At the ages of two and six, my daughters had never been on a camping trip. With summer quickly drawing to a close, I had a “now-or-never” moment and decided to give Pymatuning State Park a try. I was only vaguely familiar with the park, located at Pymatuning Lake in the northeast corner of the state.
It turned out that I made a great choice: Pymatuning was a quiet, family-friendly getaway that was a frugal parent’s dream: $13 for our one-night stay (thanks to my dad’s Golden Buckeye Card — otherwise our “premium” electric waterfront site would have been $26. Other sites were available for $21). Cottages and yurts were also available.
The staff was very accommodating upon our arrival, allowing us to check in early as soon as we’d scouted out our campsite. We found a number we liked and they varied from woodsy to full sunlight. I’m sure that since we were there on a weeknight we had more of a variety of campsites to choose from, including several that were waterfront: Non-waterfront as in, “Look, we’re fifteen steps away from our own personal inlet!”
The girls spent much of their time playing with sand toys on our mini “beach” and pretending to be explorers in a nearby grove of trees.
Pymatuning — a Native American term translated as “the crooked-mouthed man’s dwelling place” — began as vast swamp and forestland which, as more settlers arrived in northern Ohio, largely disappeared over time. In 1933, the dam that impounded Pymatuning Reservoir was built. The land on the western shore of the reservoir was acquired by the state in 1935, and Pymatuning State Park began development in 1950.
We saw remains of the swampland on a hike along the one-mile Beaver Dam Trail, which wound through a forest and sidetracked to a gazebo (ideal for birdwatching) overlooking the marsh.
The area is known for its abundant fishing, and we saw a number of people fishing from boats and on the shores during our stay.
Though the weather was too cool for swimming while we were there, we did play in the sand at the beach, which also features a sand volleyball court and nearby playground.
After we finished our gooey S’mores and the girls had settled into the tent for the night, we witnessed a display of stars that put our suburban skyline to shame. Standing on the dock and staring into the night sky made us feel like we were somewhere magical — we even saw a few shooting stars.
Though it was only a short stay, we considered our Pymatuning State Park experience a great one and one that we’d repeat in a heartbeat.