Posted in Central Ohio, Hiking, Park review

A.W. Marion State Park

A.W. Marion State Park is a 309-acre park with a 145-acre lake within its borders. The lake, known as Hargus Lake, has been stocked with largemouth bass, muskellunge, bluegill and channel catfish. Currently the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources (ODNR) only permits boats to use electric motors. Although the lake doesn’t have a beach, boaters are allowed to swim from their boats in one corner of the lake (the swimming area is marked on the park’s map).

I visited the park twice in late April of last year. At the time there were quite a few spring flowers, and the trees were just beginning to leaf out. My objective was to walk the 5-mile Hargus Lake Perimeter Trail, which as the name suggests goes the whole way around the lake. Although I was just walking the trail, there are also scheduled runs around the lake (see links at the bottom).

Fishing boat on the lake and an island




This was the sign announcing that we were now in the park. We came via the entrance for the campsite. You can see the white screen for the campground’s outdoor movie theater in the background.
One of the trailheads for the Hargus Lake Perimeter Trail. This trailhead is just to the left of the outdoor movie theater in the campground area.
Marsh
Red-winged blackbird establishing his territory

After looking over the marsh I started walking around the lake on the Hargus Lake Perimeter Trail. If you look at a map of the park, I was traveling counter-clockwise around the lake. From the campground, I started by going north. For most of the five miles around the lake, I could either see the lake directly, or I could see it through the trees (although this may be harder to do in the summer when the foliage is fully developed). But there were still stretches like the one below where the lake was nowhere in sight.

The blue blaze is for the Hargus Lake Perimeter Trail.

Although there were footbridges over most of streams, there were a couple occasions where I had to cross via stepping stones.

Stepping stones for crossing feeder creek along the Hargus Lake Perimeter Trail

One of the great things about hiking in the spring is looking for spring wildflowers, and there were many at A.W. Marion State Park.

Toadshade (Trillium sessile). This looks like a flower bud, but the Toadshade blossom never opens more than this. It has a foul-smelling “perfume” to attract its preferred pollinators: flies and beetles.

Since the trees were just starting to leaf out, the leaves were a small, yellowish green. Plus many of the trees were in flower.

Spring tree foliage and flowers. Did I mention I have a tree pollen allergy?

Now I’m at a part of the trail where there are frequent, clear views of the lake.

View of the lake

The turtle below is a Common Map Turtle. They normally stay in deep water, and they’re pretty shy around people, so they’re a little harder to spot than some other species. This is only the second one I’ve seen. Since both turtles had algae growing on their upper shell, I’m now wondering if that’s typical for this species.

Moss-covered Common Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica) with a bug on its nose

The footbridge below is at the far, northern point on the Hargus Lake Perimeter Trail. After crossing this I will be going south along the western side of the lake.

One of the things that I like about hiking in the spring is seeing the blossoms on the trees. The small tree with pink blossoms near the bridge is redbud.

Footbridge at the far end of the lake
Far end of the lake
Far end of the lake
Redbud

I thought that the insect below was a butterfly species that I had never seen before, but it turns out that it’s a new (to me) moth species. Butterflies have knobs on the ends of their antenna, but there are no such knobs on this insect’s antenna. With the help of Bugguide.net (reviewed here), I learned that it was a Grapevine Epimenis moth, so called because the larval form dines on grapevines.

This moth is a Grapevine Epimenis (Psychomorpha epimenis).

It wasn’t long till I was over at the marina area of the park. This region featured a boat ramp, docks, a camp store, boat rentals, manicured lawns, picnic shelters, playgrounds, and latrines. The picnic shelter pictured near the lake is one of park’s three “mini-shelters”; these are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The park also features a larger shelter than can be reserved ahead of time.

Dock, picnic shelter, and concession building
One of the lake's docks
One of the lake’s docks

While passing through this area I noticed a number of birds.

A singing European starling — it doesn’t know that it’s not supposed to be here.
One of the playgrounds at A.W. Marion State Park
Picnic shelter
One of the picnic shelters

On this side of the lake there is also a bronze memorial plaque dedicated to A.W. Marion that was donated to the park by his former employees at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). A.W. Marion was a native of Pickaway County, and he was ODNR’s first director (from 1949 to 1957). The park was renamed in his honor in 1962.

If you look at the Google map embedded near the end of this post, you’ll see that the western side of the lake looks like a vertical, straight line as you approach its southern end. That’s where the lake’s earthen dam is located. In the photo below I’m about to cross over the top of the dam.

This is where the Hargus Lake Perimeter Trail follows along the top of the dam.
Steps descending the earthen dam. However, I crossed over the top of the dam.

