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Acton Lake, In the Southwest region of Ohio, has provided recreation opportunities to generations of visitors in the 50 years since it was created. Only a few short miles from the Indiana state line, the facilities at Acton Reservoir draw fishermen and campers from several surrounding states. Home to the Hueston Sailing Association and crew training lake for Miami University, Acton Lake has been carefully developed to provide the most fun to suit a wide variety of interests. Although not planned as a water supply reservoir, Acton Lake now serves as emergency water supply to the nearby town of Oxford. Hueston Woods State Park surrounds the lake and offers a number of activities to please special-interest visitors.
With 3,600 acres, Hueston Woods State Park holds all access to the lake. Several boat launch sites open the lake to anglers who enjoy their pursuit of bluegill, brown bullhead, channel catfish, largemouth bass, muskie, tiger muskellunge and white crappie. The fishing is good enough that bass and crappie tournaments are held here regularly. With a 10 hp motor limit in force on Acton Lake, anglers have no problem finding quiet waters in which to fish. In winter, the lake occasionally freezes enough to permit ice fishing. The no-wake speeds also favor small-boat sailing on the lake. Although the sheltered location limits the amount of wind available, the lake is the perfect spot to teach beginners to rudiments of sailing. The Hueston Sailing Association offers lessons to youngsters every summer.
Hueston Woods State Park offers a variety of activities and amenities seldom found in a state park setting. In addition to picnic areas, a 1500-foot swimming beach, fishing pier and over 500 campsites (both rustic and all-service), Hueston Woods also provides a dozen hiking trails, a bridal path, equestrian campsites, rental cottages in a number of configurations, an 18-hole golf course, 36-hole disk golf course, full-service marina which rents boats, and a 'resort' with a 94-room lodge, snack bars, conference rooms indoor and outdoor swimming pool, dining room and lighted tennis courts. Other amenities include a dog-accessible swim area, horseshoe pits, paintball field and target practice area, volleyball court, miniature golf, archery range, playground, basketball court and a Nature Center.
A favorite among birders due to the large number of birds seen here, a special birding trail allows viewing of great blue heron, green heron, black-crowned night-heron, great egret, barred owl, great-horned owl, eastern screech owl, pileated woodpecker, red-headed woodpecker, white-breasted nuthatch, red-belied woodpecker, yellow-bellied sapsucker, brown creeper, hairy woodpecker, hermit thrush, downy woodpecker and winter wren, with the occasional sighting of a bald eagle, common loon or white-fronted goose. All together, at least 150 species of birds either live or visit here seasonally. Two hundred acres of old-growth forest have been preserved in the Hueston Woods State Nature Preserve. The rare stand of beech and maple forest is listed as a National Landmark, and interpretive tours can be arranged at the Nature Center. The perimeter road around Acton Lake is a favorite with mountain bikers and hikers.
If activities at Acton Lake don't serve to keep visitors occupied during their stay, nearby Miami University offers a selection of Natural Areas on their campus at Oxford. On campus the McGuffey House and Museum preserves the home and personal artifacts of the originator of the famed early American textbooks, William Holmes McGuffey. Miami University hosts an art museum and several galleries and offers musicals and theater performances throughout the year. In nearby Preble County, the Preble Historical Society preserves seven covered bridges from the late 1800s that can be visited via a tour route, several restored buildings from the area and an exhibit hall with regular touring exhibits.
Parts of the original site of the future Acton Lake were preserved by the original owner-veteran of the Indian Wars, Matthew Hueston. Later, the original wooded area was purchased and preserved in trust by a local conservationist until the state legislature was persuaded to purchase the property and designate it as a state forest. Originally purchased by the State of Ohio in 1941, the site was used as a prison camp for 12 years. In 1956, an earthen dam was built across Four-Mile Creek, creating Acton Lake. The 625-acre lake quickly became one of the favored recreation areas in southwestern Ohio. Additions and improvements have slowly built the state park into one of Ohio's showpiece nature areas.
Originally, the lake level was lowered 10 feet in winter to prevent damage to park structures. That winter water level lowering has been reduced in recent years until there is minimal reduction most years. In its early years Acton Lake had serious sedimentation problems from agricultural run-off upstream, and parts of the lake required dredging in the 1970s and 1980s. Changing agricultural practices have reduced sedimentation considerably in recent years to the point that it is no longer a serious problem. Funding has recently been granted to repair or replace the existing dam for safety reasons. Because of Acton Lake's proximity to Miami University, the lake is the subject of ongoing water quality and limnology studies by students. A semi-permanent high-tech buoy has been placed on the lake to provide real-time measurements of water quality and conditions for study.
Although there are no private rentals on Acton Lake itself, nearly every visor will find the perfect campground space, guest cabin or resort room at Hueston Woods State Park. A few bed-and-breakfasts are in operation nearby. Oxford has a number of hotels and other lodgings available for overnight or even longer. Real estate is available in the area, often at other nearby lakes. Located within an hour's drive from Dayton and Cincinnati and only a couple of hours from Indianapolis and Louisville, Acton Lake is nearby and convenient for a day's fishing or sailing - or a week's vacation. So bring the fishing tackle and the sun screen. Acton Lake and Hueston Woods await.
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