Cowan Lake State Park offers a peaceful lake setting complete with scenic inlets and wooded shoreline. Swimming, fishing, sailing, and kayaking are popular here. Trails wind through mature woodlands. Overnight guests can choose from deluxe family cabins or the cozy campground — all within a short walk or bike ride to the beach, nature center, and camp store.
The 700-acre lake has a 10-horsepower limit. Three boat ramps are located around the lake for easy access. An accessible kayak launch is also available. Sailing is very popular on the lake.
- Seasonal docks are available for rent.
- South Shore Marina sells a variety of fishing and picnic supplies and also rents boats and canoes.
- A boat swim area and boat camp area are located in the northern portion of the lake.
- Camp Store (937-383-3751) rents kayaks and standup paddleboards seasonally.
The marina and boat ramps are Carry In, Carry Out areas. No trash cans are available. Visitors are asked to bring their own trash bags, and take out what they brought in.
Cowan Lake State Park Campground is a large campground with Electric, Non-electric, and Full Hook-up campsites as well as Preferred Cabins and Standard Cabins. Some campsites and some cabins are ADA compliant. The park also offers a Group Camp area.
Saugeye, crappie, largemouth bass, catfish, and bluegill are plentiful. In addition to the lake, the park also offers a pond for youth fishing.
- Ohio fishing regulations apply.
- A valid Ohio fishing license is required (16 and older).
- Accessible Fishing Pier is near the Pine Tree picnic area.
- The fishing pier is a Carry In, Carry Out area. No trash cans are available. Please bring your own trash bags.
Hunting is permitted in designated areas during scheduled hunting seasons.
- Ohio Hunting and Trapping Regulations
- A valid Ohio hunting license is required.
Located in the campground, the park's Nature Center is open seasonally. Visitors can learn about Cowan’s bald eagles, American lotus, pollinators, and geology. Hands-on activities encourage an interest in the natural world. Outside, there are a variety of nature stations including a replica of an eagle nest and beautiful native gardens. Cowan Lake is a certified Monarch Park USA.
The Environmental Education Center (cabin 1) offers small nature education classes during the winter months and is a secondary location for naturalist programming during inclement weather. Guests may request the center for use; it seats 20 visitors comfortably and amenities can be requested.
Information about programming and special events is posted at the Camp Store, Main Office, Nature Center, and in park kiosks. Information can also be found on the Cowan Lake State Park Facebook page.
Three picnic areas with tables and grills are located in areas overlooking the lake and are available on a “first come, first serve” basis.
Picnic shelters can be reserved online:
- Dance Pavilion - Covered shelter with electric, located off Yankee Road near the public beach. Visitors are asked to practice Carry In, Carry Out. Seasonal (April-Oct) portable toilet located in the parking lot.
This half-mile trail presents a children’s story in segments.
- Storybook Trail - 0.5 mile - easy
- Find more Ohio State Park Storybook Trails
- Find more Storybook Trails in Ohio
A 1,000-foot public beach is located on the south lake shore. Changing house and restrooms are available for public use. Swimming is permitted during daylight hours only in designated areas. Please exercise caution while swimming at the beach.
The beach is a Carry In, Carry Out area. No trash cans are available. Please bring your own trash bags.
- BeachGuard — Water quality advisories, Memorial Day to Labor Day, from Ohio Dept. of Health
The park offers more than 8 miles of hiking trails offering a variety of scenic views for hikers.
Trails located within the campground include:
- Beechnut - 0.5 mile - Easy, loop
- Lakeview - 1.1 miles - Moderate. loop
Trails near main office:
- Dogwood - 0.7 mile - Easy
- Oldfield - 0.8 mile - Moderate, loop
Southside lake trails:
- Spillway - 2.6 miles - Moderate
- Emerald Woods - 1.8 miles - Easy
Under the proper conditions, park visitors can enjoy sledding, cross-country skiing, and ice fishing.
More to Do
- Fossil hunting
- Caesar Creek State Park
- Culberson Woods State Nature Preserve
- World Equestrian Center
- Wilmington Haunted Hollow Ride (Dalton Rd.)
History & Natural Features
Two thousand years before American settlers arrived in what is now Clinton County, the Adena culture flourished in Ohio’s woodlands, leaving behind earthworks as evidence of their occupancy. The area of what is now Cowan Lake State Park had a few mounds, and one circular enclosure earthwork. The mounds survived until 1949 when one was excavated by Raymond S. Baby of the Ohio History Connection and Ohio State University. His excavation revealed a pattern of postholes 45 feet in diameter and the charred remains of bark which was likely used as roofing material for the structure.
When Cowan Lake was filled in 1950, this site was submerged. The circular enclosure still exists on the grounds of the park, protected from disturbances due to its low stature which makes it impossible to locate from the ground. After World War II, Americans wanted space for outdoor recreation and campaigned for the creation of more public natural areas to enjoy. Starting in 1946, the State of Ohio bought property along Cowan Creek with the aim of creating a lake and surrounding parklands for the people of southwest Ohio. The Cowan Creek dam became operational in the mid 1900’s and formed Cowan Lake.
Ohio’s history can be found written in the rocks. Ancient layers of bedrock tell a tale of seas, marshes, and swamps that once covered more than two-thirds of the state 500 million years ago. Eventually, dry land was formed by the ancient waters depositing sediment that solidified into rock. Evidence of the state’s aquatic past is visible in the fossils of marine plants and animals embedded into the sediment. Today, the southwest region of Ohio is a great fossil hunting destination as numerous examples of fossilized trilobites, gastropods, and horned coral are commonly discovered.
Cowan Lake lies near the Cincinnati Arch, an uplifting of bedrock that occurred during the Appalachian Mountains’ building process. The erosion of this arch in the Cowan region exposes fossil-rich limestone. The limestone near Cowan and other parts of the exposed arch, including nearby Caesar Creek State Park, are some of the most famous fossil hunting fields in the world.
A fine stand of beech-maple forest can be found around Cowan Lake. These woodlands contain beautiful wildflowers including bloodroot, wild ginger, spring beauties, and trillium. The woods, fields, and lake provide habitats for a variety of animals. Ducks, geese, herons, and bald eagles are found here. Songbirds, such as eastern bluebirds, catbirds, house wrens, and many others, inhabit the fields and bushy areas of the park. Easily seen mammals include white-tailed deer, raccoon, opossum, beaver, squirrel, rabbit, muskrat, and woodchuck.
American lotus, a brilliant water lily, is abundant in the lake’s shallow areas. It is unusual to find such a large colony of lotus on an inland lake. The plant’s leaves grow up to 2 feet in diameter and support large yellow flowers.
Contact & Hours
Park Hours: 6am to 11pm daily. Visitors are permitted to actively engage in legitimate recreational activities outside these hours. If you have questions, call the park office.
Park Office: (937) 382-1096; 8am to 5pm Monday-Friday
Manager: Mike Norman
Nature Center: Winter Hours: Thursday 10am to 2pm, Friday 2pm to 6pm, and Saturday 10am to 6pm
Find out how you can get involved with others who share your interests and passions at Cowan Lake State Park. Visit Friends Caring for Cowan Lake to learn more.