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East Harbor State Park
East Harbor State Park

 

Park Overview

Ohio’s 1,831-acre East Harbor State Park, located on the shores of Lake Erie has unlimited opportunities for outdoor recreation. Visitors can enjoy boating, fishing, swimming, picnicking and camping. Nature enthusiasts will enjoy the abundance of waterfowl, shorebirds and other species of wildlife found in the park’s scenic wetlands. Wi-fi is available for a minimal fee.

Activities

Boating
Lake Erie offers unlimited horsepower boating opportunities. The park's marina provides seasonal and day-use dock rentals, fuel, launch ramp, full-time mechanic, boat supplies and restaurant. Boats and campers can be stored year-round at the marina in a fenced enclosure. There is one ramp at the marina (fee), two ramps in the campground (no fee), and a carry-in kayak ramp (no fee) providing access to East Harbor.

Check for water quality advisories
Ohio boating laws and information
 
Camping
The family campground at East Harbor is the largest in the Ohio State Park system.

Reserve online or by calling (866) 644-6727.

340 electric sites
51 full hook-up sites
160 non-electric sites
Showers, flush toilets, dump station, launch ramp and camp store
WiFi access is available for a minimal fee at the camp store
Pet are permitted on all sites
Bike rental is available from the camp office and games and sporting equipment are available on loan to registered campers
A fish cleaning building is available for use by campers
camping fish cleaning house

Dining
Dining is available at the East Harbor Marina & Restaurant

Disc Golf
The park offers an 18-hole course plus a practice hole. The course is located near the Lockwood Shelter House. Bring your own equipment; rental equipment is not available. No fee is charged to play.

Fishing
Lake Erie, the walleye capital of the world, provides anglers great catches of yellow perch, channel catfish, smallmouth and white bass in addition to walleye. Both East Harbor and West Harbor are excellent for bluegill, crappie and carp. A valid Ohio fishing license is required.

Hunting
Hunting for waterfowl is permitted on the eastern side of the offshore islands. Seven duck blinds in the park are awarded through a lottery drawing held on the morning of the third Saturday in August. Contact the park office for details. A valid Ohio fishing and/or hunting license is required.

Ohio hunting laws and information
 
Picnicking
Several picnic areas with fantastic views of the lake and marshlands are equipped with tables and grills. One picnic area is conveniently located next to the beach.

Swimming
The park features a 1,500-foot sand beach on Lake Erie. Vending machines are available. Swimming is permitted in designated areas. Please exercise caution while swimming at the beach.

Trails
East Harbor’s trail system leads through the many different habitats within the park. There are multiple trails throughout the park totaling over 10 miles. All trails are multi-use, which allow hiking, biking, snowmobiles, etc. Eleven named trails can be found in the park:

Middle Harbor Trail - 3/4 Mile - Moderate
Middle Harbor Extension - 1/2 Mile - Easy
Meadow Trail - 3/4 Mile - Easy
Blackberry Trail - 1/2 Mile - Easy
Red Bird Trail - 1/4 Mile - Easy
Rock Garden Loop - 0.3 Miles - Easy
Wetlands Trail - 2 Miles - Easy
South Beach Trail - 2.5 Miles - Easy
Water's Edge Trail - 1 Mile - Moderate
Channel Dunes Loop - 1.2 Mile - Easy
West Harbor Trail - 3/4 Mile - Easy
 
Wildlife Watching
Hundreds of migrating songbirds rest here before flying north across the lake making this a prime birding location during both spring and fall migration.

Winter Recreation
Under the proper conditions, park visitors can enjoy snowmobiling, ice skating, ice fishing, ice boating, and cross-country skiing.

Five snowmobile trails are found in the park:

Middle Harbor Trail - 3/4 Mile
Meadow Trail - 3/4 Mile
Wetlands Trail - 2 Miles
South Beach Trail - 2.5 Miles
Channel Dunes Loop - 1/2 Mile
 
More to Do
Volleyball, basketball and horseshoe courts, along with playground equipment are located in the campground or day use area.
Nature center has seasonal hours.
Programs are offered by the park naturalist on weekends throughout the summer season.
Bicycle rental is available.

History & Natural Features


History
Before European settlement, the East Harbor region was home to Native Americans including the Ottawa and Wyandot tribes. Ottawa in native tongue means “trader.” An east-west trail skirted the southern shore of Lake Erie connecting the Pittsburgh and Detroit settlements, and also linked with the famed Scioto Trail from the south. This important area remained occupied by Native Americans until the War of 1812.

After the Great Black Swamp was eventually drained, the land became highly productive. Fruits, particularly peaches and grapes, were grown extensively. The grape culture became very successful as a result of quality soil, natural drainage and suitable climate.

Marblehead Lighthouse was erected in 1821 east of the park on the Marblehead Peninsula to aid navigation in and out of Sandusky Bay. Johnson’s Island, on the bay side of the peninsula, was the site of a prison for Confederate soldiers captured during the Civil War. A Confederate cemetery still remains on the island.

The region has long been valued as a recreation area. The unique plant and animal life, sandy beaches, marshland and the lake itself led to the development of East Harbor State Park. The park is one of northern Ohio’s most popular vacation spots.

Natural Features
East Harbor State Park is situated on a peninsula of land stretching into the waters of Lake Erie. A two-mile-long strip of beaches and dunes separates the harbor from the open waters of the lake. The harbor itself is the former mouth of the Portage River, which once crossed the Catawba Island peninsula to flow into Lake Erie thousands of years ago. Lake Erie was created during a glacial period when massive sheets of ice gouged and scoured the bedrock of Ohio. The glaciers retreated 12,00 year ago leaving behind deep depressions which filled with meltwater forming the Great Lakes. Evidence of the force of the ice is found throughout the lake area. Small scratches in the rock surface known as glacial striations are common, whereas major glacial grooves, such as those found on Kelleys Island, are rare.

East Harbor lies on the fringe of Ohio’s prairie marsh zone. These wetlands are remnants of the Great Black Swamp which once covered an area 120 miles long and 30 to 40 miles wide. After a period of intense lumbering and draining in the late 1800s, the swamp was nearly destroyed. Only 10 percent of Ohio’s original wetlands now remain. These wetlands produce more wildlife than any other type of habitat in Ohio. Reptiles and amphibians are numerous including the green frog, American toad, water snake, fox snake and painted turtle. Large numbers of ducks, geese, gulls, terns and other migratory waterfowl delight birdwatchers. Middle Harbor is a birding hotspot where black-crowned night herons, egrets, great blue herons and other shorebirds find refuge. Furbearers in the park include muskrat and red fox. Hundreds of migrating songbirds rest here before flying north across the lake.