I'm a state park naturalist and outdoors lover. Ask about our 75 free-to-visit state parks, fall color in Ohio, cabin and lodge overnight accommodations, fun fall/winter activities, being a naturalist, or anything else!
I'm driving to every state park in 10 days, more than 2200 miles, stopping at each state park to highlight views and activities for future visitors. I'm on day 7, with only 3 days and 23 parks left on my road trip.
I've stayed in a haunted lodge, cooked over a campfire, took a boat to islands in Lake Erie (in November!), played disc golf, talked about nature, and much more!
You can see where I've been and follow along on Facebook (facebook.com/ohiostateparks), Twitter (@OhioStateParks) and Instagram (@ohstateparks).
This was fun but I have to go! I'll be back on to answer anything I didn't get to tomorrow! Keep them coming if you want!
We are wildlife educators, teachers of the great outdoors! I teach visitors everything about animals, plants and trees to watercraft safety and how to paddle board! We do a lot of education programs, including taking animals to schools to teach about what kids can hear in the woods at night, archery, fishing, etc.
Why are Ohio's state parks free? Or are these specific state parks that are free and some more popular ones charge? Is this unique to Ohio?
There are 7 states where state parks are free. It is just how they were set up by the state legislature. We make money renting camp sites, cabins, boats, or selling ice cream in our camp stores, but new amenities such as nicer bathrooms and more full hook-up campsites come from state funding.
I'm sure there is a more technical answer for this, but opportunity for people to get outdoors, do activities, hike, swim, boat, etc etc is one of the great things about Ohio. We treasure our natural resources, from small local parks to massive state forests. Did you know back in the late 1800s there were barely any forests in Ohio? Most of them were cut for farmland. They have made a huge comeback, as have deer, bald eagles, and now bobcats!
So I dont want to come off as rude but I gotta ask why do this? You're visiting 7.5 parks a day on average. Isnt the point of a park to visit them and enjoy it? Are you doing it just to say you did it? I mean more power to you for whatever your reasoning. I'm just trying to understand why youd do this in under such time constraint.
I'm originally from Georgia. We had some beautiful state parks back there. Mosquitos are a bitch though. Lol
I had been to 18 before this trip and it has always been on my bucket list to visit them all. Obviously I want to spend more time at each one, but now I know which ones I want to go back to soon. And that is why I am doing it, so Ohioans and visitors to our great state can plan which park they want to see, which activity they want to do, within the constraints of their own busy lives.
It is easy to say "Ohio State Parks are so great" but have you been to all of them near you? Have you been to both the natural and man made lakes? Have you played disc golf while red and yellow leaves fall down around you? I hope others are inspired by my trip, as that is my favorite thing to do, connect people with the outdoors.
How do Ohio State Parks compare to other states? And which of the 75 have you enjoyed the most so far and why?
So there are only 7 states that have free-to-visit state parks. Ohio is one!
Also we are very diverse, from the shores of Lake Erie, to wetlands, to prairies and forests, to the Appalachian mountains!
Where I am now is very special. Shawnee State Park has so much land to explore and you can really connect with nature on the river, one of two lakes, or in the surrounding state forest.
I am considering moving to Cleveland, and would like to know more in general about the state parks could you provide some useful sources I could look up? (I dont have any specific questions as I dont have enough information yet)
Cleveland has some great metroparks including the zoo! https://www.clevelandmetroparks.com/parks/visit
But state parks are special to me and are a short drive away and we have a map for that ;) http://parks.ohiodnr.gov/findapark
My favorite park, Beaver Creek, is under 2 hours from downtown, but there are 12 other state parks in closer to the city. These include Punderson, with one of the few natural lakes in Ohio (90 ft deep!) with a boardwalk, cabins, disc golf, and a haunted lodge ;) and Wingfoot, my home park where the Goodyear Blimp is parked in a huge hangar across the lake.
Where does Maumee Bay rank for you? Never feels very “park-y” to me.
As I always say, all of these parks are so unique. The lodge has a very different feel from Mohican or Hueston Woods lodges for example, but I think it is more lake-y. The manicured lawns around the lodge are nice, but when you get to the campgrounds or surrounding wildlife areas, it feels more like a "park" like you might think. There was a women's conference there when I visited, which I think is a great idea, to get out of the city and stay on the lake, coupled with everything the park has to offer. Some people don't know we have 75 state parks, but some people who live near Maumee Bay might not know there is an archery range, boat rentals, and great trails for winter hikes.
What is your favorite Ohio animal, the Bengal tiger or the bulldog?
Bobcat. They are making their way back and are so stealthy, you usually have no idea they are there unless you catch one on a trail cam. They are my spirit animal. When I'm in the outdoors I want to see everything, but be quiet and not noticed.
Are you guys hiring?
