Boating in Ohio

Going boating in Ohio? Ohios ‘back yard’ is an awesome playground for outdoor enthusiasts. During the warm weather season, it’s all about the boating!

This state boasts 74 State Parks and more than 130 State Nature Preserves. There are also several metro parks as well as the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. More than 50 rivers and hundreds of lakes that welcome boating, paddle boarding, fishing and kayaking activities! Indeed, there is lots of fun to be had in Ohio, you just need to pick your water venue!

So, where will you be boating? Will you be visiting a large city like Cincinnati near the Ohio River, or in Cleveland alongside Lake Erie? Adventuring in one of Ohio’s State Parks? Or maybe you’ll be visiting a charming small town like Put-In-Bay where cars are few and boats are many. Wherever your location in OH, there’s sure to be a boating destination nearby for you to enjoy.


Best Boating Lakes

With popular boating and paddling options to be found all over Ohio, your boating and water sports options are limitless. To get you started, we thought we’d name a few of our favorite places to go boating in Ohio!


Lake Milton State Park

In 1910, construction began on a reservoir for the population of the area to be used as a water supply. A 2,800 foot dam was completed in 1913 and impounded over 1,600 acres of water surface. Lake Milton included a small amusement park at Craig Beach. It offers a swimming beach, roller coaster, boat trips and a busy midway. The east side of the lake included taverns, a dance hall and a skating rink. In 1986 the lake was drained but within two years was reopened and dedicated as a state park.

The Lake Milton State Park contains a glaciated plateau that hosts a variety of forests, bogs, fields, streams and lakes. The area includes cottontail rabbit, red fox, raccoon, muskrat and woodchuck. Bird life is diverse with robins, warblers, pine siskins, hawks and owls being commonly seen. Reptiles found here include the midland painted turtle and the northern watersnake.

A major feature of the park is Lake Milton. It offers boating, swimming and fishing. The ODNR Division of Wildlife has stocked the lake with walleye, largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie and channel catfish. There are three launch ramps and seasonal dock rentals available.


West Branch Reservoir

Located in Portage County, West Branch State Park’s 2,650-acre lake offers many forks and coves. It’s extremely popular with fishermen, boaters and swimmers. The lake is designated for unlimited horsepower and has a no-wake zone that extends 300 feet from all shorelines. You can access boat rentals, gasoline and supplies from the marina. There are five launch ramps providing boaters access to the lake and docks can be rented seasonally.

The park is made up of 5,379-acres of meadows and woodlots provide an excellent backdrop for a plethora of outdoor activities.

Year-round fishing at West Branch offers large and smallmouth bass, walleye, crappie, bluegill, catfish and trophy-class muskellunge. Fishing access is available at three paved and two gravel launch areas as well as numerous shoreline access points.  A valid Ohio fishing license is required.


The Ohio River

The Ohio River forms the entire 451-mile southern boundary of Ohio. The river covers 91,300 surface acres of water along Ohio’s border. It offers plenty of opportunity for recreation: pleasure boating, fishing, sailing, water-skiing.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began improving the Ohio River in 1824 by dredging sandbars and removing snags. The first lock and dam was completed in 1885 about five miles below Pittsburgh, and 12 more were built in 1910. Channelization of the river was completed in 1929.

There are 53 Locks on the Ohio River. Over 30,000 recreational boats locked through the Pittsburgh District’s locks each year. Numerous excursion boats also use the locks as they cruise the rivers entertaining and educating area residents and tourists.  Many people use the navigation pools as a lake for pleasure boating, without ever using a lock. Some don’t realize that the miles of clear channel are created by the dams. The quality of the water and the fish have dramatically improved over the past 20 years. As a result, in many areas, fishing is at an all time high.


Seneca Lake

Boating is very popular at Seneca Lake and with the 399 horsepower limit and 3,550 acres of water, there’s an abundant amount of area on which they can enjoy. Ski boats, sail boats, pontoons, canoes/kayaks, and jet skis are among these various watercraft that share the water. This is the third largest inland lake in Ohio.

Seneca Lake Marina offers pontoons and fishing boat rentals, and dock space. The full-service marina offers boat service and repairs, winterization, fishing license sales, bait and tackle.


State Parks

There are over 74 State Parks in Ohio to explore with endless stretches of trails to hike or bike. In addition, there are many lakes that are great for fishing, paddle sports and boating activities. For these reasons, you should start your outdoor adventure in Ohio!

Hocking Hills State Park (rated one of ‘America’s 10 Best State Parks’ by Fodor’s Travel) is a popular choice for paddlers. Especially those who like to float among sandstone gorges, cliffs, waterfalls and basins.

Power boaters will love the unlimited horsepower designation and 2,380-acre lake in Ceasar Creek State Park. Another favorite is the convenient, city-side location of Cleveland Lakefront State Park.


Fishing in Ohio

Ohio fishing is fantastic and the DNR’s Division of Wildlife makes it easy for you to find fish. They offer interactive maps of Ohio’s Lakes and ReservoirsRivers and Streams, as well as Lake Erie and the Ohio River. Grab your gear and start reeling in those wall-worthy largemouth bass, muskies and northern pike!

Keep in mind, an Ohio fishing license is required for all but a few game species. For more information about where to get a fishing license and state fishing regulations, contact the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Division of Wildlife.