Cowan Lake State Park

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Cowan Lake State Park
Ohio State Park
Cowan Lake sunset.JPG
Sunset on Cowan Lake
Named for: Cowan Lake
Country United States
State Ohio
County Clinton
Location [1]
 - elevation 971 ft (296 m) [1]
 - coordinates 39°23′20″N 83°54′18″W / 39.38889°N 83.90500°W / 39.38889; -83.90500Coordinates: 39°23′20″N 83°54′18″W / 39.38889°N 83.90500°W / 39.38889; -83.90500
Area 1,775 acres (718 ha)
Founded 1968
Management Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Parks and Recreation
IUCN category III - Natural Monument
Cowan Lake State Park is located in Ohio
Cowan Lake State Park
Location of Cowan Lake State Park in Ohio
Website: Cowan Lake State Park

Cowan Lake State Park is a 1,775-acre (718 ha) Ohio state park in Clinton County, Ohio, in the United States. It is operated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.[2] Cowan Lake State Park is open for year-round recreation and is known for a variety of birds that attract birdwatching enthuiasts to the park in southwestern Ohio.


Native Americans[edit]

What is now Cowan Lake State Park was once home to the Miami and Shawnee Indians. The Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794 resulted in the opening of the land to American settlement.

Early settlers[edit]

The first settler in the area was William Smalley. Smalley had previously been held captive by the Lenape. His language skills and knowledge of the land, left him ideally suited to be among the pioneers in settling what became Clinton County.[2]

William Smalley was born in 1759 or 1760 in New Jersey. The Smalley family moved to Western Pennsylvania in 1764 near Pittsburgh. At the age of 16 Smalley was abducted by a band of Lenape Indians while he was standing guard over the pioneer farmer's fields near Fort Pitt.[3]

While held prisoner witnessed the death of his father and many other settlers at the hands of the Lenape. Smalley was taken to an Indian village along the Maumee River. He lived with the Lenape in for five years and became accustomed to the ways of the Lenape, learning both their language and how to survive in the forests of Ohio. He later served an envoy for the Lenape with French and English fur traders. Following a successful negotiations with a group of traders, Smalley was released from the custody of the Lenape in about 1781.[3]

Soon after his release Smalley got married and settled near Cincinnati. He served as a scout and guide for various U.S. Army generals in the Ohio Territory. While serving in this capacity he was once again captured by the Lenape. Smalley was able to escape after a year and seven months. He returned to his family for a short time before being hired by General Anthony Wayne to serve as a guide and interpreter. Smalley remained in the Army with General Wayne until after the Treaty of Greenville when he was discharged.[3]

Smalley settled in the area of what is now Cowan Lake State Park in 1797. He and his brother were the first white settlers in the area and cleared many acres of land for a farm.[2] They built a sawmill, a grist mill and a small distillery. Smalley lived in the area with his family until he died in 1840.[3]

Cowan Lake and Cowan Lake State Park[edit]

Cowan Lake

Cowan Creek named for a pioneer surveyor, John Cowan, was dammed in 1950. The creation of Cowan Lake led to the establishment of Cowan Lake State Park in 1968.[2] Its surface area is 692 acres (2.80 km2)[4]

Geology and ecology[edit]

Cowan Lake State Park lies atop limestone that is laden with fossils. The fossilized plants and animals attract attention from both professional and amateur paleontologists. Much of what is now Ohio was covered by massive inland seas and lakes such as Lake Maumee. As the Appalachian Mountains were formed, the limestone that was once the sea floor was pushed to the surface.[2]

Cowan Lake is surrounded by a deciduous forest of beech and maple trees.[2] The combination of lake and forest makes the park a destination for birders, who can observe mallards, American wigeons, mergansers, great blue and green-backed herons, killdeer, eastern bluebirds, catbirds, and many other species of birds.[2][5] The most common mammals at the park are groundhogs, skunks, raccoons, and opossums.[2]

Other plant life found at the park include bloodroot, wild ginger, and American lotus. The lotus is a water lily that thrives in the shallow waters of Cowan Lake. The leaves of the plant are quite large with yellow flowers.[2]


Cowan Lake State Park is open for year-round recreation. There are six picnic areas and two pavilions. Cowan Lake State Park features six hiking trails and one trail that is open to mountain bikes.[2]

There are 27 cottages that are heated and have air-conditioning. The cottages are fully furnished and linens are provided. There are 237 electric camp-sites and 17 sites without electricity. A centrally located bathhouse has showers, flush toilets and a sanitary dump station for RVs.[2]

Cowan Lake is open for boating, swimming and fishing. Motorboats have a 10 horsepower limit. A marina on the southern shore of the lake provides rental boats, canoes and motors, with four launch ramps, fuel and dock rentals. Common game fish in Cowan Lake are muskellunge, crappie, largemouth bass and bluegill. There is a handicapped accessible fishing pier at the Pine Tree picnic area. A public swimming beach is on the southern shore of the lake. The 1,000 foot beach is located near the campers bathhouse and also has a snack bar.[2]


  1. ^ a b "Cowan Lake State Park". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. 1979-07-12. Retrieved 2009-07-11. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Cowan Lake State Park". Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Retrieved 2009-07-22. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Sketch of William Smalley". W.H. Beers & Co. 1882. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  4. ^ Cowan Lake Fishing Map with area description
  5. ^ Tom Thomson (1994). Birding in Ohio. Indiana University Press. pp. 169–170. ISBN 0-253-20874-2. 

External links[edit]