The 411-acre Portage Lakes State Park offers visitors a variety of outdoor recreational experiences. Boating options include sailing, jet skiing, and water skiing. Swimming and fishing are popular on eight surrounding lakes. Portage Lake's wetlands attract waterfowl and shorebirds providing visitors enjoyment whether hunting or observing wildlife.
Eight lakes encompass 2,034 acres. All lakes have a 400-hp limit, except for Nimisila Reservoir which allows only electric motors. The park offers eight boat launch ramps. Boat rentals and fuel are available at private marinas around the area. A boat camping area is located at Latham Bay.
All areas are "no wake" except for portions of Turkeyfoot Lake and East Reservoir. Turkeyfoot Lake and East Reservoir permit wake activities according to the following schedule:
Monday — Saturday
Sunday and Holidays
5- 6:30pm: Skiing
The park features an 18-hole disc golf course. Rental equipment is not available.
A dog park offers a place for your pets to frolic without a leash, including a dog swim area.
Anglers will find good catches of largemouth bass, walleye, muskellunge, pickerel, pan fish, channel catfish, bullhead and carp.
- A platform at North Reservoir provides wheelchair access for fishing.
- An accessible boat ramp and dock is available at New Ramp (5031 Manchester Road).
- Ohio fishing regulations apply.
- A valid Ohio fishing license is required (16 and older).
Hunting for waterfowl only is permitted in designated areas.
Seven scenic picnic areas are located around the park.
Swimming is permitted during daylight hours only. Swim at your own risk. Pets are NOT allowed on swimming beaches.
- Turkeyfoot Lake offers a 900-foot public swimming beach. Parking and vault latrines are available.
- Rex Lake and Cottage Grove Lake have a swimming area for boaters.
- BeachGuard — Water quality advisories, Memorial Day to Labor Day, from Ohio Dept. of Health
Three separate locations offer a total of 9 trails for running or hiking.
East Reservoir Area
- Knapp Forestview Trail — 0.2 Mile
- Knapp Lakeview Trail — 0.8 Mile
- Knapp Walk Trail — 0.1 Mile
Nimisila Reservoir Area
- Nimisila Trail — 1.3 Mile
A portion of the Buckeye Trail passes along the east shore of the Nimisila Reservoir portion of Portage Lakes.
Under the proper winter conditions, park guests can enjoy ice skating, ice boating, and ice fishing. Snowmobiles are only allowed on the frozen water of Portage Lakes; they are not allowed on park roads or trails. Visitors can also cross-country ski on the hiking trails.
More to Do
- Volleyball courts are available at the beach and shelterhouse areas.
- Horseshoe pits are located at the day-use areas of the park.
History & Natural Features
Portage Lakes is named after the old Native American portage path which connected the Cuyahoga River flowing north to Lake Erie and the Tuscarawas River which through the Muskingum, flows south to the Ohio River. This proved advantageous for the Native Americans and early settlers as navigation from Lake Erie to the Ohio was possible with only one eight-mile portage overland. Portage Lakes State Park lies at one of the highest points of the state and on a major watershed divide in Ohio. Some water from the lakes reaches Lake Erie and some flows to the Ohio River.
The area became an important trading post for settlers and Native Americans. It was a recognized landmark during the War of 1812, serving as a rendezvous point of American troops. The old Native American portage path was part of the ancient boundary between the Six Nations and the Western Native Americans.
The city of Akron was laid out in 1825 and was first settled by Irish laborers and others working on the Ohio Canal. Once the canal was completed, the town flourished. Several important industries brought prosperity to the area including stoneware pottery, sewer pipe manufacturing, the match industry and, most recently, the tire and rubber industry. At one time, the Blue Diamond Match Company in Akron used three million board-feet of white pine lumber per year for the manufacture of its matches.
Several of the Portage Lakes were built as feeder reservoirs for the canals to maintain the required depth of 4 feet. The lakes were used for this purpose until the canals were abandoned due to the Great Flood of 1913. The lakes were then used to meet the water needs of the local industries. Some portions of the remnant canals in the Akron area are still navigable by boat.
The Ohio Department of Public Works maintained the canal lands for recreational purposes until 1949 when the Portage Lakes were transferred to the newly formed Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Although early Ohio offered Native Americans and settlers vast water resources through Lake Erie and its major river systems, there were very few natural lakes or ponds in the state. Those that existed, including several of the Portage Lakes area, were the direct result of glacial activity. These bodies of water were formed by huge chunks of ice which broke off the retreating glacier and melted in depressions forming kettle lakes. Many of the natural lakes in Ohio have aged into bogs or marshes.
Unique plants associated with these boggy areas can be found in the park. Tamarack trees, more common in northern boreal forests, are scattered through the park with patches of skunk cabbage and cranberry also present. Nice stands of beech-maple forest provide refuge for skunk, raccoon, white-tailed deer and many other animals. The wetlands of the park attract thousands of geese and waterfowl during spring and fall migration periods. Mallards, wood ducks and Canada geese nest in the wetlands each year. In addition, woodcock, heron, hawks, owls, red fox, beaver and muskrat are often sighted.