411-acre Portage Lakes State Park offer visitors a variety of outdoor recreational experiences. Boating, swimming and fishing are popular on the several surrounding lakes. The wetlands of the park attract waterfowl and shorebirds providing visitors enjoyment whether hunting or observing wildlife.
Portage Lakes is named after the old Indian portage path which connected the Cuyahoga River flowing north to Lake Erie and the Tuscarawas River which through the Muskingum, flows south to the Ohio River. This proved advantageous for the Indians and early settlers as navigation from Lake Erie to the Ohio was possible with only one eight-mile portage overland. Portage Lakes State Park lies at one of the highest points of the state and on a major watershed divide in Ohio. Some water from the lakes reaches Lake Erie and some flows to the Ohio River.
The area became an important trading post for settlers and Indians. It was a recognized landmark during the War of 1812, serving as a rendezvous point of American troops. The old Indian portage path was part of the ancient boundary between the Six Nations and the Western Indians.
The city of Akron was laid out in 1825 and was first settled by Irish laborers and others working on the Ohio Canal. Once the canal was completed, the town flourished. Several important industries brought prosperity to the area including stoneware potteries, sewer pipe manufacturing, the match industry and, most recently, the tire and rubber industry. At one time, the Blue Diamond Match Company in Akron used three million board-feet of white pine lumber per year for the manufacture of its matches.
Several of the Portage Lakes were built as feeder reservoirs for the canals to maintain the required depth of four feet. The lakes were used for this purpose until the canals were abandoned in 1913. The lakes were then used to meet the water needs of the local industries. Some portions of the remnant canals in the Akron area can still be boated.
The Ohio Department of Public Works maintained the canal lands for recreational purposes until 1949 when the Portage Lakes were transferred to the newly formed Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Parks and Recreation.
Eight lakes encompass 2,034 acres. All lakes have a 400 horsepower limit, except for Nimisila Reservoir which allows only electric motors.
Eight boat launch ramps provide access to the lakes. Boat rentals and fuel are available at private marinas around the area.
A boat camping area is located at Latham Bay.
All areas are "no wake" except for portions of Turkeyfoot Lake and East Reservoir.
The park features an 18-hole disc golf course. Rental equipment is not available
A dog park offers a place for your pets to frolic without a leash, including a dog swim area.
Anglers will find good catches of largemouth bass, walleye, muskellunge, pickerel, pan fish, channel catfish, bullhead and carp. A platform at North Reservoir provides wheelchair access for fishing. A valid Ohio fishing license is required.
Hunting for waterfowl only is permitted in designated areas. A valid Ohio hunting license is required.
Seven picnic areas are scenically located around the park. Three shelterhouses in the park may be reserved.
Turkeyfoot Lake offers a 900-foot public swimming beach. Parking and vault latrines are available.
Rex Lake and Cottage Grove Lake have a swimming area for boaters.
Swimming is permitted during daylight hours only. Swim at your own risk. Pets are NOT allowed on swimming beaches.
Three separate locations offer a total of 9 trails for running or hiking:
Rex Lake Area
Planet Walk Trail - 1 Mile
Shoreline Trail - 5 Miles
Rabbit Hill Trail - 1 Mile
Pheasant Run Loop - 1 Mile
East Reservoir Area
Knapp Forestview Trail .2 Mile
Knapp Lakeview Trail .8 Mile
Knapp Walk Trail .1 Mile
Nimisila Reservoir Area
Nimisila Trail 1.3 - 1 Mile
Under the proper winter conditions, park guests can enjoy ice skating, ice boating, ice fishing, and snowmobiling. Visitors can also cross-country ski on the hiking trails.