What to do in Portage Lakes State Park

Although early Ohio offered the Indians 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, were the direct result of glacial activity.

Portage Lakes is named after the old Indian portage path that 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 Indians and early settlers as navigation from Lake Erie to the Ohio River was possible with only one eight-mile portage over land.

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 city of Akron was laid out in 1825 and was first settled by Irish laborers and others working on the Ohio Canal. Several of the Portage Lakes were built as feeder reservoirs for the canals to maintain the required depth of four feet. The lakes were used for this purpose until the canals were abandoned in 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 can still be boated.

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, Division of Parks and Recreation.

The scenic and meandering Portage Lakes has a horsepower limit of 400. Eight launch ramps provide access to the lakes. Private marinas in the area offer boat rentals and fuel. Bait shops rest on remote neighborhood corners. Electric motors only are permitted on Nimisila Reservoir where sailing and canoeing opportunities are excellent. Anglers will find good catches of largemouth bass, walleye, muskellunge, pickerel, pan fish, channel catfish, and bullhead. A platform at North Reservoir provides fishing access for persons with disabilities. An excellent swimming beach at Turkeyfoot Lake provides recreation for swimmers and sunbathers. Parking, drinking water, change booths and latrines are provided.

Portage Lakes State Park offers a 74-site campground with both sunny and shaded locations. Pit latrines and a dump station are provided. Pet camping is permitted on designated sites. Campers enjoy their own small boat launch with nearby basketball court, perfect for kids.

Five miles of hiking trials lead visitors to the woodlands and marshes of the park.

Five designated picnic areas are scenically located around the park. Two shelters are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Tables dot many shorelines.

Hunting for waterfowl only is permitted in designated areas. A valid Ohio hunting and / or fishing license is required.

Berry picking for mulberries in July is enjoyed throughout the park. The trees grace many roads and numerous parking areas where locals lean ladders up against trees reaping the bountiful summertime harvest.

Another interesting feature about the park is that it is home to the The Astronomy Club of Akron. They lease land within the park to operate a small observatory and manage a short nature trail. Special programs are presented seasonally.

Portage Lakes carves its way through northeastern Ohio, nestled amid a very populous area where lakeside residents and visitors alike enjoy boating, waterskiing, fishing, wildlife observation, hunting, berry picking, hiking, picnicking, group picnicking, lake swimming, primitive camping, snowmobiling, ice-skating, ice fishing, ice boating, and cross-country skiing.

Located minutes south of Akron, Portage Lakes is accessible off Interstate 277, State Routes 93 and 619, along with many local neighborhood roads.

This state has four distinct seasons and a brilliant fall foliage display in it southern woods during mid October. Winter lasts from December through February with average temperatures near 25 degrees F. Low temperatures dip to single digits, but do not often drop below zero. Northern regions of the state receive average snowfall amounts of 55 inches, while the central and southern regions of the state receive lesser amounts with averages near 30 inches. This difference is caused by lake-affect moisture patterns.

Spring temperatures begin to warm the landscapes of Ohio by mid March and are in full swing by April. Temperatures range from 40 through 70 degrees F through the spring months. This season often brings the most rainfall, before the drying heat of summer. Summer can be extremely hot and humid in the interior of Ohio. Temperatures reach above 90 degrees F frequently through July and August. Cooler fall temperatures don't reach the region until mid to late September. This is a pleasant time to visit as the air is crisp with low humidity levels. Ohio's annual precipitation usually reaches slightly above 50 inches.

5031 Manchester Road
Akron, OH 44319

Phone: 330-644-2220

  • Portage Lakes State Park Travel Q&A