Jesse Owens State Park is a success story in environmental stewardship, conservation and reclaiming land for outdoor recreation. Located in Morgan County and surrounded by thousands of acres of land open to public use, the park is teeming with wildlife. A popular hunting area, the park offers four primitive campgrounds at no charge. The park's variety of ponds and lakes offer plentiful fishing and paddling options. Additional acres are available for hunting and fishing in the adjacent wildlife areas.
The Miner’s Memorial Park is a monument to the achievements of the men and women of American Electric Power (AEP) and its subsidiary Central Ohio Coal Company, located along State Route 78. One attraction here is the Big Muskie Bucket, the largest dragline ever built. The Wall of Honor is another highlight, showcasing the names of past and present employees of Central Ohio Coal Company, which operated the Big Muskie. A picnic area and shelter as well as a scenic overlook are also found in this area.
There is one lake in the state park, as well as a number of small ponds and lakes in the surrounding Jesse Owens State Wildlife Area, which also offers boat launch ramps. Many of the lakes are perfect for small boats or paddlecraft. All lakes have a 9.9 horsepower limit.
Jesse Owens offers four no-fee campgrounds. Campers should follow the self-registration process. Campsites may be occupied on a first-come, first-served basis with a two-week maximum stay. All other state park camping rules apply.
The numerous ponds in the park, wildlife area and adjacent ReCreation Lands have been stocked with bass, bluegills, red-ear sunfish, and channel catfish.
White-tailed deer, squirrel, rabbit, wild turkey and waterfowl can be hunted in season. Please observe all marked no hunting zones.
More to Do
- The park is adjacent to and surrounded by Jesse Owens Wildlife Area and Appalachian Hills Wildlife Area.
- Archery Range
Nature & History
Nature of the Area
From the settlement of the state well into the 1900s, agriculture dominated the economy in the region. In the 1940s, farm harvests began to dwindle, the population declined, and the value of land in the area dropped. However, the land still had value because below layers of clay, limestone and shale was a rich layer of coal. In 1947, the Ohio Coal Company, an American Electric Power (AEP) subsidiary, began mining, moving 2 billion cubic yards of earth and yielding 110 million tons of coal.
Mining the area meant extracting coal buried 180 feet below the surface. Trees and vegetation were removed. The rich topsoil of the area was set aside and stored for future reclamation efforts. Once mining was complete, reclamation efforts began. The area was carefully graded and contoured with hundreds of added lakes and ponds. The original topsoil was used in the rebuilding of the area to support newly planted grasses, plants and more than 63 million trees.
Today, many of the planted trees are starting to mature and provide important wildlife habitat. The ponds that were created have been stocked with sportfish for anglers to enjoy.
Modern strip-mined land reclamation processes have converted many acres of woodlands into extensive grass and brushlands. This type of habitat is not normally found in the hills of southeastern Ohio, making these areas ideal for wildlife watching. Seasonal small wetlands in the valleys attract a variety waterfowl and shorebirds.
In 1961, the Ohio Power Company (now AEP) entered into a cooperative agreement with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources on some of their reclaimed lands. This agreement allowed public access to the property. As land was mined and reclaimed, it would be added into the agreement. Ultimately, nearly 60,000 acres called the ReCreation Lands were opened for free public recreation. For decades, this agreement remained in place, and the park has been open for public use.
In 1998, ODNR recognized AEP’s ReCreation Land as the largest single outdoor recreation facility in Ohio and one of the most diverse. It offers hunting, fishing, camping, boating, hiking, biking and horseback trails, all at no charge.
In 2018, ODNR's divisions of Wildlife and Parks & Watercraft began purchasing large tracts of the former ReCreation Lands area. In 2020, ODNR purchased an additional 1,800 acres to expand the property.