Salt Fork State Park is Ohio's largest park, covering about 20,000 acres of rolling, forested terrain just eight miles northeast of Cambridge. Despite the park's timeless wilderness feel, for almost 150 years farmers worked this land, many occupying the same property for five generations. In the 1960's when the park was created, evidence of that agrarian past quickly receded. Over time, new forest reclaimed fields and pastures, and wildlife returned in abundance. All but one of the region's farms, mills, covered bridges, and schoolhouses were removedthe Kennedy Stone House Museum lives on as a reminder of the region's past, dedicated to preserving the stories of the families who once made a life on these lands.
For kayakers, hikers, the park offers endless opportunities to find peace and quiet. The center of the lake is deep enough to contain a waterski zone, but even here, the speed boat traffic is rare outside of summer weekends. The lakes many long, winding, meandering fingers provide lots of opportunities for quiet isolated paddling and fishing.
A short, easy family friendly day paddle is to put in at Hosak's cave, about 5 miles north of the main entrance. The cave is a short walk from the put-in, but be careful with little ones--people have fallen and been killed by straying too close to the edge. The Kennedy Stone House is a short paddle west from here--maybe 1/2 a mile. It is open Thursday-Sunday afternoons in the warmer months. Keep paddling another mile or so, and you can find the McCleary cemetery, which can also be accessed by trail from the Kennedy Stone House.
Putting in behind the park headquarters, near the south entrance of the park also provides great opportunities for shallow water paddling among lilly pads and lotus plants. Lots of wildlife here at dusk, including beaver, osprey, and deer.
Also on the north end of the park, putting in where the northernmost finger of the lake crosses Freedom Road will bring you to one of the quietest, most peaceful spots on the lake.
There are lots of options for overnight stay, from the main campground with its own swimming beach, to waterside cabins, from which you could launch your kayak for an early morning paddle, to a really nice lodge at the center of the park. There's a golf course, if that's your thing, LOTS of geochaches in the park, a nature center where kids can hold an assortment of reptiles, and hiking trails and horseback trails.
Tent and motorhome campground with all modern facilities, primitive group camp, waterside cabins and a very nice lodge.
Ohio requires the registration of kayaks, but I believe you are exempt if you are visiting from out of state.
From I-77 take the US-22 exit just north of Cambridge, and drive east about 6-8 miles. The main entrance to the park is on the left. Stop at the park headquarters about 1/2 mile north on the right to pick up park maps and other information.
Ohio State Parks website:
For those interested in history pick up the book, "Salt Fork State Park" (http://www.amazon.com/Salt-Fork-State-Images-America/dp/0738541338/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1229777455&sr=8-1) which tells the story of the land before it was converted to a park, and includes the GPS locations of a number of interesting places inside the park, including the remnants of 19th century homesteads, hidden cemeteries, mills and covered bridges. All royalties for the book go to support the Kennedy Stone House museum, a museum of 19th century farm life in the middle of the park.