By Ohio.org Staff
Posted On: Dec 8, 2021
In Southeast Ohio, the beauty of nature, the charm of small towns and the historical relics provide a fulfilling and relaxing getaway in Morgan County.
Leave the bustle and stress behind, and discover outdoor adventure, unique historic sites and hidden gems lining quaint Main Streets. The journey is as pleasant as the destination, with country roads that meander along the Muskingum River and rolling hills dotted with neatly planted farms.
The Adventure Awaits
Morgan County is a natural haven thanks to its lush forests and gushing waterways. The Muskingum River Parkway is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, because its 10 hand-operated locks were an engineering achievement that helped open Ohio and the Midwest to development. Four of those locks are in Morgan County and are accessible for up-close viewing. These locks are still in operation and are available for boaters to use today.
Burr Oak State Park is a fisherman’s delight with bass, bluegill, crappie and catfish swimming in the 664-acre lake. Boats with small motors are permitted or you can bring a chair and fish from the shoreline. The swimming beach includes a sand volleyball court and picnic area, and the nearby disc golf course allows for some friendly competition. Hiking trails offer several short options or hikers can circle the entire lake on the 18-mile backpack trail.
Northeast of Burr Oak, the Wolf Creek Wildlife Area has nearly 4,000 acres of woodland, rolling fields and small wetlands. Public fishing spots and a shooting and archery range make it a popular destination for sportspeople.
Continuing northeast, Jesse Owens State Park is a beautiful example of former mining areas being reclaimed by nature. When the Central Ohio Coal Company (an AEP subsidiary) began mining the area in the 1940s, the rich topsoil was removed and held in storage. When mining ended, the original topsoil was returned and used to rehabilitate the land with manmade contours and ponds. The addition of vegetation and 63 million trees resulted in a wildlife habitat that is home to an increasing number of bird and wild animal species.
For a unique glimpse into Ohio history, stop at The Miner’s Memorial Park, which commemorates AEP and Central Ohio Coal Company employees on the Wall of Honor. The highlight of the memorial is the Big Muskie bucket, part of the largest dragline ever built. The Big Muskie was a massive feat of engineering. From 1969 to 1991 it moved more than 483 million cubic yards of overburden to uncover the Ohio brown coal. Although the Big Muskie is now at rest, visitors can imagine its great size when they stand within the bucket walls.
Main Street Charm
When you’re ready to take a break from the outdoors and explore streets instead of trails, the charming small towns will welcome you with history and hospitality. McConnelsville, in central Morgan County, features an attractive public square lined with eateries and retail shops.
Inside Town Square Collectibles you’ll find home decor and gifts crafted by more than 20 local artisans. Take home a taste of McConnelsville by stopping in Meyers Specialty Market. Don’t miss the deli products, fresh fruit, delicious jam and baked goods like maple cinnamon rolls. A visit to Dori’s Flower Shop is guaranteed to brighten your day. Morris Hardware, a family-owned business, has been serving the community for 175 years. Stop in for a piece of local history and for help finding the tools for your next project.
Gracing the public space is the Twin City Opera House, in operation since 1892. Although the imposing building also houses government offices, the real star is the beautifully restored theater. Patrons can watch classic and first-run movies and enjoy live entertainment such as the Ohio Valley Opry (OVO). The OVO brings gospel, bluegrass and country music to the stage, performed by both local and nationally known musicians.
Visitors can learn more about Morgan County’s early years at the Morgan County Historical Society Museum and at several satellite exhibits and buildings both in town and in neighboring Malta. On the river, check out Lock #7, located right in McConnelsville, and learn more about this fascinating aspect of river travel.
Outdoor adventures and exploration can work up an appetite, and Morgan County has plenty of dining options. At Old Bridge Brewing Company, award-winning brews are served up in a century old building, and on select evenings food trucks are on-site with creative menus. For pizza with a view, Maxwell’s Pizza offers a rooftop dining area that overlooks the river, the perfect spot for casual gatherings. Enjoy smoked barbecue at Boondocks BBQ & Grill or take a drive south to Chesterhill where the Triple Nickel Diner dishes up juicy bison and angus beef burgers. These are just a few of the restaurants to enjoy.
Home Away from Home
One of the most popular spots in Morgan County is also one of the most historic; the Stockport Mill Inn is the last remaining mill on the Muskingum River. Built in 1906, its twin turbines still operate and provide power for the Inn and the on-site restaurant. The dining room is accented with rustic wood beams and diners are treated to a view of the turbulent water spilling into the river. That same water provides a soothing soundtrack for an overnight stay, and the Inn has 14 luxurious guest rooms, each one with its own personality. Enjoy a delicious meal, relax on the private balcony and feel the stress of the busy world melt away.
In McConnelsville, visitors can book a luxury suite at The Inns at 8th & Main. The Inns offers a traditional boutique bed and breakfast in a historic building right on Main Street. At Burr Oak State Park visitors can relax in the comfortable lodge or cozy cabins, or get closer to nature in one of the many camping areas. The lodge features a restaurant, inviting lounge and many recreational activity sites – the outdoor gathering areas offer front row seats to the water views. The park is dotted with campsites, from primitive tent camping to sites with electric connection and even some that accommodate horses. RV owners will find several private campgrounds perfect for their “home away from home.”
In Morgan County, country roads lead to outdoor adventure, welcoming small towns and a river that played an important role in Ohio’s history – all waiting to provide the perfect getaway.