EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was originally published by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
MOUNT GILEAD -- Located between Columbus and Mansfield, Mount Gilead State Park provides the charm of a small, secluded park, while offering many of the amenities found at larger parks.
Mount Gilead's wildflowers, wildlife, and woodlands offer year-round wonder for hikers and nature lovers. The small lake is perfect for paddling or dropping a line to catch bass or bluegill. A picturesque gazebo and several shelters offer a perfect setting for weddings and family reunions.
The location offers boating, camping, disc golf, picnicking, trails, winter recreation, horseshoe pits, volleyball courts, shuffleball courts, basketball courts, and a playground. Equipment is available for rent.
The first permanent settlers came into the Morrow County after the close of the War of 1812. The first gristmill and sawmill were built on Whetstone Creek in 1821.
The town of Mount Gilead, the county seat, served as a major stop on the underground railroad prior to the Civil War. In more recent history, an oil boom occurred in Morrow County. In 1961, a well was drilled on the Orrie Myers' property that produced 200 barrels a day.
As a result of that wells success, 30 to 40 wells are drilled in Morrow County annually.
The first lake at Mount Gilead was built in 1919 on the upper level of Sam's Creek. On July 10, 1930, a larger lake was completed below the first one on this same tributary of Whetstone Creek. The recreational area was originally under the supervision of the Bureau of Engineering.
In 1949, it was turned over to the newly formed Ohio Department of Natural Resources to be maintained as a state park. From 2015 through 2018, the dams on the lake were redesigned to allow a more natural flow of water.
The upper dam is now an open spillway, traversable by a foot bridge over the structure. The lower dam was redesigned and fortified as a labyrinth spillway, also with a pedestrian bridge over the structure.
The wealth of natural wonders found at Mount Gilead State Park can be traced back to the Ice Age -- a time when two-thirds of Ohio was frozen land covered with glacial ice, nearly a mile thick in places.
During this age many changes occurred in the Ohio landscape: the stream systems were altered, topography changed and the Great Lakes were formed. The glaciers left Ohio a legacy of valuable natural resources.
In the vicinity of Mount Gilead, three end moraines (linear ridges of glacial sediment deposited along the ice edge) converged and account for the rolling terrain of the park.
Today, Mount Gilead harbors a beautiful stand of second growth beech-maple forest. The mature woodlands provide a glimpse of what Ohio looked like to early settlers. Wildflowers, such as wild geranium, hepatica, trillium and bloodroot, carpet the forest floor each spring.
The leafy canopy is occupied by the wood thrush, white-breasted nuthatch, Carolina wren and other songbirds. Skunk, raccoon, white-tailed deer and a variety of other mammals make this park their home.