You can search on careers.ohio.gov by agency. I see 4 positions open now https://dasstateoh.taleo.net/careersection/oh_ext/jobsearch.ftl?lang=en#
Or call your local park and ask about intern opportunities or part-time work as well. I know many part-timers who are now full time.
How do you cover all your trips financially?
I'm driving a state vehicle that gets 45 mpg and our overnights are ridiculously priced. Camping is $30 a night for electric sites at many parks, cabins can be $65, and lodges are just north of $100. Great prices for the views. I'm eating dinner looking at the Ohio River Valley.
Do you need company? Sounds like fun. I’ll help share the cost.
Ha, as an Ohio tax payer, you are sharing the cost ;) But I have had company every other day or so. Tomorrow one of our videographers is coming with me as we visit TEN parks. It is going to be a long one.
How much evidence of ancient civilizations do you find yourself stumbling upon?
Ohio is up there as one of the top places i wanna explore
I know our state forests have lots of mounds that are not even mapped.
So far this trip, I went to a mound at East Fork State Park and at Malabar Farm there are native american burial sites behind the Pugh Cabin. I know there are more sites within our parks but this trip has been pretty quick.
That's just three hours a park, even before travel and sleep (which I suppose you can do in at least some of the parks). Is that really enough time to get a feel for the parks?
No, as I've said in other posts, but that is not the point. I'm here to inspire others, let everyone know we not only have 75 free-to-visit parks, but that they are all unique and offer something for everyone. 22 disc golf courses, 55 campgrounds, parks on Lake Erie, inland lake beaches, duck hunting blinds, ADA kayak docks, etc etc
Do you interact much with the Feds? For example you've got the Perry Monument people on Put-In-Bay, or Ottawa Refuge right down the road from Maumee Bay. Do you coordinate on programs, exchange bird spotting info, etc?
Yes and no. Perry Monument focuses on history, while our parks on South Bass have campgrounds, a beach, and popular places to get married looking over the lake. We do work a lot with Ottawa Refuge through our Division of Wildlife. Where I am at Wingfoot the closest national park is Cuyahoga of course, and I have helped with the electric bike paths and some other projects.
I live in the west and have experienced State and National Parks that are well known, such as Yosemite NP, Sequoia NP, Grand Canyon NP, Zion NP, Redwoods SP. What do the Ohio SPs have to offer in comparison to these western parks?
Hocking Hills is "Ohio's Yellowstone" (I may have made that up but I swore I've heard it before) with deep gorges, beautiful overhangs and caves, and a brand new visitor center. But our other parks, from the shores of Lake Erie, to where I am now on the Ohio River, all offer an escape to the outdoors, nature centers for education, trails or lakes to relax on, and are free-to-visit, so you don't feel bad hiking one 1/4 mile trail on a Sunday afternoon and then leaving.
I am an art teacher and college professor who considered a career change recently. I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors and nature however I don’t have a science degree as would be hesitant to take out loans to pursue one. (I would study for free in a heartbeat.) Do you have any recommendations on what I should do or where I should look for a position that might suit me? Thank you.
Wildlife illustration or photography? We have photographers and graphic artists at ODNR and our Division of Wildlife. We have history majors in our field, but I don't know any artists.
Have you come across any cryptids or anything spiritual during this journey?
Thank you in advance for getting to my question!
I've heard of Bessie! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bessie_(lake_monster))
Going out in nature is spiritual for me, you could say. Walking down a trail alone, trying to be quiet and taking in everything around you while being invisible to the wildlife (as much as possible) is an out of body experience almost. We are so used to trouncing around, making ourselves known, telling people how we feel or what we think, its nice to stop and listen. An entire world happens outside our office and homes that doesn't care about us, but as sentient beings, we can choose to care about it, and experience it.
It is rare for a state park system to not charge any entry fees. I think Ohioans should be super proud that our parks are all free. I am hoping you've not heard any discussion about that changing? (Please say no!)
No. Seriously, no.
I recently moved to Ohio from California for graduate school. I was so accustomed to see mountains every day, and Yosemite was less than 2 hours away from me. It is a little unsettling to me that all I see is flat land now. Is there a park here in Ohio that you would recommend for me to get some of my mountain itch scratched?
NW Ohio is flat. Head east to Mohican to see some gorges, or further to Hocking Hills to see big cliffs, caves, etc. If Dayton is closer, John Bryan State Park and Clifton Gorge Nature Preserve both have great geology, and rock climbing.
Why be at each park for such a short time?
Why spend so much of this thing inside a car?
I believe that parks should be used in the exact opposite way than what you do.
Spend more time in parks, less time in cars.
Same here, but my journey is to promote all the parks that people may not know about and what there is to do at each one so your family can decide which to visit on your next day trip or week of camping. And for me, I am making a list of parks I will be returning to soon with my family, and some I’ll be coming back to when my daughter is older, etc
Ohio, though. Aren’t they all kind of the same?
