Ohio’s Buck Creek State Park is an outstanding and very popular vacation spot for families who love the outdoors, but do not wish to go totally primitive. Whether you want to set up a campsite or rent a cottage for a long stay, or just hike, picnic and head on home, Buck Creek State Park offers a range of activities and amenities bound to appeal to anyone short of the most hardcore survivalist. If “vacation” and “recreation” mean pretty much the same thing to you, this large park of wetland and fen, bog, meadow, lake and wood might be just what you want.
If you can ride it, you can probably bring it here, whether horse, boat, bike, or snowmobile. The kids can find playgrounds, seniors the shuffleboards and horseshoe pits. For the more active, there are basketball, volleyball and tennis courts, as well as a free disc golf course.
Careful observers on park grounds can spot endangered species, such as the spotted turtle, and exotic flora, including the crowd-pleasing horned bladderwort. One might even stumble upon some ancient Native American, Colonial or Revolutionary War era artifacts. Ohio Indians lived peacefully throughout this area, until George Rogers Clark began a series of raids against them, dispersing and driving them north. As the Indian presence receded, settlers, led by the local legend Simon Kenton, established themselves at Buck Creek and Mad River.
Historians may be interested in the restored native prairie and the David Crabill House, which appears on the National Register of Historic Places. The US Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the visitor center near the lake’s C.J. Brown Dam, can provide a wealth of information regarding local and natural history.
Cottages and Campsites
Visitors to Buck Creek State Park can stay overnight the year round. Heated cottages, whose amenities make them more like apartments with full kitchen and dining areas, can be reserved even during the winter months. For the warmer months, the park features 101 campsites, 86 of which have electric hookups. The campgrounds include access to flush toilets and showers. The dog is welcome, too, as pets have their own camping area.
Hunting, Fishing, and Birding
Thanks to its large central lake- over 2000 acres-ducks and other waterfowl abound, especially in the northern reaches. Nearby open meadows are home to several somewhat exotic songbirds, such as the dickcissel that, in breeding plumages, shines yellow as the sun. If you are lucky, you can see them as you hike the park’s eight miles of trail.
Anglers flock to the park year round- ice fishing is permitted. Crappie, catfish, walleye, white bass and bluegill are plentiful.
Hunting is permitted form October 15 to March 1, provided one has the proper license, and stays within designated locations. Most hunters come for the game birds and ducks, but others set out after white-tailed deer and rabbits.
Boating, Beaches and Swimming
Sailboats, kayaks, rowboats: if you can haul it and launch it, your boat’s good to go at Buck Creek State Park. Horsepower is unlimited on the lake, and a new four-lane boat ramp makes it easy and quick to get to open water and ski, zip towards the 2400 foot beach or the SCUBA area. For fuel, bait, or snacks, tie up at the marina.
Go ahead-load up the boat, sail towards the campgrounds and the camper’s beach, wade ashore and set up your site like a pioneer. Less adventurous beachgoers can pack light, and eat from the concession stand grill.
In addition to ice fishing, park visitors enjoy plenty of cross country ski trails and some great locations for sledding. Once the bridle trail is shut of horses, and the snow is deep enough, the bridle trail is open for snowmobiles.
Buck Creek State Park offers such a remarkable range of recreational and education opportunities, one wonders why anyone would consider leaving during their stay. For variety, however, it’s good to know that the park is located less than an hour from Springfield, and even closer to other lakes and parks, including Kiser Lake and the Cedar Bog State Nature Preserve, which is overseen by the Ohio Historical Society