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sunset at the Portside Marina at Kelleys Island in Ohio

Boating in Ohio

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Portside Marina in Kelleys Island on Lake Erie

Boating in Ohio

By Anietra Hamper

Posted On: Jun 27, 2022

The spritz of water splashing on me from the side of the boat is refreshing as I hit the Alum Creek waterway. Lots of boats are out today enjoying the cool-down from the early summer heat in motor boats, sailboats, kayaks, pontoons, and fishing boats.

While Alum Creek State Park is one of Ohio's busiest boating waterways with more than 3,300 aquatic acres - including coves that are great for swimming - all of Ohio's lakes and rivers give boaters a special reason to enjoy the water.

The fresh air,  the bounce on the wake, and the friendly greetings of passing boaters reminds me of time I spent on the water as a kid with my grandpa boating on Grand Lake St. Mary's in the summer. In fact, family time and making memories is one of the best reasons to go boating in Ohio.

There are many ways to enjoy boating in Ohio. If you have your own watercraft, you can tackle a new lake or river every weekend and never hit them all in the state! If you don't own a watercraft, most marinas near Ohio's lakes rent boats, kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and paddleboats by the hour or the day.

Here are some of the top waterways to explore by region to get you started:

young man in a sail boat on the water during the day at alum creek state park in delaware ohio
Alum Creek State Park in Delaware 

Boating in Central Ohio

Alum Creek State Park in Delaware 

The reservoir at Alum Creek holds over 3,300 acres of water and offers boaters a paradise with plenty of room for skiers. The northern part of the lake is a no-wake area, for those looking for a more relaxing time out on the water. There's also a newly opened marina for boaters to use throughout the summer and fall. 

Deer Creek State Park in Mt. Sterling 

Located about 40 minutes from Columbus, Deer Creek State Park allows unlimited horsepower boating on the 1,277-acre reservoir and boat-swim areas to take the plunge while parked. There is a marina for fuel, dock rentals, boat rentals, and overnight accommodations at the full-service Deer Creek State Park Lodge, cabins, and campground.

Delaware State Park 

Just north of Columbus, Delaware State Park has a 1,300-acre reservoir that allows unlimited horsepower boating. There are several boat ramps available with boat and dock rentals offered seasonally. The full-service marina has fuel and supplies available. Overnight options include boat camping that's permitted at several locations and a family campground.

Kokosing Scenic River in Mt. Vernon

For the people who love paddling, the Kokosing Scenic River is one of the most scenic waterways beginning in Mt. Vernon and winding through portions of Knox and Coshocton counties. You can follow the water trail map and experience a variety of water conditions suitable for all levels of paddling experience.

More Boating in Central Ohio

boats docked at a marina at burr oak state park in glouster ohio
Burr Oak State Park in Glouster

Boating in Southeast Ohio

Belmont Lake 

Kayakers and paddlers will enjoy the small Belmont Lake at Barkcamp State Park.  It's located in the rugged and picturesque Inviting Region of Appalachia, and provides boating opportunities for both hand-operated and electric motor boats on the 112-acre lake. After your morning on the lake, enjoy a picnic lunch on the banks with Made in Ohio snacks. 

Burr Oak State Park in Glouster 

Located in Southeast Ohio, this picturesque State Park offers a number of outdoor activities, but the highlight has to be the boating on the 664-acre Burr Oak Lake. Boats with 10HP or less are permitted (while boats with motors exceeding 10HP are can operate at idle speed or at a speed that doesn't create a wake). There are also seasonal dock rentals and four launch ramps - including one at Burr Oak State Park Lodge

Muskingum River Parkway in Zanesville 

This river, located near Zanesville, is home to Ohio’s only remaining complete system of hand-operated locks in the nation that are still used by recreational boaters. You can plan your boating trip to go through one of the 10 locks by calling Dillon State Park office for current lock schedules and/or fees. The Muskingum River Parkway is 112 miles long and is recognized as a national historic site.

Salt Fork State Park in Lore City

You can enjoy boating in Ohio's largest State Park, Salt Fork State Park, which offers two marinas for all types of boats. Unlimited horsepower is allowed on the 2,952-acre lake with eight boat ramps for easy access. There are combined speed/ski zones are marked by buoys and swimming permitted from the boat in designated areas. There's also a full-service lodge on-site, deluxe cabins, a family campground, and boat camp sites available for overnight stays.

More Boating in Southeast Ohio

boats lined up at The Marina at Caesar Creek in Waynesville Ohio
The Marina at Caesar Creek in Waynesville 

Boating in Southwest Ohio

Acton Lake in College Corner 

Tucked away in Hueston Woods State Park in Southwest Ohio, Acton Lake is open to boaters of any motor size, but there is a
"no wake" speed restriction on the 625-acre lake. You can access a launch ramp and a seasonal marina for boat rentals, plus dock space and fuel. Overnight options include a modern lodge (with marina), cabins, and campgrounds.

