Independence Dam State Park is located along the banks of the beautiful Maumee State Scenic River, which is ideal for boating, fishing, or paddling. Remnants of Ohio's canal era is evident along 7 miles of the historic canal, which runs between County Road 424 and the park. Independence Dam State Park offers seasonal, primitive riverside campsites and shady picnic areas.
Unlimited horsepower boating is permitted on the Maumee River. A four-lane launch ramp is provided on the west end; one hand launch is on the east end of the park and one hand launch is located in the campground. Four miles of the river accommodate skiers. The river is excellent for canoeing and kayaking.
Independence Dam State Park Campground offers Primitive sites seasonally (Apr 1 - Oct 31) for tent camping only. Reservations are required; they can be made online or by calling (866) 644-6727.
The Maumee River offers fine catches of northern pike, smallmouth bass, crappie, catfish, and an occasional walleye.
A 3-mile dirt hiking trail, once the towpath of the Miami and Erie Canal, offers hikers a glimpse into the colorful past of Ohio's canal era. The trail meanders between the canal and the river through a dense hardwood forest.
The Buckeye Trail -- part of the North Country Trail at this point -- passes through the park on the hiking trail and the park road.
Numerous picnic tables are located along the tree-lined bank of the Maumee River. Grills and restrooms are provided.
Two shelterhouses can be reserved online or by calling (866) 644-6727. If not reserved, they are first-come, first served.
- CCC Shelter: 75 capacity; ADA compliant, stone fireplace, electricity; very close the Maumee River near the dam
- Clevenger: 50 seating capacity; ADA compliant, electricity, large grassy area; along the Maumee River
Under the proper winter conditions, park guests can enjoy cross-country skiing.
More to Do
- The road through the park offers a scenic ride for bicyclists.
- Historical Marker
History & Natural Features
The natural confluence of the Maumee and Auglaize rivers, upstream from Independence Dam State Park, was a significant contributing factor for the development of northwestern Ohio. The waters of these two great rivers were a source of life for Native Americans and frontiersmen alike. Today, the rivers are a valuable natural resource for both industry and recreation.
This was a rich hunting and fishing area for Native American peoples. Tribes residing in the dense hardwood forests included the Hopewell, Erie, Iroquois, Miami, Shawnee, Wyandot, Delaware, and Ottawa. The most famous Native American of this area was Pontiac, an Ottawa chief. It is believed he was born near the junction of the two rivers in 1712. He is remembered for the infamous "Pontiac's Conspiracy," a rebellion of Native American tribes against trade policies in 1763.
Blue Jacket, a great Shawnee war chief, made his home near the banks of these same rivers in the late 1700s. In 1793, a "Grand Indian Council," the greatest assembly of tribal representatives on the North American Continent, was also held here. The council convened with the determination to stop the American westward expansion.
At this time, President Washington decided that Indian power needed to be reduced. President Washington chose General Anthony Wayne to lead forces into the northwest. General Wayne's victory in the carefully planned battle opened the territory to a great wave of settlers.
Homesteaders came on horseback, on foot, and in ox-drawn wagons, moving north along the wilderness trails. State Route 424 now follows the narrow military trail used by General Wayne.
During the construction of the Miami and Erie Canal (1837-1848) thousands of bones were discovered in the area. During the War of 1812, Winchester Camp No. 3 covered approximately 40 acres in the heart of the Black Swamp. Many of the soldiers housed here during the winter of 1812 were not outfitted for the harsh winter, which resulted in many deaths. A historical marker was dedicated to the fallen soldiers in 2010.
The Miami and Erie Canal, which traveled north from Cincinnati, merged with the Wabash and Erie Canal just south of Defiance. The two canals then proceeded via a common trunk to Maumee Bay. Large cities sprang up along the canals and developed into important trade and industrial centers. The use of the canals began to decline in the 1860s due to the railroads. A flood in 1913 destroyed much of the canal. Today, one can trace 7 miles of the original historic canal between State Route 424 and the park. The main entrance road to the park crosses over the ruins of Lock Number 13.
The existing dam on the Maumee River was completed in 1924. This cement dam replaced the original wooden dam which was built in the 1800s for the canal system. At the time of the rebuilding of the structure, several organizations expressed support for a park between the old canal bed and the river. The Ohio Department of Public Works purchased private lands creating the park. In 1949, Independence Dam State Park came under the administrative authority of the newly created Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The Maumee Valley is but a mere shadow of what it used to be prior to settlement. This area was in the midst of the Great Black Swamp which was 120 miles long and 30 to 40 miles wide. This heavily forested area was an extension of the immense forest that covered 95% of Ohio. This great forest contained huge sycamores often used for temporary barns or even homes when they became hollow. Towering oaks and giant tulip trees became intermixed with walnut trees--some over 6 feet in diameter.
As vast as this mighty forest once was, nearly every tree had been cut in less than 100 years after settlement of Ohio began. Settlers cut, sawed, burned, and girdled most of the 24 million acres of woodlands leaving only four million by 1883. The Maumee Valley in the Great Black Swamp was the last stronghold of Ohio's great forest. The boggy soil made passage into the area nearly impossible until a great system of ditches and drains were installed between 1859 and 1875 to drain the swamp. During that time period, nearly 2.5 million acres of the Maumee Valley was cleared. By 1885, the region looked much as it does today--endless farm fields dotted here and there with small woodlots.
The Maumee Valley today supports only 6% of the land in forest cover. Fortunately, much of that forest cover lies along the banks of the Maumee River. It is still possible to see great sycamores, black locusts, beech, and maple trees lining the river through the park. The river is very scenic and is the largest in northwest Ohio. In fact, it is the second-largest stream flowing into Lake Erie with 4,700 cubic feet per second. The river's banks support an abundance of woodland wildflowers including jewelweed, violets, and spring beauties.
Songbirds such as the scarlet tanager, Louisiana waterthrush, and yellow-throated warbler enjoy the wooded canopy draping the river. The fox squirrel, raccoon, skunk, and woodchuck find the riparian habitat suitable.