That is one of the reasons I'm doing this. Ohio is not Iowa (no offense). Half the state is flat as it was covered by glaciers, but the other half is the Appalachian foothills, with mountains and gorges. There are natural and man-made lakes, amazing fishing and hunting public lands, massive state forests with backcountry hiking and rattlesnakes, I could go on and on. Check out my twitter posts from when I was in the middle of Lake Erie on a remote island that was/is used for growing wine grapes, to now overlooking the Ohio River in the middle of a state forest. Ohio is amazing.
Cleveland has some great Metroparks. It all depends on what you are looking for. I would go to Headlands and check out the boardwalk, then to Punderson to see the old lodge and natural lake, then over to Beaver Creek to get really wild. But you could go to any park and find something interesting, from different hiking trails, to beaches that rent kayaks, to rock climbing!
Are Ohio drivers really that bad?
Aren't there bad drivers everywhere? You do have to look out for Amish buggies in Eastern Ohio.
Hi there! Any suggestions for a park with winter cabins available? I live in Toledo.
Also, I've lived in other places, and the state parks being free is such a cool part about Ohio. Thanks for taking the time to answer questions!
Why did you decide to do this was was your motivation or drive to do it?
My regional manager said they were looking for someone to do this to promote our 75 free-to-visit state parks, winter activities, and overnight accommodations like cabins and lodges. I said "yes" right away. It has been a bucket list item of mine to see all the state parks.
What is the capital of Ecuador?
Quito is the only city I know if in Ecuador. Going with Quito.
Do you do teachings at any of the metro parks? I would love to learn more!
How do i get your job?
Study environmental sciences or biology, then apply online!
Have you been to the Shawnee forest down south? It’s beautiful!
Just stayed there last night! Amazing I agree! It was nice to wind down from my days traveling looking out over that landscape and valley.
Crappiest state park you've ever been to?
I know it's probably in Ohio, but you can tell me about one not in Ohio for the brand. It's okay. I understand.
Ha there is no crappy park. Even if it's not kept up, there is still the escape to nature. Some parks I visit on a Sunday morning can have litter in them from fisherman or visitors the night before. I think that is crappy, but that is the people, not the park. Even our smallest park (Oak Point) you can walk across in 1 minute, but it has amazing views and weddings there a lot.
How do the Ohio parks rank next to Pawnee, Indiana’s parks, Leslie?
Ours are more focused on nature than waffles ;)
What constitutes a visit? What do you do there?
I've answered this....found it!
Take a pic with the sign, visit the campground, then another highlight or two, such has nice views, trails, disc golf, kayak docks, etc. I also visit with park managers and others who may be there, such as a wildlife officer to discuss hunting and fishing opportunities in the area.
I'm a naturalist too! How does the general public view your profession and nature in general? I worked in a state where nature wasn't valued by most and actually had people think ill of my profession. Now I work in a state where the majority of people in my town appreciate nature and value my job. Just curious what the tone is in Ohio. Thanks!
It's half and half where I am. More people appreciate it but people still litter and vandalize in our parks. People I meet and talk to always love nature. I've never met anyone who called me a tree-hugger. Most people (like in this thread) want to do what I'm doing.
Have you gone to the same park during different weather or seasons?
Do you get a different feel or experience (other than the obvious like temp or sun)?
Yes. A good example is birding. It can be hard to see birds singing in dense trees, but in the winter the leaves are gone!
Some parks have winter hikes, which is cool because caves and overhangs with icicles give the hike a different feel.
Ice fishing is popular up north, which is crazy to some people.
Finally there is something different about a fire on a cool fall or cold winter night versus a 90 summer night when the sun doesn't set until 930pm!
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about plants and animals?
That they all communicate with eachother either by sound or checmical smell. Plants communicate with chemicals, for example if one type of plant is being eaten, it can release a chemical that tells the others to be aware and these other plants can pump toxins or bitter chemicals to their leaves in prep for them to be taken a bite of as well, and hopefully survive.
If a chipmunk is barking, every bird or animal know something is wrong there.
It is cool to see animals and plants communicating to help each other out.
The National Parks I’ve been to are big and offer a lot of opportunities to get outdoors, but state parks offer more family activities I feel, such as swimming beaches, campgrounds near home, disc golf, etc. That said, smaller national parks like Perry Monument, Tafts home, etc are great historical trips to learn about our country’s history. Short answer is state parks offer a nice local getaway while national parks are often a bigger park and feel of what you can take away. Make sense?
I go to college near Cleveland! Do you have any parks you’d recommend for someone just getting back into hiking and nature after an injury? (I’m fit as a fiddle, but walking long distances can be hard sometimes.)
