Cowan Lake (SW)
1750 Osborn Road,
Wilmington, OH 45177
Reservations for Camping, Cottages & Shelters
Cowan Lake State Park offers a peaceful setting replete with scenic inlets laden with the American Lotus water lily. Swimming, fishing, sailing and canoeing are popular on the lake. Meandering trails through mature woodlands compliment the natural features of this scenic 1,075-acre park.
Nature of the Area
It has been said that Ohio’s history can be found written in the rocks. By studying the bedrock layers in Ohio, we know that ancient seas, marshes or swamps covered all or portions of the state at times over the past 500 million years. Sediment deposited by those ancient waters solidified into rock and eventually uplifted forming dry land. Animals and plants were embedded in the sediment, and today, these fossils reveal the different life forms that existed in Ohio’s past.
Cowan Lake lies near the Cincinnati Arch, an uplifting of bedrock that occurred during the Appalachian Mountains’ building process. The erosion of this arch in the Cowan region exposes fossil-rich limestone. The limestone near Cowan and other parts of the exposed arch are some of the most famous fossil hunting fields in the world.
A fine stand of beech-maple forest can be found around the lake at Cowan. These woodlands contain beautiful wildflowers including bloodroot, wild ginger, spring beauties and trillium. The woods, fields and lake provide habitat for a variety of animals, including ring-neck pheasant, ducks, geese and herons. Songbirds such as eastern bluebirds, catbirds, house wrens and many others inhabit the fields and bushy areas of the park. Mammals include white-tailed deer, raccoon, opossum, woodchuck, skunk and others.
American Lotus, a brilliant water lily, is abundant in the lake’s shallow areas. It is unusual to find such a large colony of lotus on an inland lake. The plant’s leaves grow up to two feet in diameter supporting large yellow flowers.
History of the Area
The Cowan Lake region was once a stronghold of the Miami and Shawnee Indians. After their defeat at the hands of General Anthony Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, the Indian threat subsided and settlement began here. In 1797, the first settler in the area, William Smalley, began clearing land for his home along the river which was later dammed to form Cowan Lake. Smalley had been captured by the Indians when he was a small child and was forced to live with them until he was twenty years old. He later fought in General Wayne’s army and was recaptured, but luckily escaped with his life.
Cowan Creek was named for the area’s first surveyor, John Cowan. A dam was completed across Cowan Creek in 1950, and in 1968, Cowan Lake was dedicated as a state park.
- 237 electric sites
- 17 non-electric sites
- 4 sites are wheelchair accessible
- Showerhouse, flush toilets, laundry facilities, dump station, camper’s beach and a boat launch ramp
- Commissary is equipped with snacks and camping items
- Pet camping is offered on designated sites
- Bike rental, volleyball and basketball courts, and miniature golf available to campers
- Download the Campground map
- Walk-ins are welcome, or call 866-644-6727 for reservations
- 27 cottages
- Each cottage is heated and air-conditioned, sleeps 5 with 2 private bedrooms and rollaway beds, and offers a bath with shower, furnished living area, complete kitchen, dining area and screened porch
- Color TV with roof antenna
- 2 premium cottages have gas fireplaces and wooden decks with gas cooking grills (fireplaces are not useable May 1- Aug.31)
- Pets are allowed in cottages C2, C3 and C4
- Smoking is permitted in cottages C2, C3, C4, C5, and C6
- Linens, towels, cooking and eating utensils are provided
- Daily houskeeping service is NOT available
- Download the Cottage Area Map
- Reservations can be made up to 1 year in advance. Call 866-644-6727 for reservations
- 6 hiking trails
- Beechnut Loop Trail • 1/2 Mile • Easy
- Dogwood Trail • 0.7 Miles • Easy
- Emerald Woods Trail • 1.8 Miles • Easy
- Lotus Cove Trail • 0.7 Miles • Moderate • Offers a boardwalk view of an American Lotus (water lily) colony
- Oldfield Trail • 0.8 Miles • Moderate
- Lakeview Trail • 1.1 Miles • Moderate
- Mountain Bike Trail • 1 Mile • Easy-Difficult
- Download the Trail Map
- 700-acre Cowan Lake has a 10-horsepower limit
- South Shore Marina offers boats, canoes, and motors for rent, as well as fishing and picnic supplies for sale
- 4 Launch ramps, fuel and dock rentals are also available
- Sailing is very popular on the lake
- Marina and boat ramps are Carry In Carry Out areas. No trash cans are available. Please bring your own trash bags.
- Check for water quality advisories
- Boating laws and information
- Muskie, crappie, largemouth bass, catfish and bluegill are plentiful
- Accessible fishing pier is located near the Pine Tree picnic area
- Fishing pier is a Carry In Carry Out area. No trash cans are available. Please bring your own trash bags.
- Check out the lake map
- Valid Ohio fishing license is required
- 6 Picnic areas with tables and grills are located in many tree-shaded areas overlooking the lake
- 2 shelterhouses and a dance pavilion are reservable online or by calling 866-644-6727
- Shelterhouse and the dance pavilion near the beach are Carry In Carry Out areas. No trash cans are available. Please bring your own trash bags.
- 1,000 foot public beach is located on the south lake shore
- Bathhouse, showers and a snack bar are available for public use
- Swimming is permitted during daylight hours only
- Swim at your own risk & be sure to keep an eye on the kids
- Pets are NOT permitted on swimming beaches
- Check for water quality advisories
- The beach is a Carry In Carry Out area. No trash cans are available. Please bring your own trash bags.
- Hunting is permitted in designated areas during scheduled hunting seasons
- Valid Ohio hunting license is required
Winter Recreation (conditions permitting)
- Cross country skiing
- Stonelick State Park, located 13 miles southwest of Cowan on State Route 727, and Caesar Creek State Park, situated 18 miles northwest of Cowan on State Route 73, both offer swimming, boating, fishing and camping
- Caesar Creek Gorge, a state nature preserve is located adjacent to Caesar Creek State Park
- Other attractions include Kings Island Amusement Park; the outdoor drama, Blue Jacket and the U.S. Air Force Museum near Dayton
- For more information on area attractions, visit
- Clinton County Convention & Visitors Bureau website or call 877-428-4748
- Ohio Tourism Division website or call 800-BUCKEYE