For your safety, you can also rent a life jacket from State Route 305 Corps launch ramp. Wildlife and bird lovers can stay glued to their binoculars to spot the white-tailed deer, red fox, muskrats, raccoons, rabbits, Canada geese, herons, tundra swans, ducks, bald eagles, hawks, and many more.

For an overnight stay and to be connected with nature, you can rent a lakeside yurt. Besides this, there are many campsites and vacation rentals available too.

Fishing: You will find an excellent stock of largemouth bass, channel and flathead catfish, walleye, bluegill, black crappie, white crappie, northern pike, and yellow perch. Lakeside Picnic Area also features a wheelchair-friendly fishing dock.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, water-skiing, jet-skiing, picnicking, camping, hiking, birdwatching, wildlife viewing, cross-country skiing

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3. Punderson Lake

Punderson Lake in Northern Ohio

Located within Punderson Lake State Park in northeast Ohio, this natural lake is the state’s largest and deepest kettle lake. Apart from the various summer recreational activities, it is also a hotspot for winter sports. The surrounding hills and trails provide excellent opportunities for sledding, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. Your dogs can also accompany you during this time to enjoy sledding on Mushers Trail.

If you want to enjoy a golf match, you can head to the nearby 18-hole golf course. Inside the state park, you’ll also find the Punderson Manor Lodge and Conference Center, a historic Tudor-style mansion open throughout the year, providing accommodation facilities to visitors.

Fishing: Largemouth bass, channel catfish, and bluegill are common catches here. Other fish residing here includes rainbow trout, brown trout, back crappie, blue catfish, and smallmouth bass.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, sledding, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, hiking, camping, wildlife watching, picnicking, golfing

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4. Chippewa Lake

Chippewa Lake in Northern Ohio

This quaint natural lake is one of the state’s most appealing water bodies lying in Medina County. Formed by the melting of glacial sheets thousands of years ago, it was once home to the now-abandoned Chippewa Lake Park for about 100 years. Boaters can enjoy a quiet time in the lake by accessing the waters from the only boat launch beside Westfield Landing Road. The nearby wetlands inhabit many birds and animals, which you can get a glimpse of from the lake shores. In addition, you can spot many birds like American avocets, sandhill cranes, bald eagles, and bitterns while hiking along the 4 mile Chippewa Inlet Trail. The nearby Krabill Lodge offers visitors staying places all year round.

Fishing: Several fish species such as channel catfish, largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, pumpkinseed, yellow perch, and bowfin are abundant. You need to acquire an Ohio fishing license to fish here.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, biking, birdwatching, picnicking, cross-country skiing

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5. Portage Lakes

Portage Lakes in Northern Ohio

This series of interconnected lakes flows within the Portage Lakes State Park. All the eight lakes have some fun activities to offer to the visitors. You can take the pleasure of riding an electric motorboat in Nimisila Reservoir. The other lakes, however, have a speed limitation of 400 hp. Apart from the parking area, Turkeyfoot Lake, one of the several Portage lakes, boasts a 900 feet public beach which is the ideal swimming spot here. Also, you’ll find other swim areas in Cottage Grove Lake and Rex Lake. You can enter the lake with your boats from any one of the eight launch ramps. In addition, hiking enthusiasts can hike along the four trails in the lake area.

Fishing: Plenty of fish are available in this lake, including largemouth bass, walleye, muskellunge, black crappie, white crappie, chain pickerel, channel catfish, bluegill, bullhead, and carp.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, water skiing, camping, hunting, birdwatching, hiking, picnicking

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Lakes in Western Ohio

1. Indian Lake

Indian Lake in Western Ohio

Earlier known as Lewistown Reservoir, this artificial lake in west-central Ohio has about 30 miles of shoreline. The state park of the same name encompassing the lake offers many pleasurable activities. With no restriction on speed, this massive lake is a paradise for water skiers. A boat ride will give you access to the islands that cut into the lake’s center, where you can have an excellent time there. The two public beaches, Oldfield Beach and Fox Island Beach, are popular swimming spots, the former also equipped with a restroom and changing facilities. Boaters willing to swim in the waters can do so at the designated swimming spots in Walnut Island, Red Oak Island, or Oldfield Beach.

Birdwatchers can keep themselves busy sighting the herons, Canada geese, grebes, ducks, swans, and egrets. You can choose to stay at one of the camping lots for a primitive camping experience or in the lakeside rental cabins or hotels.

Fishing: Fish species populating the lake are largemouth and smallmouth bass, channel catfish, bluegill, saugeye, white crappie, black crappie, white bass, and yellow perch.

Other Activities: Swimming, tubing, boating, kayaking, canoeing, water-skiing, wildlife viewing, birdwatching, hiking, bicycling

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2. Grand Lake St. Marys

Grand Lake St. Marys in Western Ohio

This well-kept lake in west-central Ohio is an immense human-made reservoir. Though the lake waters were earlier toxic with algae, you can now safely swim in any one of the four beaches. You can also paddle your kayaks along the several coves to witness the rich flora and fauna of the area. In addition, there are eight launch ramps for boat access. Boaters can also plunge into the water from the designated areas. Moreover, the lake also features a seaplane landing area.

