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.
Note: Improvements to the wastewater collection system in the campground area is scheduled for this winter. Anticipated completion is May 2021. As the project is completed and areas are restored, campsites and cabins will become available for reservation.
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 and Non-electric 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.
Note: Improvements to the wastewater collection system in the campground area is ongoing. Anticipated completion is May 2021. As the project is completed and areas are restored, campsites and cabins will become available for reservation.
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.
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 can be found 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. The park also offers two picnic shelters for reservation online.
- Dance Pavilion - Covered shelter with electric, located off Yankee Rd near the public beach. Visitors are asked to practice Carry In, Carry Out. Seasonal (April-Oct) portalet located in the parking lot.
- Campground Shelter - Located in the campground near showerhouse 1, this covered shelter offers electric, picnic tables, and charcoal grill.
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 - Loop – Easy
- Lakeview - 1.1 miles - Loop - Moderate
Trails near main office:
- Dogwood - 0.7 mile - Linear – Easy
- Oldfield - 0.8 mile - Loop - Moderate
Southside Lake Trails:
- Spillway - 2.61 miles - Linear – Moderate
- Emerald Woods Trail - 1.8 miles - Linear - 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
The Cowan Lake region has been home to many people from the Adena who were here around 900 BC and built the burial mounds that are under the lake to the Hopewell who were in the area before the Shawnee.
In more recent history, the region was once a stronghold of the Miami and Shawnee Native Americans. After the Battle of Fallen Timbers, the threat of Native American attacks subsided and settlement began. In 1797, the first settler in the area, William Smalley, began clearing land for his home along the river, which was later dammed to form Cowan Lake in 1950.
Cowan Creek was named for the area’s first surveyor, John Cowan. In 1968, Cowan Lake was dedicated as a state park.
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.