Good answers below, but Punderson State Park is just south of Cleveland and has a new boardwalk on the natural lake as well as trails. The disc golf course is also an easy walk. If you like louder water, head to Geneva on the Lake State Park. They have a paved path you can walk or bike along Lake Erie that is right next to parking at the lodge.
Where are you now? We are in Medina county. I would love to take the kids out and come show our support. Ohio’s has an amazing parks system. The land conservation plans were really well done. From one type of teacher to another (because really education is a big part of it) Thank you for all that you do!
I appreciate it! But I only have a bit of time at each park. Support us by liking and sharing our social posts and telling friends and family about YOUR 75 free-to-visit state parks!
Do you have a full list of all the parks with the main attractions? Are you planning on compiling this? I live in Columbus and I'd be delighted to have this info handy and visit amazing state parks :)
The wife, dog, and I recently camped at Keiser Lake State Park on our way up to Canada from GA. It was absolutely beautiful. We could camp literally on the shore of the lake!
We're thinking of taking more vacations to Ohio, any parks that can beat Keiser?
Glad you found it! There are many parks with lakeside campgrounds, but check out some parks with riverside camping, like Mohican or any park along the Little Miami.
How do you feel about Michigan being significantly better than Ohio?
To each their own, but I like it better here. I can drive to Lake Erie or the Appalachian foothills in an hour.
How did you find this job? Also, how do I go about finding a job in this field? This work sounds amazing!
I interned at a state park and found out they were hiring for my position when I finished school. Check local park or state hiring sites, call around, you never know when someone has been promoted until it is posted online or they tell you over the phone they are hiring soon!
What would you recommend an undergrad that's about to graduate do in order to become a naturalist?
Have an environmental science or biology degree? Get an internship, get any job with a local park system or museum or zoo. If you can't, get any job and volunteer on weekends. Meet the people at your parks, they might let you know about opportunities.
What’s Ohio’s smallest park? What’s remarkable about it besides being the smallest?
Oak Point State Park on South Bass Island. It is near Put-in-Bay and has amazing views of the lake and islands. People also get married there all the time. Getting married in a park with enough people to require a special use permit costs $40.
Which park would you recommend for a trip down from Buffalo? My husband and I enjoy hiking, geocaching and seeing something that we might not see in Western New York. :)
Beaver Creek is my favorite park and is in NE Ohio. You should also check out Geneva on the lake for a romantic night on the water.
I live near CVNP what’s your fav trail/spot there?
I rode the bike paths on an electric bike this summer. That was unique and fun. I like the quiet trails though. A big park that you can escape in but also a lot of access. What is the little town in the middle with the train stop? Peninsula?!
So I've been to Hocking Hills, and LOVED it. What's Ohio's 2nd best state park (and why)?
I love Beaver Creek. The diversity of what you can do there, how you can escape into nature, my favorite trail (Vondergreen) that goes over locks from the old canal system, etc.
How do you feel about paying to park at a state park?
I never have to do it!
But different states fund parks differently, I get that, but I think making people pay to stop and experience nature, even for a short amount of time, is not a good thing.
No love for Grand Lake Saint Mary's?
I stayed there the other night! It is a massive man made lake that provides so much outdoor recreation opportunities to Western Ohio. I think it is so cool that one of our state fisheries is next door as well.
How'd you like nelson ledges? I miss going there every summer.
I will be back soonish, maybe in the next few years. I think it’s a great getaway that isn’t as crowded as Hocking but offers similar hikes that provide wonder and relaxation.
Botany enthusiast here. Which OH state park has the most unusual natural communities? (WV is on my list for shale barrens)
East Fork has prairies, wetlands, old growth forests, and a lake. I was amazed with the diversity there.
If you could change one thing about America, what would it be?
More people getting outdoors to the woods or in nature. I think many people get riled up about the world and forget to enjoy what we have in our natural resources.
Have you done this in other states before? If so, how does Ohio compare? If not, have you considered doing so?
I've been to other state parks in PA, WV, MI, and they are great to visit, but I love the diversity I have within an hour drive of my home (Lake Erie to Appalachian foothills). If I drive a little further I'm in Hocking Hills!
How do you get into your profession?
I have always loved the outdoors. I studied environmental science with a minor in biology, then did an internship with a state park before I graduated. I then applied to be a naturalist.
How are you getting to North Bass Island?
Parks and Watercraft law enforcement boat. But you can charter a boat, or even fly there on a small plane from a mainland airport. I think it's $60 roundtrip or something.
How does one get into your line of work? Do any certain degrees or certifications help?
Environmental science with minor in biology. And an internship with a state park during school.
You mentioned several times that Ohio is one of seven states that has free to visit state parks. Do you happen to know what the other six are?
Not off the top of my head, sorry
Why are the Ohio state park golf courses closing?
