Independence Dam (NW)
27722 State Route 424
Defiance, OH 43512-9085
Contact & Mailing Address
Harrison Lake State Park
26246 Harrison Lake Road
Fayette, Ohio 43521-9751
Harrison Lake Park Office
Call or reserve online: 866-644-6727
591-acre Independence Dam State Park is situated along the banks of the beautiful Maumee River. The river is ideal for boating, fishing or a scenic canoe trip.
Nature of the Area
The Maumee Valley is but a mere shadow of what it used to be prior to settlement. This area was in the midst of the Great Black Swamp which was 120 miles long and 30 to 40 miles wide. This heavily forested area was an extension of the immense forest that covered 95% of Ohio. This great forest contained huge sycamores often used for temporary barns or even homes when they became hollow. Towering oaks and giant tulip trees became intermixed with walnut trees–some over six feet in diameter.
As vast as this mighty forest once was, nearly every tree had been cut in less than 100 years after settlement of Ohio began. Settlers cut, sawed, burned and girdled most of the 24 million acres of woodlands leaving only four million by 1883. The Maumee Valley in the Great Black Swamp was the last stronghold of Ohio’s great forest. The boggy soil made passage into the area nearly impossible until a great system of ditches and drains were installed between 1859 and 1875 to drain the swamp. During that time period nearly 2.5 million acres of the Maumee Valley were cleared. By 1885, the region looked much as it does today–endless farm fields dotted here and there with small woodlots. The Maumee Valley today supports only six percent of the land in forest cover. Fortunately, much of that forest cover lies along the banks of the Maumee River. It is still possible to see great sycamores, black locusts, beech and maple trees lining the river through the park. The river is very scenic and is the largest in northwest Ohio. In fact, it is the second largest stream flowing into Lake Erie with 4,700 cubic feet per second. The river’s banks support an abundance of woodland wildflowers including jewelweed, violets and spring beauties.
Songbirds such as the scarlet tanager, Louisiana water thrush and yellow-throated warbler enjoy the wooded canopy draping the river. The fox squirrel, raccoon, skunk and woodchuck find the riparian habitat suitable.
History of the Area
The natural confluence of the Maumee and Auglaize rivers, upstream from Independence Dam State Park, was a significant contributing factor for the development of northwestern Ohio. The waters of these two great rivers were a source of life for Indian and frontiersmen alike. Today, the rivers are a valuable natural resource for both industry and recreation.
This was a rich hunting and fishing area for the American Indian. Tribes residing in the dense hardwood forests included the Hopewell, Erie, Iroquois, Miami, Shawnee, Wyandot, Delaware and Ottawa. The most famous Indian of this area was Pontiac, an Ottawa chief. It is believed he was born near the junction of the two rivers in 1712. He is remembered for the infamous “Pontiac’s Conspiracy,” a rebellion of Indian tribes against trade policies in 1763.
Blue Jacket, a great Shawnee war chief, made his home near the banks of these same rivers in the late 1700s. In 1793, a “Grand Indian Council,” the greatest assembly of tribal representatives on the North American Continent, was also held here. The council convened with the determination to stop the American westward expansion.
At this time, President Washington decided that Indian power needed to be reduced. President Washington chose General Anthony Wayne to lead forces into the northwest. General Wayne’s victory in the carefully planned battle, opened the territory to a great wave of settlers.
Homesteaders came on horseback, on foot and in ox-drawn wagons, moving north along the wilderness trails. State Route 424 now follows the narrow military trail used by General Wayne.
In later years, the canals had a great influence on this area. The Miami and Erie Canal, which traveled north from Cincinnati, merged with the Wabash and Erie Canal just south of Defiance. The two canals then proceeded via a common trunk to Maumee Bay. Large cities sprang up along the canals and developed into important trade and industrial centers. The use of the canals began to decline in the 1860s due to the railroads. A flood in 1913 destroyed much of the canal. Today, one can trace seven unbroken miles of the historic canal between St. Rt. 424 and the park. The main entrance road to the park crosses over the ruins of Lock Number Thirteen.
The existing dam on the Maumee River was completed in 1924. This cement dam replaced the original wooden dam which was built in the 1800s for the canal system.
At the time of the rebuilding of the structure, several organizations expressed support for a park between the old canal bed and the river. The Ohio Department of Public Works purchased private lands creating the park. In 1949, Independence Dam State Park came under the administrative authority of the newly created Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
- 3-mile hiking trail, once the towpath of the Miami and Erie Canal, offers the hiker a glimpse into the colorful past of Ohio’s canal era
- The trail meanders between the canal and the river through a dense hardwood forest
- 3-mile access road through the park offers a scenic ride for bicyclists is also handicap accessible
- Portion of the Buckeye Trail passes through the park
- Unlimited horsepower boating is permitted on the river
- A marina and 4-lane launch ramp are provided
- Four miles of the river accommodates skiers
- The river is excellent for canoeing
- Boating laws and information
- The Maumee River offers fine catches of northern pike, smallmouth bass, crappie, catfish and an occasional walleye
- Valid Ohio fishing license is required
- Numerous picnic tables are located along the tree-lined bank of the Maumee River
- Grills, restrooms and drinking water are provided
- 2 shelterhouses are available by reservation online or by calling 866-644-6727
- 9 hole course
- No fee is charged to play
- See what other parks have disc golf courses
Winter Recreation (conditions permitting)
- Ice skating
- Cross country skiing
- Mary Jane Thurston State Park is nearby at Grand Rapids, Ohio
- In Defiance, the site of General Anthony Wayne’s Fort Defiance is marked by plaques and stones in the city park. Old earthworks are still visible in this area
- Other marked historic sites in Defiance include Fort Winchester, built in 1812 by General William Henry Harrison and the old French Mission (1650) in Kingsbury Park
- Auglaize Village, a re-created Ohio settlement located west of Defiance, is open for tours on a seasonal basis
- Nearby Maumee State Forest provides recreational opportunities
- A monument to the Battle of Fallen Timbers is located between Waterville and Maumee on U.S. 24.
- For more information on area attractions, visit