The History of Buckeye Lake -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In the mid 1700's Buckeye Lake was Known by the Indians as the "Big Swamp" or "Big Pond." Near the pond was a salt spring that attracted deer and bison, which gave the area another name: "Buffalo Lick." The Lake as it is known today was formed in the Glacial Period. It was of little importance to the white men until the building of the Ohio Canal. Without this canal, Buckeye Lake would have remained a pond. The building of the canal enlarged the lake to 7 1/4 miles in length and about 1 1/4 miles in width at its widest point, the dimensions of the lake as we know it today. Outcries from early Ohio settlers wanting to buy and sell goods convinced state legislators to open trade routes. On July 4, 1825, the first shovel of earth was turned to begin the Ohio & Erie Canal System. The July 4 ceremony was held on State Route 79 midway between Newark and Hebron. Approximately 100 years after the ceremony, a granite boulder with a bronze plague was erected on the site by Licking County residents. Construction of the dike, blocking drainage into the South fork of the licking River, began in 1826 and was completed in 1830, forming the Licking Summit Reservoir which would eventually become Buckeye Lake. In the canal days Buckeye Lake gained yet another name, the "Licking Summit", because it was one of the high points along the canal's planned path. As the water level rose, several large mats of sphagnum moss broke loose from the bottom and became "floating islands." Other islands were also created because the land was above the water level. The Canal system was our forefathers' only means of transportation from the Ohio River to Lake Erie. Port towns and mills sprung up all along the canal system during its construction. Horses and mules pulled the barges up and down the canals from the tow paths built along the sides of the canal. In fact, the North Bank of Buckeye Lake was a tow path and today is known as the "Old Tow Path." Barges first used the route in 1831, six years after ground breaking. Even then, canals exerted a great influence on transportation because eventually highways and railways were often constructed along the old, abandoned canal routes. The Deep Cut Canal is the most discernible part of the Ohio and Erie canal in Fairfield County, running from Bickel Church Road to Buckeye Lake, approximately 4 miles in length. The Deep cut is actually a very deep cut canal made specifically to get the canal water in the Lake to flow toward Baltimore, Canal Winchester, and on to Circleville. This canal goes right through down town Millersport. Years ago in the summertime, a grocery boat paddled along through downtown Millersport. Did you know one of Fairfield County's lost towns is located on the southern edge of Millersport along the bank of the Deep Cut? The community of Monticello was established for those folks working on the construction of the canal. Records show from 1827 to 1833 there was a post office there. In 1825 a road was opened from Lancaster to Monticello. Today nothing remains of the lost town of Monticello. The building of the canal had other effects on the Lake. While the canal flooded and drowned most of the boggy site, one section of the sphagnum mat floated to the surface during the filling of the reservoir. Today it continues to exist as an island conducive to the growing of cranberry plants and has produced a crop every year. The island, now known as the Cranberry Bog State Nature Preserve, at one time spread over nearly 50 acres, but it has been shrinking. The bog island is simply decaying. There is no other island like it in the entire United States. Many interesting and rare plants exist on the island, such as Grass Pink Orchids, Marshfield, Cinnamon & Royal Fern, Ground Nut Winter Holly and Arctic Cotton grass, which is otherwise found only in northern Canada. It is also covered with Pitcher plants. and Sundae plants; both of these plants "eat" insects. The bird life on the island is also quite fascinating including all types of warblers, sparrows and waterfowl. When the ducks and gees are migrating, they find the Cranberry Marsh an ideal place for rest and feeding. Thus it is also a hunter's paradise. An open house is held once a year on the last Saturday of June to tour the bog. The Blue Heron Rookery is located in an area close to the Cranberry Bog. Most of the Blue Herons come there to roost towards the end of March and stay until October. All told there are about 127 nests in the colony. The birds build their nests in large beech trees generally 30' to 80' above the ground. Traditionally, an annual Blue Heron Spring Fling is held at the end of March. The reservoir's hidden trees and debris became a big problem especially in 1906 when a group of recreation minded gents came together to form the Buckeye Lake Yacht Club. The "stump skippers", as the yachtsmen sometimes referred to themselves, worked long and hard to reduce the hazards to boats caused by the skeletons of old trees left in the former reservoir. The Yacht Club today is still a vigorous group of 400 members, headquartered where it has been since 1912 on a small island known as Watkins Island, which is connected to the North Bank by a bridge. It is a Private club and the only island Yacht Club in America. The Yacht Club sponsors several sail boating contests and an antique wood boat parade. Several members of the Yacht Club enter sailing contests all over the United States and do extremely well in competition. Any member can invite you to the Yacht Club restaurant. Buckeye Lake Yesterday Perhaps you fondly remember the Big Band Era? If so, you probably were among the many visitors to the Crystal Pavilion and the Lake Breeze Pier Ballroom featuring the big band sounds of Harry James, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Stan Kenton, Lawrence Welk or Louie Armstrong. The cost of admission tickets in the late 30's and early 40's was a whopping 66 cents! Perhaps you took a ride on the largest wooden frame roller coaster that took thrill seekers out over the water or rode riders such as "The Dip" or "The Wild Mouse." Thousands from all over the state flocked to the Buckeye Lake Amusement Park to visit one of the largest amusement attractions in Central Ohio. Did you know that Buckeye Lake was the first large reservoir built in America and became Ohio's first State Park in May of 1949? The 3,000 + acre lake was built near the highest point of elevation separating the Scioto and Muskingum River watersheds and as previously stated it was built solely to provide water for the canal system. Return back to the Buckeye Lake, Ohio Home Page or move to the next link
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