I don't know. I DO know that they are a STEAL to play some fun and challenging courses and then stay in a lodge.
How’d you make it up to North Bass?
Parks and Watercraft law enforcement boat. You can charter a boat ride, take a little plane, or kayak there.
Is cabin fever real?
Symptoms? Yes, that's why you should get outside. The movie? No, or I would have hit that invisible wall a long time ago.
Are you secretly Ron Mcgil? Do you know who that is? You would probably like him!
No, no, I'll look him up!
I'm driving a tiny Ford that gets 45 mpg. There only manatees in Ohio that I know of are at the Columbus Zoo!
Why not go somewhere cool and not in Ohio?
Source: From Ohio
I answered this already, but I grew up in a small town in eastern Ohio on the Ohio River, went to Youngstown State and live near Akron. Not cool places, even for Ohio. But our natural resources are VERY cool! Name me another state with free-to-visit state parks, a great lake, lots of smaller inland lakes to boat and fish on, Appalachian foothills with caves like Hocking Hills, working farms like Malabar, etc etc all within a few hours drive from anyone in the state.
If you live in Ohio and don't get outdoors much, you are missing out.
Hey, I am looking to get into the same profession as you. I've always wanted to work out doors and I got my bachelor's degree in environmental science hoping to become a park ranger or something similar. I've done one internship with a city in Texas under their environmental coordinator and as of right now I am studying abroad getting my MBA. What do you recommend I do to make myself more desirable to companies that are hiring for positions like yours?
Any park that has a naturalist position, jump on it. Volunteering or internships at nature centers is great experience and you may meet people that can help out.
That’s a lot of gas, no?
I'm driving a 45 mpg Ford Focus, but the amount of people that hopefully learn about our parks, how to enjoy them, how to appreciate them, and then how to protect them, is worth it I believe.
What state park did you love most in Ohio? I’m curious as a someone who lives in NE Ohio for most of my life! (Sorry if this has been asked, I didn’t read all the comments)
Beaver Creek is my favorite. The diversity of what you can do there, how you can escape into nature, my favorite trail (Vondergreen) that goes over locks from tthe old canal system, etc.
Why did u think this would make an interesting AMA?
A lot of people I meet near my parks and in Ohio in general don't know they have 75 free-to-visit state parks. I'm doing this trip because I wanted to and to spread the word. I love connecting people with nature and the first step is getting them outdoors, hopefully to a state park!
This kind of doesn't sound really fun. like how do you get to enjoy the parks if you are hitting multiple parks a day?
my journey is to promote all the parks that people may not know about and what there is to do at each one so your family can decide which to visit on your next day trip or week of camping. And for me, I am making a list of parks I will be returning to soon with my family, and some I’ll be coming back to when my daughter is older, etc
Is it true that Ohio is the only state without a natural lake fully within its borders?
Not true. While there are a bunch of man made lakes with the old canal system, there are a few natural ones as well. Punderson lodge/manor sits over one that the old owner called "the big pond." It is 90 ft deep!
Fellow naturalist here! First, is this trip something that work is funding, or are you paying for it yourself and doing this for fun? Second, as someone who has been in the field for awhile but is still making crappy pay with no benefits, I have to ask: how did you land your job? Are you able to live comfortably on a naturalist’s salary? I love this and want to keep doing it, but I’m feeling very burnt out and feel like I realistically can’t stay in the field if I want to survive.
Work’s idea and I jumped at the opportunity, so they provided the state car and lodgings. I had an internship in college with a state park that turned into a full time position after I graduated. Since then I love everyday I get to connect people with nature, from kids to the elderly. If I get burnt out I spend some solo time in the outdoors. You could always look for bigger or better opportunities to use your skills as well. I like where I work and live, so I haven’t considered that.
State funding. All of our improvements, like new restrooms or anything big like that, have to be approved in the state budget. We make some money on cabin/camping rentals, but it goes right back into the park system.
Can you suggest some primitive dispersed style camping in Ohio? I'm in Medina near Cleveland and drive 3 hrs to Allegheny National Park to do Backcountry camping. It would be nice to find a local place to camp without crowds and RVs. I just found a place near Akron that has two spots but no fires allowed. Summit metro parks has all their non-electric spots closed for the year. Why would you need to close a site for winter. Thanks.
Beaver Creek! My favorite park has primitive camping. They only have 5 hookups, no toilets or showerhouses, and two different culdasacs with no electric. Few people camp here and you are very much inside the park surrounded by trees and little cell service. You should also check out our state forests, which allow backcountry hiking and camping.
I’m late but I really hope this reaches you!
In the differing locations in the state, each park is bound to have its own local environment, so to speak. Which park, in your opinion, has the most special local biome that produces the best diversity of plant and animal?
