East Fork State Park

3294 Elklick Rd
Bethel, Ohio 45106

513-734-4323   |  http://parks.ohiodnr.gov/eastfork
Dawn to Dusk

East Fork State Park

One of the largest state parks in Ohio, East Fork State Park contains a mixture of historical sites, from early Adena communities to the twentieth century inhabitants.

The Little Miami River Basin, in which the park lies, was home to Adena and Hopewell people nearly 3,000 years ago. The Adena are well known for the Fort Ancient community in Warren County. Their stories are left on the landscape here as well. An Adena mound, a National Register of Historic Places site, is marked near the park’s entrance. The reasons for the Hopewell people’s disappearance and the emergence of the Late Woodland period is still heavily debated; however, war, climatic shifts and the technological innovation of the bow and arrow have all been pointed to as possible reasons for this change.

In 1799, Virginian Phillip Clayton received a patent to 766 acres of land for his service in the Revolutionary War. The area became known as “Elk Lick Mills Community” for its natural salt licks, saw mill, and grist mill. Clayton assigned the land to Nathaniel Massey, a Virginia Military District surveyor, who then turned it over to William Lytle, commonly referred to as the “father” of Clermont County.

Small towns grew in the area the park now occupies. In 1803, Lytle sold this land to Reverend John Collins from New Jersey, who encouraged others from New Jersey and Pennsylvania to relocate to the area. John and Sarah Simpson, the grandparents of Ulysses S. Grant, moved from Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

In 1868, gold was discovered on the banks of the Little Miami River near Robert Wood’s farm. With in the California gold fields, Captain J.W. Glass, created the Batavia Gold Mining Company and gold mining in the Illinoian glacial deposits. A large sluice was constructed in 1868, but a flood quickly destroyed all but sixteen feet of the flume; this led to the demise of the nineteenth century gold mining venture. Official reports state that only $20 in gold was found before the company folded. Another gold mining tunnel was built shortly after in 1872 near Twin Bridges by the Stonelick Valley Mining Company.

In the 1920s, John Allen constructed a drift mine on Cabin Run Creek. It was rumored that Allen made a fortune in this mine and hid his riches; however, geologists note this is highly improbable as there is likely not enough gold in the glacial till to make mining profitable. Most likely, these gold miners found small gold flakes in the streams and, influenced by the knowledge of the California Gold Rush, hoped to strike it rich -- but their hopes didn’t pan out.

In 1937, the major flooding on the Ohio River destroyed most of the community’s assets. The East Fork State Park’s visitor center focuses on this story and displays a school bell found in the flood’s aftermath.

The landscape of this area took on new meaning after the state park was established and in 1978 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the William H. Harsha Reservoir, commonly referred to as East Fork Lake for flood control. Since then, the area has been a source of education for Ohio’s natural history and recreation in the form of fishing, boating and hiking.

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Notes for Travelers

There are a number of recreational opportunities at East Fork State Park: camping, boating, rowing, fishing, geo-catching, horse-back riding trails, hiking trails, and so much more. Please see the park’s website for additional information.


Kristen Fleming

Additional Resources

Lepper, Bradley T. Ohio Archaeology: An Illustrated Chronicle of Ohio’s Ancient Indian Cultures. Wilmington, OH: Orange Frazer Press, 2005.