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A surprise awaits visitors to Southwest Ohio when they see Kiser Lake. Nearly 400 acres of water created especially for recreation greet visitors to Kiser Lake State Park. The lake was originally created in 1840 when a dam was built across Mosquito Creek to provide water power to local mills. Eventually, the mills were no longer used and the dam neglected. Most of the water drained away, leaving only a marshy area. Many years passed before there was renewed interest in re-creating the lake. In 1938, construction began on a new dam and in 1940, the new lake began to fill, a full 100 years after the first dam was built. This time, however, water power wasn't the focus. Instead, under the management of the Ohio DNR Division of Parks and Recreation, the new Kiser Lake is encompassed entirely within the new Kiser Lake State Park and is dedicated to wetland preservation and provision of enjoyment to all who come here.
Nearly everything has been thought of at Kiser Lake: swimming beach, marina, boat rentals, picnic grounds, two boat ramps, hiking trails and a campground. The lake is limited to non-motorized watercraft, so it is delightfully quiet and great for paddling and sailing. The small marina rents seasonal slips. Channel catfish, largemouth bass, crappie, yellow perch and bluegill are all eager to take the hook. Saugeye, a hybrid cross between walleye and sauger, have been stocked to increase opportunities for sport fishing, while striped bass and channel catfish are stocked on a regular schedule. Five fishing piers and plentiful bank fishing make access to the water easy for both young and old to enjoy this time-honored sport. With a maximum depth of 12 feet, many areas of the shallow lake offer excellent weed cover, and fishing for the 'big ones' becomes a worthy challenge. An Ohio fishing license is required, and all Ohio fishing regulations are in effect. Some winters the lake freezes solid enough to support ice fishing, ice skating, and ice boating. Scuba diving is permitted at the lake with certain restrictions, including appropriate markers and an above-surface companion at all times.
A 600-foot swimming beach offers plenty of room for beach lovers to splash or simply enjoy the sun at Kiser Lake. Rest rooms are provided, and a refreshment stand offers cold drinks and snacks. Picnic areas provide tables, grills and groups shelters by reservation. A playground and a volleyball court are located in the campground area, and a basketball court can be found near the beach. Another playground and a horseshoe court are located near the Nature Center. The campground holds a few sites with electricity and an RV waste dump. Over 100 non-electric campsites are available along with camping cabins that can be reserved.
Visitors also come to Kiser Lake to enjoy the multiple hiking trails and the Kiser Lake Wetlands State Nature Preserve. Located within the state park, the 50-acre Nature Preserve offers wet meadows, fens, and remnants of the former Mosquito Lake Bog. Unusual bog and wetland plants such as sundew, pitcher plant, spruce and tamarack offer a glimpse of long-ago habitats inhabited by many types of birds and animals. Both within the preserve and along Kiser Lake's shoreline, nature and hiking trails offer varied terrain and scenic vistas for the nature and solitude lover. None of the trails are very long; the longest is only a mile-and-a-half, making access easy for the less physically fit. A seven-mile bridle path is designated for horseback riding. When winter conditions permit, the trails are used for cross-country skiing. A few small hills in the park allow for good sledding. Hunting is permitted in certain areas during the season with appropriate license.
Kiser Lake makes a great home base for a western Ohio vacation, about an hour north of Dayton. The small town of Saint Paris is located nearest the lake and provides hospitality to Kiser Lake visitors. The small city of 2,000 people offers a grocery store, several restaurants, churches, quaint shops and plenty of home-town ambiance. Annually, Pony Wagon Days celebrate Saint Paris' pioneer past, while concerts in the park occur throughout the summer. Those with an urge for cultural exhibits can admire the 5,000 years of art history displayed at the Dayton Art Institute less than an hour to the south. Nearby at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the National Museum of the U. S. Air Force is open to the public and features exhibits of flight, past and future, including space travel. The art exhibits feature a display honoring the Tuskegee Airmen.
Even closer to Kiser Lake, The City of Urbana offers entertainment, nightlife, shopping and the amenities one expects in a university city. Urbana University hosts the Johnny Appleseed Museum, housing a large collection of memorabilia and information regarding this larger-than-life Ohio pioneer and folk hero. Children especially enjoy the story of John Chapman's mission to spread apple trees across Ohio and the Midwest. And no fan of historic architecture and early American life will want to miss a short side-trip northeast of Urbana to the privately-owned Piatt Castles, still inhabited by members of the Piatt family and assisted by a foundation to preserve the family collections for posterity.
If camping doesn't sound like your ideal vacation, other forms of lodgings are available near Kiser Lake, although not on the lake itself. Urbana offers hotels and several bed-and-breakfasts. The countryside nearby has guest cottages and cabins for rent, and private rentals can be found on nearby lakes and rivers. There is no real estate available directly on Kiser Lake, but housing can be found nearby, both in new developments and as rural farms and acreage. Ohio's rich history is often overlooked as the perfect spot for a family vacation, and it may be time to take a look at the unassuming lakes and cities of the Midwest. One trip to Kiser Lake will convince you that this is the place to enjoy family fun and fantastic fishing.
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