And also, as a state park employee, do you personally value ecological health or aesthetic and recreation more for your parks? Cheers!
East Fork! I saw little wetland pond settlements, a mature forest, and the lake. I didn't get to venture to open fields, but it is a big park and I'm sure they are there. I'm sure this equals a great migration destination for waterfowl and songbirds in the spring and fall.
As a naturalist, we are always for the ecology. We want to see less mowing and more pollinator plants put in, but we also want people to have access to it. We want people to hear the tree drop in the forest.
How'd you get started in naturalism? Was it a university path, or the result of a different path? I grew up watching David Attenborough's work with the BBC, and STILL clear my weekend schedule every time a new series is posted on Netflix. I've always dreamt about doing that sort of work, but my university degree was in music, and the idea of going back to school is a bit daunting.
I know a naturalist who had a history degree, but we have history in our parks...You could put that weekend schedule to use volunteering at local parks and meeting people who might give you some ideas on what your next move could be.
I'm curious about how you managed to land in your current job? What was your career path trajectory to working as a state parks naturalist?
My SO is a wildlife biologist (BA in Ecology) fresh off a 5-year stint working as a licensed birds of prey rehabber in a western state and looking to move into something similar to what you're describing.
That is a good background. We have raptors that are injured and can't be released at some nature centers. I interned at a state park during school and applied when the naturalist job opened up, so many get involved as a volunteer at a state park or wildlife area during your free time and listen for any openings?
Hi! I'm actually curious about a career with the parks. I come from an aviation/logistics background but am curious how one could do a career switch to a parks role, whether it be a park ranger, researcher, analyst, etc. What would you suggest as a start to gaining the knowledge and connections to make that happen?
Connect with your local parks, volunteer, see what opportunities there are on the state career webpage. Logistics is great to have as a park manager.
a little late, but I've only ever been to Hocking Hills, hiked a lot, chilled at their gorgeous cabins a lot, at least 10+ years worth. Started going as a little kid. Never been to any of the other parks in Ohio. Has Hocking Hills spoiled me or are there other parks in Ohio that could be a pleasant surprise?
They have all been nice surprises to me as they all offer something unique. If you like gorges and rock formations, check our John Bryan and the neighboring Clifton Gorge Nature preserve. Look at my pics and tweets to see what else might interest you, from beaches and glacial grooves to deep natural lakes and lodges.
Fellow Naturalist and Interp Ranger here! So cool to see a Naturalist on the front page!
What are some of the most unique/challenging resource issues stemming from park visitors you have seen?
If you could teach one thing to EVERY person who visits the property/properties you work at, what would it be?
Sorry it took awhile to get to this. I've been driving a lot ;)
People with disabilities loading a kayak into the water is a big one at our lakes. We are working on it with ADA kayak launches going into many parks around the state. We have a list here http://parks.ohiodnr.gov/accessiblefacilities
Respecting the park. Taking care of it. My biggest pet peeve is when people come to the park and leave trash behind or vandalize trees by carving their names into them. Keep things how you found it. Leave no trace. So the next person that comes can enjoy it just as much as you did. Going further, if you see trash, take it out with you. These are YOUR parks.
That seems like a pretty tight schedule. Was that your choice or whoever you work for? Do you feel like you could've been able to do a better job, whether that's better photos and video or just getting to spend more time at each park and that translating to better content overall?
I would love to spend more time at each park, but I also don't want to drive 10 hours a day, or spend more than 10 days away from home and my family (though they did come see me at Malabar Farm and Mohican). The goal is to highlight the parks and what they offer families. I could do a 30 min PBS show on each one if I could, but this was the plan from the start. I'm just lucky they picked me!
Why do this?! What's the point of visiting 7 or 8 parks a day?
The whole point of a park is to relax and see nature. But you're spending hours a day driving!
What's the climate footprint of this activity? 2200 miles of driving - I assume it's a gasoline powered car.
I keep answering these questions. People who point fingers don't like to read down a thread apparently. The point is to highlight our 75 free-to-visit state parks, the diversity of each one in that there is something for everyone, from disc golf by a frozen lake to warm indoor pools at lodges, and the overnight accommodations like cabins that are available to rent year round. I work in the parks so I see them all the time, but I know a lot of people near my home park don't know we have shelterhouses you can rent for weddings or boat rentals to paddle on the lake! As for my car, it gets 45 mpg.
As a hunter who hunts state parks and national forests with plenty of human pressure where are deer found mainly? Especially older bucks. It seems they know when people are around and they are never seen in daylight they must be hiding somewhere
We have deer experts at our Division of Wildlife, but I’ve seen some big bucks in our parks, state forests, even my neighborhood. Many people ask us if we have lists of public land owners that allow hunting and we may if you call wildlife district offices, BUT we have a great list of public lands that everyone owns. You might have to hike a bit further and have some luck to find that older buck though!