Caesar Creek State Park in Waynesville 

The 2,830-acre Caesar Creek Lake in Caesar Creek State Park is a perfect place to spend the day boating. The park has five boat ramps and is located about 30 minutes north of Cincinnati. The marina offers fuel, refreshments, supplies, and shower facilities. The park also has several designated areas for boat swimming and overnight options include boat camping and a large family campground.

Cowan Lake State Park in Wilmington 

Three boat ramps provide easy access to the 700-acre lake at Cowan State Park. While there is a 10-horsepower limit on the lake, it's a popular spot for sailing and also has a kayak launch. Or you can enjoy the boat swim and boat camp areas near the northern part of the lake. Seasonal docks are available to rent, and the Camp Store and South Shore Marina sell supplies and offer select rentals. 

Little Miami Scenic River in Waynesville 

Ohio's first state and national scenic river is a Southwest Ohio paddling treasure. The Little Miami River has bountiful natural scenery from its northern reaches above Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve as a small stream to its southern sections that are as wide as three miles in some areas. Public access is available at many sites along the river.

More Boating in Southwest Ohio 

boat at the geneva marina in geneva ohio on lake erie
Geneva Marina on Lake Erie 

Boating in Northeast Ohio

Geneva State Park on Lake Erie 

Lake Erie provides some of the best boating in Ohio and one of the best access locations is on the Northeast shoreline at Geneva State Park. The park offers a full-service marina, a six-lane boat ramp and dock. If you want to stay overnight, check out the campground, cabins, and The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake

Grand Wild & Scenic River in Portage and Geauga County 

The second designated Wild and Scenic river, the Grand River is one of the top examples of a natural stream in Ohio ideal for paddlers. The headwaters of the river start in Portage and Geauga County. You can then follow the river north through Trumbull County, Ashtabula, and Lake County. The views from the river include both wooded areas and steep shale bluffs.

Mosquito Lake State Park in Cortland 

Located in Northeast Ohio's Trumbull County is Mosquito Lake State Park. The 7,850-acre lake allows for unlimited horsepower boating on permitted portions, while other areas are restricted to 15 mph. You can access the lake from five launch ramps, including one at Mosquito Lake Marina and Trumbull County Boat Club

West Branch Lake in Ravenna 

Located just north of Akron, West Branch State Park is a popular destination for all types of boating. The 2,650-acre lake allows for unlimited horsepower, but a no-wake zone extends 300 feet from all shorelines. The no-wake zones are reserved for paddlers. There's a large family campground for overnight visits.

More Boating in Northeast Ohio 

boats at dusk at Portside Marina at Kelleys Island on Lake Erie in Ohio
Portside Marina in Kelleys Island 

Boating in Northwest Ohio

East Harbor State Park in Lakeside-Marblehead

Located on the shores of Lake Erie, East Harbor State Park is an ideal spot because it's near so many of the area's popular tourist spots. There's a marina with seasonal and day-use docks, launch ramp, boat supplies, and storage. You can also stay at the on-site at nearby family campground.

Maumee River in Toledo 

The wide Maumee River is perfect for many types of boating and Mary Jane Thurston State Park in close by McClure is a one of the best spots from which to launch. The Maumee River is a State Scenic River with natural scenery to indulge your senses for an afternoon or several days. 

Safe Harbor Sandusky 

This marina on the shores of Lake Erie's Sandusky Bay included several amenities ideal for boater looking to enjoy a day on the water. For those looking for more adventure on the open waves, try the East Sandusky Bay Water Trail. The 15-mile trail offers fantastic views of the shore and wildlife. 

Sandusky Scenic River in Crawford County

The Sandusky River runs through the agricultural region in Northwest Ohio and is one of the longest rivers in the Lake Erie watershed. The river is ideal for paddlers to coast through this historic region that was once home to Native American tribes. There are a number of access points providing facilities and boat launch areas. Paddlers should note that there are several low head dams and areas that may require you to portage your canoe or kayak, so it's important to plan your trip ahead of time.

More Boating in Northwest Ohio 

Safety on the water is always the most important factor to remember to ensure your day boating is a good (and safe) one. The ODNR Division of Parks and Watercraft reminds boaters to always wear a life jacket, to not drink alcohol while operating a boat, to create a float plan for days on the water, not to overload boats beyond capacity, and to understand boating laws. You can take boater education courses through ODNR and review Ohio boating laws.

You can always continue learning about boating in Ohio and relevant information by checking out ODNR's Boating & Paddling in Ohio and the Division of State Parks & Watercraft.

For more outdoor adventures, boating and recreational watersports, check out #OhioFindItHere at Ohio.org

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