From the dam I could see the dock below. Those benches looked like a nice place to drop a fishing line or just relax. In the distance you can see a little island. Also while crossing the dam I saw an osprey flying overhead. I didn’t see any nesting platforms for osprey, so I’m not sure whether osprey nest at the lake.

Dock with benches

The picture below is what the trail looks like after you’ve crossed the dam. I thought the sign was telling me to continue straight, so I believed that the trail must be moving away from the lake at this point. In addition the fact that I could see another trail sign in the distance increased my confidence that this was supposed to be where I should go next. However I was wrong. Once I got to the more distant sign, it announced a different trail, the Pine Grove Trail Loop which isn’t even listed on the park’s trail map. Since I was already there, I checked it out. It is a mown-path that loops through an area with pines and small deciduous trees, some of which were blossoming in April. It seemed like a nice place to do some birding. After taking this wrong turn, I went back to the sign picture below. What I was supposed to do was take an immediate left before that sign. Because the slope was eroded, the erosion masked the fact that it was the trail. As it turns out, the trail continues to hug the lake as I turned east while I travelled the length of the lake’s southern shoreline.

By the way on the bluff above this eroded trail, there is a small stand of mature trees, a bench, and a picnic table. This is where I had my packed lunch. 🙂

The sign for the Hargus Lake Perimeter Trail is at an angle which is supposed to suggest a turn to the left. This was too subtle for me and I went straight, but then I had to backtrack to the sign and make the turn.
The trail hugs the southern shore of the lake after crossing the dam.
View of the lake through the trees. Toward the right edge of the photo there’s a blue blaze on one of the trees that marks the Hargus Lake Perimeter Trail.

I saw lots of large-flowered trillium along the eastern side of the lake, along with some other wildflowers.

This is our state’s official wildflower: Large-flowered trillium (Trillium grandiflorum).
This is the leaf of the plant known as “bloodroot” because it’s root oozes a reddish sap when cut. This one has a tiny flower bud in the center. If you like, you can view the full blossom.

There were plenty of footbridges along the trail, but I wanted to point out the bridge below in particular. Erosion along this streambed has revealed a number of “ripple rocks”. These ripples formed some 300 million years ago when Ohio was underneath a shallow sea. Symmetical ripples, like the ones seen in the final photo, form underwater near a beach where the waves spash back and forth.

Bridge near ripple rocks
Ripple rock at the edge of the creek – one of many near the footbridge pictured above

This was a great hike to do in the spring with all of the wildflowers. I heartily recommend it.

Additional information
  • TrekOhio: Pickaway County Parks & Nature Preserves – This is the county where A.W. Marion State park is located. This page includes links to the park’s official site and maps, plus links to nearby parks.
  • 50sforyomomma.com: 50s For Yo Momma – Runners can run a number of different distances around the lake at A.W. Marion State Park. I believe this is an annual event. In 2014 it looks like the scheduled runs are for May 10, May 12, and September 27.
  • Wikipedia: Sedimentary structures – discusses structures in sedimentary stone like the ripple marks pictured above.




Location
  • In the map below, the blue boat icon to the left shows one of the parking areas for boaters. To get to the Park Marina Entrance, take Bolender-Pontius Rd (T66) to Warner-Huffer Rd (T-77).
  • The green tent icon to the right shows one of the parking areas for the campground. To get to the campground entrance go east on Ringgole-Southern Rd (T-42) to Warner-Huffer Rd (T-77).
  • Note that Warner-Huffer Rd (T-77) does not continue from one side of the lake to the other (it is split by the lake).
  • The blue swimmer shows where boaters may swim off their boats (there’s no beach).

View larger map

© Deborah Platt, Robert Platt and TrekOhio.com 2012 to 2017

5 thoughts on “A.W. Marion State Park

  1. Over the last year I have looked forward to your every post and often refer to your reviews before choosing, planning a hike. Your posts, reviews, and photography are TERRIFIC! Thanks so much!

    Incidentally, the group I hike with did the Hargus Loop Trail last Wed. Unfortunately not a single wildflower had braved the cold yet. Not even a snowdrop or skunk cabbage. That will change in the next week, I’m sure.

    1. Ron, thank you so much for the encouraging words about our site. On Facebook I am seeing wildflower posts that were taken in some of Ohio’s southern counties, so I have to think spring will arrive in central Ohio soon.

      This past weekend, Bob and I were at a county park in Summit County, and we were surprised to be hiking in several inches of snow. I had been hoping from some spring-like photos, but I’m afraid when we post about this one the photos will look like we were there in the middle of winter.

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