Have you been to Maumee Bay SP? I grew up walking that boardwalk every summer when i visited my grands from Pennsylvania. Now I've shared it with my partner who instantly fell in love with the park and ALL THE DEER! Enjoy!
Yes it was stop #1 on Day 4 after staying at the campground at East Harbor. I loved the boardwalk and nice green rolling hills around the lodge, so unique. I spoke with a wildlife officer who told me about all the public lands around Maumee Bay State Park that are also open to hike, hunt, and fish. So much to do.
Did you happen to visit Brandywine Falls? That is my favorite park in Ohio. There is a ton of history there as well. Wish people would stop vandalizing the fences there...
I have. I also rode some electric bikes on the paved trails near there. I haven’t done the railroad yet.
How do you think Hocking Hills stacks up? If you haven't already been around and gotten to stay long, be sure to check out Millstone Barbecue while you're there.
It is always called the crown jewel of Ohio State Parks, but I’m more partial to our lesser known parks where my hike can be just me and the woods. There is something for everyone in the diversity of our state parks. That said, everyone should go at some point!
Does Capitol Square count as a state park? If not, it definitely should. It’s a gorgeous property and a good example of a “garden style” park or arboretum.
It doesn’t. But there are a lot of city, township and county parks that are beautiful.
As someone looking to get into either state or national parks service, and a Buckeye to boot, how would you suggest going about getting a job?
If you want to be a naturalist, you need an environmental science or biology background, though I know of a naturalist with a history major who had a lot of outdoor experience. As for other jobs, they pop up on careers.ohio.gov and can range from law enforcement to website design. Meet some local state employees and ask what they do and how they do it. They might know about some opportunities you didn’t think of.
I am a current college student looking to get into this field. In your experience what majors do employers prefer when hiring naturalists?
Environmental science with minor in biology is what I did. We do have a naturalist who was a history major, but he has some outdoor work experience as well.
Do you have a list or map of these parks? My wife and I are transplants and it sounds like something great to do to get to know the state.
How are you going to manage getting to all the parks when it will take 7 days just to get through the Hocking Hills area traffic?
Ha, I avoid Hocking during high traffic times, but even when I do go down and there are full parking lots, the traffic isnt too bad. I'm going into hocking in two hours to stay at a cabin, so I'll let you know.
I go to school in Columbus. Which state parks should I visit and what time of year is best? (The closer to Columbus the better)
Alum Creek is the place to be near Columbus, with hiking, mountain biking, boating, camping, etc. That said, drive an hour north and check out Malabar Farm, a working farm, or Mohican, which has amazing hikes along a river and in the mountains.
What are some of the best parks you have visited? I would like to visit some in the future, I currently live in Ohio.
I love Beaver Creek but each park is so different! What are you into? Disc golf? Short hikes on a lake? Have a dog that wants to run free in a fenced dog park or hike while on leash? Geology and caves? Or a working farm where you can pet animals and see how a Hollywood celebrity lives 60+ years ago? We have it all.
I'm 24 and from Toledo, OH. I'm very interested in becoming a naturalist, what should I do to start my career in it?
If you don’t have an enviro science or biology background, start volunteering, working at a natural history museum or city park, or anything that can get you one step closer. I know one of our naturalists has a degree in history, but lots of outdoors experience.
That's a lot of parks to visit and drive to in only ten days. How long are you spending at each of them on average?
30 minutes. But I get to enjoy the last park of the day for a few hours before dark hits.
Have you been to Hueston Woods yet? I'm attending college just south of there, it has an amazing lodge on a lake
I stayed there the other night. Amazing view from my room of the sunset over the lake. You are lucky you are so close!
Wouldn’t it have been better to do it over 75 days so you could enjoy more of the parks and less of your car?
Yes, but I have a husband and a 6 year old daughter. I would miss them too much! I actually think you can do all 75 state parks over 2 years, going 1 weekend a month or 2 full days a month, and get most of a day at each park.
Why did you choose to do the AMA right before you finished? Seems a bit silly not to do it after the 10 days.
I have some down time after I drive all day.
Wow!! Will you be writing a blog, book, etc? Sounds amazing. I'd want to sit down and read this for days.
Do you plan on bringing any disc golf stuff with you? We got some. Ice courses at the state parks.
I have some and have shot a basket or two for pics to promote the courses, but don't get to play a whole course. The parks I work in and near have great courses! I like Pundersons course through the woods, and courses on the lake, like Alum Creek!
How long would it take to cycle between those parks, it is this too dangerous to do in Ohio?
There are cycle paths between some parks and parks of Ohio, but some of our parks are out of the way, down hilly windy roads. I’m sure you could, but it would take some time. I’ll post my map when done so you can see it.
