Location & Description
The center of Dillon Wildlife Area lies 10 miles northwest of Zanesville and 15 miles east of Newark along State Route 146. The area lies along the Licking River and the upper portion of Dillon Reservoir. Dillon is a flood control reservoir and most of the land base is characterized by broad, terraced floodplains, which are frequently flooded during the late winter and spring. Included also are adjacent rolling hills that border the Licking River valley. Over half of the area is woodland with bottomland hardwoods (species including the sycamore, willow, and cottonwood) comprising 65% of the woodland acres. Small acreages of mast-producing oaks and hickories occur on the slopes and ridges of the surrounding uplands. Openland occupies about one-third of the area with 90% of the openland acreage under cultivation including corn, small grains, and meadows. The remainder lies in well-dispersed fallow fields of grasses and forbs and associated brushy field borders. Brushland covers less than 10% of the area.
History & Purpose
Dillon Reservoir was constructed by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers primarily for flood control. The project was authorized for construction by the Flood Control Act of 1938. After years of relocation of railroads, roads, utilities, cemeteries, and small towns and delay resulting from World War II and the Korean Conflict, the dam was completed in September 1961. Dillon Reservoir is a unit of the comprehensive program for flood control in the Ohio River Basin. It supplements the existing reservoir system in the Muskingum River drainage in controlling Muskingum and Ohio River floods. Flow regulation at the dam brings about vast fluctuations in water surface area. During the summer, when the flood threat is low, the water level is maintained at the 737-foot contour line, producing 1,560 surface acres of water. During the winter and spring flood season the water level is dropped three feet to the 734-foot contour line, leaving 1,325 acres of water. Seasonal flooding frequently covers extensive acreage upstream from the reservoir. Under a license from the federal government, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife and Division of Parks and Recreation manage 8,200 acres of Dillon Reservoir area for wildlife and general recreational purposes. Wildlife management work on the 3,612-acre wildlife area has included protection and improvement of existing woodlands, selective maintenance of shrubby coverts, maintenance of permanent grasslands, maintenance of openland by cropland management, and improvement of the seasonal marshland. Hunting and fishing are the major recreational uses, along with nature study, hiking, boating, and bird watching.
The fish species, in the reservoir and tailwaters below the dam include largemouth bass, crappies, channel catfish, bluegill, muskellunge, saugeye, carp, and a variety of suckers. In all, 27 species have been identified. This area supports good populations of cottontail rabbit. Gray and fox squirrels, ruffed grouse, and white-tailed deer occur at population levels consistent with available habitats. Woodchuck and raccoon are abundant. Red and gray fox, opossum, skunk, beaver, muskrat and mink are also present. The woodchuck population is usually high. In late summer, flocks of blue-winged teal appear on the area. Twenty-one different species of ducks have been identified, the most common being the mallard, wood duck, blue-winged teal, pintail, wigeon, ring-necked duck, and scaup. Canada geese are common in the vicinity.
The best rabbit hunting occurs on upland tracts just above bottomlands along the Licking River and along brushy field borders in the vicinity of croplands. The best areas for squirrels lie on both sides of the main body of the reservoir. Hunting stands of hickory and beech are productive early in the season. Later the squirrels are more scattered, feeding on acorns and other fruiting species. The use of decoys with shore or boat blinds for waterfowl will increase hunting success. Jump shooting is also effective on the Licking River above the main reservoir. Brushy, moist bottomlands provide habitat for early fall woodcock hunting. Raccoon hunting is good throughout the area. Trapping muskrat, mink, and other furbearers is most productive in the tributary streams. Beaver trapping is not permitted. Dillon Reservoir and the tailwaters below the dam offer exceptional fishing opportunities. Largemouth bass, channel catfish, white crappie, and bluegill sunfish are abundant throughout the reservoir. Approximately 75,000 saugeye are stocked annually in the reservoir and are primarily caught in the tailwaters. The tailwater area has yielded many quality sport fish species nearly throughout the year. The viewing of waterfowl and other water or wetland related birds is a popular activity at Dillon. Here, the population of herons is probably as large as on any similar-sized area in eastern Ohio. Great blue herons and green herons are common, while lesser numbers of American egrets and black-crowned night herons also occur. Other wetland related birds that may be observed at Dillon are the marsh hawk, osprey, bald eagle (during the spring and fall migrations), sora rail, Wilson’s snipe, and many other shorebirds. Large flights of Wilson’s snipe often occur in the fall on the exposed mud flats at the upper end of the reservoir. Two Indian burial mounds are located on the area. The largest is found along State Route 146, just upstream from the reservoir. Boating with unlimited horsepower is permitted on 1,560-acre Dillon Lake. Two boat ramps provide access to the lake 70 docks are available for rent on a seasonal basis. Nearby Black Hand Gorge, upriver near the village of Toboso, is part of Black Hand Gorge State Nature Preserve, which is used as an outdoor workshop by local schools. This area received its name from early American Indian lore. The name “Black Hand” identifies a sandstone formation which outcrops in a north-south band from Richland County through the Hocking Hills to Jackson County. Hemlock and mountain laurel, relicts of the Ice Age, occur here.