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One of the best-loved spots along northeastern Ohio's Mahoning River is Berlin Lake. The Mahoning River has long done double-duty safeguarding the water levels downstream in Warren and Youngstown and providing a water source for citizens and industry. Berlin Lake actually began as the back-up reservoir for nearby Lake Milton a few miles downstream. Approved by the legislature early in the 20th century, the dam was completed in 1942 and Berlin Lake began its job of flood control, water level stabilization and water supply shortly afterward. The 18-mile long reservoir has a surface area of 3,590 acres during the normal summer, but can expand to 5,500 acres when heavy rainfall occurs. The lake is the fifth-largest inland lake in Ohio. Most visitors to Berlin Lake are interested in the recreational opportunities the large lake provides.
Berlin Lake is a paradise for boaters. The long expanse of water offers plenty of room for power-boating, water-skiing, jet-skiing, tubing, wind surfing and sailing. There are designated no-wake zones, water-skiing areas, and sailboats-only areas. The US Army Corps of Engineers maintains the Mill Creek Recreation Area around the lake which offers four public boat launch sites; this easy access to the lake assures the water will receive plenty of lakelubbers on hot summer weekends. Many bays and meandering arms make Berlin Lake ideal for paddle-craft such as canoes and kayaks, and pontoon boating on the lake is a favorite activity.
Mill Creek Recreation Area also offers a designated swimming beach at one of its six sites on the lake, and swimming and scuba diving occur and in several locations. To accommodate boaters, two marinas offer docking facilities, boating necessities, fishing tackle and supplies. Small boats are rented at one of the locations. In addition, the Mill Creek Recreation Area accommodates off-water activities with five picnic areas, three playgrounds and one of the largest Corps campgrounds with 350 campsites. Fans of Mill Creek Campground claim it offers the best variety of campsites with varying views and amenities; reservations are required to get a spot.
Berlin Lake is likely best known for fishing. The reservoir is one of the few places in this area of Ohio where walleye naturally spawn. Besides the walleye, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, white bass, black and white crappie, channel catfish, bullhead, bluegill, and muskellunge are all caught here. In fact, Berlin Lake is the location of regular bass fishing tournaments. The many arms and bays create varied fish habitat, augmented by artificial fish structure each year when old Christmas trees are disposed of in strategic spots. One of the lesser-known fishing secrets at Berlin Lake is that there's a second small reservoir right next door: the Deer Creek Reservoir collects another 314 acres of prime angling waters behind the Deer Creek Dam near the south end of Berlin Lake. The smaller reservoir was constructed in 1955 to provide water supply to the nearby city of Alliance. This reservoir allows only boats with electric motors for virtually undisturbed fishing. The smaller bays and arms are popular year round and provide excellent ice fishing in winter.
Water levels can vary up to 20 feet at Berlin Lake, depending on season and rainfall. The lake is drawn down about six feet in winter. Although much of the shoreline is heavily wooded, several limited development areas around the lake offer lakefront living with grand views and space for private docks by permit. The Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources also manages over 8,500 acres of mixed woodlands, grasslands and wetlands around Berlin Lake. Two popular destinations here are the archery range and a dog-training area. Some areas are open for hunting in season. As the lake attracts a large number of migrating waterfowl, it's a natural destination for bird-watching. The exposed mudflats in low-water periods attract many shorebirds that are hard to spot at other times of the year. And of course, the songbirds delight in the wide expanse of water and the many trees along the shore. Other than the short nature trail near the campground, there are not as yet many hiking paths around the lake. A local group of volunteers, the Berlin Lake Association, is hoping to develop a major hiking trail along the abandoned railroad bed that crosses the lake. A trail system will take some time to develop and is eagerly awaited by hikers in the area.
There are no cities along the lakeshore. Berlin Lake lies in an area of the Ohio countryside characterized by small villages and farmland. Much of the area is wooded - likely one of the reasons for repeated 'bigfoot' sighting reports over several years. Although there haven't been any confirmed sightings, it likely makes for exciting conversation around the campfires at Mill Creek Campground many nights. For those who don't manage to wangle a spot in the campground, there are other, private campground resorts nearby, some with rental cabins. The lake is only a couple of hours from some of the major cities in Ohio and Pennsylvania, so ideally suited to a weekend getaway. These nearby cities offer a wealth of interesting things to do and see, from the Akron Fossil and Science Center to the National Inventor's Hall of Fame and the Akron Zoo - all in Akron. Youngstown offers the Children's Center For Science and Technology, the Butler Institute of American Art, and McDonough Museum of Art on the campus of Youngstown State University. Many, many more points of interest exist within a two-hour drive of Berlin Lake.
Real estate exists in the area around Berlin Lake, sometime with lake views and lake access. Occasionally, one can find a private residence for rent by the week or for the season. And the many campgrounds and RV resorts in the area can always provide lodgings. The small towns nearby don't have much in the way of conventional lodgings, but regular hotel accommodations can be found in Akron (35 miles), Canton (20 miles), Youngstown (20 miles) or Warren (35 miles). There's plenty of space for everyone at Berlin Lake. Come and see if you can spot bigfoot. Or at least, maybe catch a few fish. Hope to see you on the lake.
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