Discover the Oldest Man-Made Lake in Ohio

Key Points:

  • With a shoreline of over 40 miles and a surface size of nearly 5 square miles, Buckeye Lake is one of Ohio’s biggest lakes.
  • The deepest point of the lake is 14 feet.
  • At the intersection of the counties of Fairfield, Licking, and Perry, Buckeye Lake is situated east of Columbus. In order to obstruct the South Fork of the Licking River, it was established in 1826.

For around 5,000 years, people have been using water management techniques to make artificial lakes. Farmers in Arabia channeled water into the craters of dormant volcanoes to store it for agriculture, and Indians constructed a reservoir in Girnar circa 3,000 BC. Greek lakes that were constructed artificially date to the fifth century BC, according to archaeologists. So the concept is not brand-new. Ohio is a state that was admitted to the union relatively recently, in 1803. What is Ohio’s oldest artificial lake, then?

Man-Made Lakes

Let’s first discuss what a man-made lake is and its purposes before moving on.

Reservoirs, also called artificial lakes, are managed water sources. A reservoir is often created by damming all or part of a river in order to store water. Additionally, the reservoir will catch seasonal runoff and precipitation, reducing the quantity of water lost to evaporation. In addition to using dams, dikes and land excavation can also be used to create reservoirs. These artificial lakes are useful for storing and managing drinking water, preventing floods, producing energy, irrigating land, building canals, and for recreation.

The oldest man-made lake in Ohio is called Buckeye Lake.

One of Ohio’s largest lakes, Buckeye Lake has a surface area of around 5 square miles and a shoreline that stretches for about 40 miles, although it never goes deeper than 14 feet. When a dike was built in 1826 to stop the South Fork of the Licking River, it was built east of Columbus, across the intersection of Fairfield, Licking, and Perry counties. As a result, the Buffalo Lick wetland was replaced by the Licking Summit Reservoir, which was the country’s first sizable artificial reservoir.

The reservoir was built initially as a water supply for the Ohio and Erie Canal. Buckeye Lake was the name given to it by the Ohio Legislature towards the end of the 19th century. Despite being essentially a component of the state’s canal network, it attracted leisure companies, including an amusement park. Early in the 20th century, recreational usage replaced the canal system’s function, and numerous second homes and permanent residences were constructed here. Buckeye Lake became a state park with the establishment of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) in 1849.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers published a report in 2015 that detailed a number of the dam’s shortcomings that have developed over the course of its nearly 200-year life. If repairs were not made, it was feared that the dam might soon fail. It was suggested that either the dam be repaired or the lake drained in order to prevent the dam from failing catastrophically. The state allocated $150 million to the dam’s restoration as a result. The project cost $107 million less than expected and was finished in three years. It reopened in November of last year.

What Activities Are Offered at Buckeye Lake?

Due to its location within a state park, Buckeye Lake offers a variety of outdoor recreation possibilities, including camping, hiking, waterfowl hunting, fishing, and birdwatching.

Those who want to use the lake recreationally have access to swimming, boating, and kayaking. Even the Queen of the Lake III, a restored 88-foot sternwheeler, offers lake trips.

There are picnic shelters with grills available if you want to spend the day in the park. Brooks Park and Fairfield Beach both include playgrounds. Golf clubs nearby, a bike route along the dam, and disc golf at Evans Park are just a few of the recreational options.

The Millersport Sweet Corn Festival, which takes place every year from Wednesday through Saturday before Labor Day, is a great way to experience culture. Visit the Deep Cut at Licking Summit, the deepest section of the historic canal, if you’re interested in learning more about canal history. A historical society museum at Buckeye Lake houses a sizable collection of objects connected to the former amusement park and Buckeye Lake Village. After a sweltering day, head return to Millersport’s Buckeye Lake for a dish or a cone of classic ice cream from Weldon’s, a Buckeye Lake institution since 1930.

Look into taking a tour of the renowned Cranberry Bog State Nature Preserve, which is a floating island in the middle of the lake, if you want to see some of the lake’s natural features. Numerous rare plant species can be found there. Also, have a peek at the wetland restoration in Brooks Park.

