Situated along the historic Maumee River, 105-acre Mary Jane Thurston State Park offers a variety of day-use and overnight activities. The Maumee is not only scenic, it also provides some of the best stream fishing in Ohio. Boaters have access to the river while history buffs can explore the remnants of the old canal.
A launch ramp provides access to the Maumee River. The park has a 96-slip marina. Slips are available for seasonal rental. Transient docks are available for rent on a daily basis. Contact the park office for more information.
The park's small campground offers both non-electric and electric sites; several of which have water hook-up. A number of sites are designated for tent camping. Pet camping is available at all sites. Reserve online or by calling (866) 644-6727.
- Latrines and restrooms nearby
- A dump station near the park office
Northern pike, walleye, white bass, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, bullhead, sheepshead and crappie offer good sport on the Maumee River. A valid Ohio fishing license is required.
The southern shoreline is open to trapping and waterfowl. Other portions of the property are designated for bow hunting only, in accordance with state laws. A valid Ohio hunting license is required.
Two picnic areas with picnic tables, grills, restrooms and water are located along the river shore.
Four hiking trails are found in the park:
- Tow Path - Easy 0.3 Mile (The path continues into Grand Rapids Park)
- Orange Trail - Easy 0.5 Mile
- Blue Trail - Easy 1.2 Miles
- Yellow Trail - Easy 0.5 Mile
Under the proper winter conditions, park guests can enjoy ice fishing, sledding, and cross-country skiing.
More to Do
- Swings are located in day-use areas of the park.
- Kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards available for rent at the park office.
History & Natural Features
This area was a rich hunting ground for many Native American tribes. As settlers moved west, hostilities arose. President Washington appointed General Anthony Wayne to lead forces into the area. After building Fort Defiance in 1794 at the junction of the Maumee and Auglaize rivers, Wayne advanced down the Maumee Valley. At the Battle of Fallen Timbers, Wayne’s troops defeated the Native American warriors commanded by Blue Jacket. This battle put an end to 20 years of conflict between the tribes and settlers.
In the mid-19th century, the canal building era had a great influence on the region. The Miami and Erie Canal, which traveled north from Cincinnati, merged with the Wabash and Erie Canal south of Defiance in 1845, linking Cincinnati to Lake Erie. The canal influenced development and trade along its route.
In order to better use the slackwater at the head of the Maumee River near the community of Gilead, a second dam was built by the state in 1845. Previously, a smaller dam had been built across part of the river to power a mill. The citizens were outraged about the new dam which limited water power to the mill and one night destroyed the dam. As a compromise, the Gilead Side Cut Canal was built, connecting Gilead with the Miami and Erie Canal, and a replacement dam was constructed. In 1855, the canal port of Gilead was incorporated as Grand Rapids.
In order to better use the slack water at the head of the Maumee River near the community of Gilead, a second dam was built by the state in 1845. Previously, a smaller dam had been built across part of the river to power a mill. The citizens were outraged about the new dam, which limited water power to the mill. One night, angry protesters destroyed the new dam. As a compromise, the Gilead Side Cut Canal was built; it connected Gilead with the Miami and Erie Canal, and a replacement dam was constructed. In 1855, the canal port of Gilead was incorporated as Grand Rapids.
In 1928, Mary Jane Thurston, a Grand Rapids schoolteacher bequeathed 14 acres of land to be used as a park. After several transfers and leases, Mary Jane Thurston State Park was dedicated in 1968.
During the Ice Age, the northwestern region of the state was covered by a massive sheet of ice. As the ice melted, the area from Fort Wayne, Indiana to western New York was covered by a large lake named Lake Maumee by geologists. As the ice retreated, new eastern outlets opened and eventually present-day Lake Erie was formed.
As the water drained from the state, swamps formed in the lowlands. What was once the Great Black Swamp, 120 miles long and 30 to 40 miles wide, included the Maumee Valley. The heavily wooded swamp was a barrier to westward settlement. By 1900, through the use of a major system of dikes and ditches, the area was drained. The dark soils of the old swamp became fertile agricultural lands for new settlers.
Ridges of sand or old beaches can be found from Liberty Center, Ohio northeast to Detroit. Known in Ohio as the Oak Openings, these sandy beaches were formed when present-day Lake Erie was larger. Originally, the Oak Openings were surrounded by dense swamp forests. Today, the Oak Openings area includes impressive dunes, bogs, prairies, swamp forests and a variety of unique vegetation.