If you're visiting about 6~8 per day what do you do there with the little time provided?
Take a pic with the sign, visit the campground, then another highlight or two, such has nice views, trails, disc golf, kayak docks, etc. I also visit with park managers and others who may be there, such as a wildlife officer to discuss hunting and fishing opportunities in the area.
What are you driving and what year is your Outback?
(2 Subaru's is our family already)
Ha, I have a Ford Focus hybrid.
What's the point of that? Surely you can't experience a state park in a couple hours.
No, you can't, as I've said in other posts, but that is not the point. I'm here to inspire others, let everyone know we not only have 75 free-to-visit parks, but that they are all unique and offer something for everyone. 22 disc golf courses, 55 campgrounds, parks on Lake Erie, inland lake beaches, duck hunting blinds, ADA kayak docks, etc etc
From Akron, where was the haunted Lodge at and was it staying over night there?
Punderson. I didn’t see any ghosts but I heard a few stories from staff. The hallways look a bit like a small version of The Shining ;)
I’m new to the Huron/Vermilion area. What are the best parks around here?
Head NW to the shores and islands for some great camping and kayaking. A hiking park would be Findley State Park, south of you (Not in Findley, OH btw)
Ok, you're in Ohio so which is it, Browns or Bengals? Or don't care?
I live near Akron, but prefer foxes.
Why don't you take thirty days, and spend some time at each one?
I've been a naturalist for 11 years. I spend lots of time at parks. But this trip is focused on quantity to highlight all of the parks we have and what you can do in them, especially in the winter when people don't think about state parks on the weekends. I have a growing list of parks I want to come back to very soon.
What was the most awe inspiring wild animal encounter you had?
I’ve had a lot of amazing encounters with deer, Fox, you name it. One that stands out is an Osprey that I heard and followed for a bit, hoping to catch a glimpse. It turned out to be a Blue Jay, the true mocking birds!
What are the nicest parks in the Columbus/Westerville area?
You have Alum Creek in your backyard! Their mountain biking trails are top notch. But I would drive an hour north and visit Malabar Farm and Mohican. Two very different and very beautiful parks.
what's the full process of how you planned out the trip?
I'm in NE Ohio. I wanted to stay in the north and then head south, following peak fall color. We used MyRouteOnline to do the logistics work. I think its a trucking trip planner. We moved a few park stops so I could stay at some lodges and the rest worked out! I'll actually hit #75 at 1pm or so on Friday, spending the last 2 hours driving back to Wingfoot.
Will you please PM me all the good fishing spots?
I know of a few near my home parks, but no one I visit with will tell me theirs. So I won't break tradition ;)
Is there anything Ohio is doing about the stench in their state parks?
Our buckeye trees are very strong and the nuts can even squash wildlife like wolverines, lions, badgers, gophers, hawks, wildcats, and more. /sarcasm
What r the most interesting animals that u saw?
I heard and saw some owls. We actually have some injured owls at some of our nature centers that you can see up close. They are such unique creatures in terms of how they look, how they sound, how they live, and how they work into the ecosystem. I could go on and on about owls...
Are you staying in the State owned lodges?
Yes, 4 of the nights. The other nights I'm staying in nice cabins, even campgrounds. I love the views out of my lodge rooms. You can't beat the price to look out over a lake or gorge as the sun sets, then be able to kayak, hike, swim in the indoor or outdoor pool, etc the next morning. They even have great restaurants.
How does one get into this sort of field?
Environmental science major and biology minor. Internship with the parks during school and applied for an open position when I graduated.
What’s the coolest thing about your job?
Connecting people with nature. Seeing people who fall in love with the outdoors like I do each time I go down a trail, or little kids when they say "A slug is just a snail missing its shell!".
Which park has the coolest salamanders?
There be Hellbenders in Eastern Ohio! But for sheer quantity, Little Miami covers 50 miles of the river with plenty of rocks to turn over.
Why would you want to come to Ohio?
I grew up on the Ohio River near West Virginia, went to school in Youngstown, and live near Akron, not all listed as top destinations in the state, but there is no place I'd rather be. As I've said before, in under an hour I can be on the beach shores of Lake Erie or at the foothills of the Appalachians. And a giant blimp lands right next to my home park.
How do I be successful like you?
Environmental science or biology studies, internship, apply. Then work hard and love working.
Do any of them have atv trails?
Not our parks, but we do have snowmobile trails. Our state forests have ATV trails.
None, they are all so different. If you hate water and wind, maybe avoid a park on Lake Erie. If you hate crowds and want to hike alone, visit a smaller or less popular park than Hocking.
Why are you doing this?
Highlight that was have 75 free-to-visit state parks that are open all year round, share some fall color, nice overnight accommodations, etc. and it was always on my bucket list to visit every park, now I know which I want to return to soon!