Winter doesn’t put an end to the pleasure. When the weather permits, ice skating, ice fishing, ice boating, and cross-country skiing are all available.

What Wildlife Lives Around Buckeye Lake?

An intriguing characteristic of Buckeye Lake is that it is a National Natural Landmark. A section of the original Cranberry Bog broke away from the lake’s bottom, creating the floating island known as Cranberry Bog State Nature Preserve. This island of sphagnum moss in the water is covered in cranberries and pitcher plants. Since this natural wonder is so delicate, access to it needs special authorization from the ODNR.

Those who love birds will adore Buckeye Lake. There are excellent possibilities to observe birds during their spring and fall migrations. Additionally, there is a good variety of ducks year-round, so you don’t need to wait for migrations to see some outstanding individuals around the lake’s shores. Bald eagles, cormorants, herons, and osprey are frequently seen. Despite living in a sizable rookery by the lake, great blue herons are still visible in the park.

If you pay attention when hiking, camping, or boating in the park, there’s a good chance you’ll spot a variety of species, such as frogs, raccoons, red foxes, snakes, squirrels, and white-tailed deer.

Of course, there are lots of largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, bullhead catfish, crappie, muskie, and perch due to the fishing opportunities at Buckeye Lake.

Additional Notable Ohio Man-Made Lakes

Other artificial lakes exist in Ohio for a variety of purposes, including flood control, water conservation, pollution control, water supply, and recreation. The following lakes are noteworthy:

Indian Lake

Indian Lake, which was constructed in Logan County between 1851 and 1860, was initially meant to supply water to the Miami-Erie Canal. After the canals ceased to function at the end of the 19th century, the state recognized the lake as a recreational area in 1898. It is still a well-liked vacation spot today. The lake’s surface area is 5,100 acres, and there are 800 acres of adjacent state parks.

Boat launches, bathing beaches, picnic spaces, and hiking routes are all present in the park. There are many fish for fishers to catch, including bluegill and saugeye, making fishing a very popular hobby. Due to its location along a significant avian migration path, Indian Lake draws both birders and waterfowl hunters.

Grand Lake St. Mary’s

Grand Lake St. Mary’s was the largest of Ohio’s canal feeder reservoirs when it was finished in 1845, covering more than 13,000 acres. This Miami-Erie Canal reservoir, which stretches over the counties of Mercer and Auglaize in Ohio, was formerly acknowledged as the largest man-made lake in the entire globe.

Camping, hiking, dog parks, boating, and duck shooting blinds are all available around the lake. The Celina Lake Festival, on the other hand, is the major annual event. Amazingly, there are swimming vehicles at this festival! These German-made “Amphicars” are amphibious vehicles that can travel on both land and water.

Seneca Lake

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed Seneca Lake in 1938 for flood control and water conservation near Senecaville, Ohio. It is 31 feet deep at its deepest point and has a surface size of 5.5 square kilometers. It is currently run by the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District.

Lake Mosquito Creek

12.3 square miles, 133.5 miles of shoreline, and a depth of 24 feet make up Mosquito Creek Lake. constructed to help with pollution reduction, flood control, and water supply. Due to the abundance of crappie, bass, pike, catfish, and walleye at Mosquito Lake, Cortland, Ohio, it has become a prominent destination for outdoor enjoyment.

Lake Pymatuning

Pymatuning Lake has a surface size of 26.7 square miles and a 70-mile shoreline that it shares with Crawford County, Pennsylvania and Ashtabula County, Ohio. It serves as a water source, a flood control mechanism, and a recreational lake all at once. Additionally, it’s a well-liked spot for walleye, large- and small-mouth bass, and muskellunge fishing.


There are numerous lakes in Ohio, some of which are both man-made and natural, like its reservoirs. These reservoirs carry out a number of crucial tasks, such as supplying drinking water, reducing pollution, and controlling floods. Additionally, they offer state residents and visitors recreational advantages. The Buckeye Lake, Ohio’s first man-made lake, is where it all started.