Fishing: The lake supports excellent stocks of crappie, channel catfish, sauger, largemouth bass, flathead catfish, walleye, bluegill, and yellow perch. The east bank also offers an ADA-accessible fishing area.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, water-skiing, tubing, camping, hiking, picnicking, wildlife viewing

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Lakes in Central Ohio

1. Apple Valley Lake

Apple Valley Lake in Central Ohio

Encompassed by rolling hills, Apple Valley Lake in Knox County covers 511 acres and is 3.25 miles long. It is within the private community of Apple Valley, making it accessible only to its residents. There are three swimming beaches where one can enjoy swimming or have a family gathering. Motorboat lovers too can have a great time in the waters as there is no speed limitation.

You can even spend time in the nearby public 18-hole Apple Valley Golf Course or at The Apple Valley Fitness Center.

Fishing: The crystal-clear waters are best for fishing several fish, including largemouth bass, channel catfish, spotted bass, black crappie, bluegill, smallmouth bass, blue catfish, and carp.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, tubing, water-skiing, jet-skiing, wake boarding, golfing

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2. Candlewood Lake

Candlewood Lake in Central Ohio

It is a human-made lake flowing north of Mt. Gilead in Morrow County. Only its residential members and their guests can access this privately-owned lake. With 140 acres of lush greenery, you can sit back and enjoy a picnic with your close ones. You can also play in the waters or relax under the sun on the beach there. There are also seasonal camping areas where you can spend some quiet time in nature’s lap.

Fishing: This lake mainly contains bass, crappie, catfish, bluegill, carp, perch, walleye, and stripers.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, water-skiing, tubing, picnicking, sunbathing, camping

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3. Buckeye Lake

Buckeye Lake in Central Ohio

Originally used as a canal feeder, Buckeye Lake is now a well-known vacation spot, visited by locals and tourists alike. It flows within one of the oldest, Buckeye Lake State Park that features nine launch ramps and 136 seasonal dock rentals. With no horsepower restrictions, you can enjoy any boating here. Fairfield Beach and Brooks Park, located on the lake’s southern part, offer swimming areas and other facilities like parking lots, change booths, and restrooms.

In 1891, Buckeye Fish Car, a railroad car operated by the state, stocked the lake with crappie and bass by transporting them from Lake Erie.

Fishing: This lake provides a wide variety of fish such as bluegill, crappie, perch, largemouth bass, channel catfish, muskellunge, and bullhead catfish.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, sailboating, water-skiing, picnicking

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Lakes in Eastern Ohio

1. Kiser Lake

Kiser Lake in Eastern Ohio

This pristine lake in east-central Ohio is an ideal spot for those who want to escape the city’s hustle and bustle. With no motorboats to disturb, you can spend a quiet time sailing in its crystal-clear waters and admiring the scenic forests and wetlands. You can also explore the adjoining areas on foot as there are five hiking trails here.

The lake region also holds some history related to the legendary Shawnee warrior Tecumseh and the well-known frontiersman Simon Kenton.

Fishing: This lake supports many fish species, including largemouth bass, bluegill, walleye, crappie, and channel catfish. The five fishing piers present here makes sport fishing easier.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, scuba diving, paddle boarding, camping, hiking, birdwatching, wildlife viewing

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2. Atwood Lake

Atwood Lake in Eastern Ohio

Just a few minutes’ drive from Cleveland will bring you to this east-central Ohio’s beautiful artificial reservoir. A refreshing dip at the beach here is an ideal way to cool off the summer heat. Kids and adults can enjoy the small water toys floating in a particular portion of the area reserved for swimming. Treat yourself to ice cream or a hamburger from the Concession Stand on the beach. Don’t forget to check in the Activity Center that features a nature center, games, and various exciting programs. Moreover, the lake also hosts numerous fun-filled events like the Alive Festival, a Christian music event held in July, and the Atwood Area Fall Festival in the first weekend of October.

If you’re bringing your dog, make sure to visit the dog park where it can enjoy getting wet in the water fountain or roam about freely without wearing a leash.

With more than 600 camping sites and plenty of rental cabins, you don’t have to worry about your accommodation.

Fishing: Anglers can expect to catch saugeye, largemouth bass, channel catfish, black crappie, white crappie, bluegill, yellow perch, and northern pike.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, sailing, kayaking, camping, hiking, wildlife watching, picnicking

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3. Tappan Lake

Tappan Lake in Eastern Ohio

Tappan Lake is one of the most pristine lakes in the state. If desiring a boat ride, you can rent a boat from the marina and launch it from either of the two boat launches. However, if you choose to motorboat here, remember to maintain a speed limit of not more than 399 hp. You can also visit the Activity Center, comprising a nature center that conducts special events, a camp store, a snack bar, a camping registration office, etc. Among the many trails, you can hike along the one leading to Tappan Wetlands to view the diverse wildlife species.

Fishing: Fish species commonly caught here include largemouth bass, channel catfish, crappie, walleye, white bass, and flathead catfish.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, paddleboarding, canoeing, tubing, water-skiing, jet-skiing, wakeboarding, camping, hunting

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Lakes in Southern Ohio

1. Lake Isabella

Lake Isabella in Southern Ohio

This serene 28-acre lake, surrounded by woodlands, flows in Hamilton County. Bringing personal kayaks or canoes is not permissible here. However, the lake has access to the neighboring Little Miami River, where you can enter the waters with your boats. You can have an outing or group event at Chart Room, Riverside Lodge, and Shady Elm Shelter. Kids, too, will have a great time sliding and swinging in the playgrounds. You can enjoy a nice meal at the picnic areas by the lakeside. For staying overnight, head to the Lake Isabella Campground that features 24 primitive campsites.

Fishing: Fish species like largemouth bass, channel catfish, and flathead catfish are common catches here. You can purchase a day pass or a season pass from the boathouse. It also offers fishing essentials, including rods, reels, artificial and live baits, lures, and so on.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, picnicking, camping, nature gazing, wildlife watching

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2. Cowan Lake

Cowan Lake in Southern Ohio

Cowan Lake or Cowan Creek Reservoir has a scenic wooded shoreline flowing within the state park of the same name. It has many picturesque inlets, which you can access by a kayak ride to witness the American lotuses and water lilies blooming in the waters. The swim beach is a clean one where you can relax or involve in some water activities. You can also visit the Nature Center here to know more about flora and fauna of the area. Besides it, you’ll also find a scenic, short trail to hike and gain additional knowledge about the surrounding trees and inhabitants. There are other trails as well along the wetlands for you to explore. You can consider staying in the cottages having a beautiful wooded setting or in the campsites with electric and non-electric facilities. Four of them are also wheelchair-friendly.

Fishing: Anglers can commonly find a wide variety of fish species, including largemouth bass, white bass, white crappie, saugeye, bluegill, channel catfish, perch, and muskellunge.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, canoeing, sailing, kayaking, hiking, wildlife watching, birdwatching, camping

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3. East Fork Lake

East Fork Lake in Southern Ohio

Also known as William H. Harsha Lake, this lake lies in East Fork Lake State Park in southwestern Ohio. It has a picturesque setting, from rolling hills to open meadows, offering a breathtaking view. The 1200 feet long swimming beach is an abode of several recreational activities. The beach also includes many facilities like changing and showering places, vending machines, and restrooms. With seven boat launches, you can access the waters with your boat without any hassle and explore the 36-mile wooded shoreline. Don’t forget to rent a life jacket from near the Hand Launch Boat Ramp. If you prefer staying on land, sit back in the designated picnic areas and enjoy a small meal while taking in the views. Hikers and nature enthusiasts can explore the nearby trails, some of which lead to stunning waterfalls.

Fishing: It has an excellent stock of largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie, spotted bass, crappie, sunfish, and hybrid stripers. Ice fishing is a sought-after activity, with white crappie, black crappie, and bluegill being the prominent winter catches.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, canoeing, kayaking, camping, hiking, picnicking

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4. Lake Logan

Lake Logan in Southern Ohio

Located in the Hocking Hills area, this scenic lake provides some spectacular vistas of its surroundings. Lake Logan State Park encompasses it and features two boat ramps that serve boaters to launch their boats into the water. However, those with motor-powered boats need to keep in mind the maximum speed limit is only ten horsepower. At the lake’s north end, there is a 527-feet swimming beach and several picnic areas around the lake. Hikers, too, can have a great time exploring the nearby trails, including The Pine Vista Trail and Buckeye Trail. 

Fishing: Numerous fish species are available in the lake, including crappie, bass, bluegill, catfish, saugeye, northern pike, and muskie.

Other Activities:, Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, hiking, picnicking

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4. Seneca Lake

Seneca Lake in Southern Ohio

Senecaville Lake, or Seneca Lake as the locals call it, is a beautiful water body flowing in southeast Ohio. The sandy beach offers a swimming area with plenty of water toys for kids to enjoy. You can indulge in boating activities in the 3550 acres of water body, but there is a speed limit of 399 hp. There is a boat launch ramp and a marina, that rents boats and provides other boating essentials. After enjoying the water activities, a meal in The Dockside Restaurant, located near the marina would not be a bad idea indeed. You can choose to rent a vacation cabin or put up a tent in the primitive campsites for staying overnight. In addition, seasonal camping is also available.

 Fishing: The lake holds various fish like largemouth bass, channel catfish, walleye, smallmouth bass, black crappie, white crappie, blue catfish, and hybrid striped bass.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, picnicking, hiking, camping

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Best Lakes for Fishing: Lake Erie, Indian Lake, Mosquito Reservoir

Best Lakes for Boating: Lake Erie, Mosquito Reservoir, Atwood Lake

Best Lakes for Camping: Indian Lake, Grand Lake St. Marys, Kiser Lake

Cleanest Lakes: Kiser Lake,Tappan Lake, Punerson Lake

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