COLUMBUS, OH – The summer fun continues in July at Ohio’s state parks and state nature preserves with more free events to enjoy. In addition to these events, the Ohio State Fair also runs from Wednesday, July 26-Sunday, Aug. 6. Make sure to stop by and see all of the free activities that are available inside the Natural Resources Park, including the kayak pond, camper village, pioneer cabin, fishing pond, Smokey Bear, bird aviary, butterfly house and much more.
• Pollinator Garden Tour at West Branch State Park – We will learn about native wildflowers, prairies, butterflies, nature photography, insect catching with bug nets and more as we explore the new pollinator garden at West Branch State Park on July 21 and July 28 at 2 p.m. The naturalist will bring some nets and collection jars. Meet outside the camp store for a short walk to the garden, which is located at the beginning of the campground disc golf course. For more information, contact Lake Milton State Park at 330-654-4989.
• Nature Fridays at Paint Creek State Park – Join Naturalist Matthew Minter for some or all of these outdoor activities on Fridays in July and August. Archery will be held on Fridays in July and August at Paint Creek State Park at 4 p.m. Meet in front of the camp store for some basic bow safety and some range time. Participants should be able to draw a 20-lb. bow. At 5 p.m., there will be an activity on survival. Learn the secrets of the native people and our grandfathers. Meet at the shelter house. Then meet at 7:30 p.m. for the Family Adventure Series called Paddling 101. Learn the basics of kayaking at Paint Creek Beach. Participants should know to swim. Recommended for ages 7 and up. There is only room for six at a time, but we can take turns. For more information, contact Pike Lake State Park at 740-493-2212.
• Creek Adventure at Blue Rock State Park – Meet at the bridge at Blue Rock State Park by the volunteer campground to explore the creek and look for critters on Friday, July 21, at 5 p.m. Nets and holding containers will be provided. People should wear appropriate footwear. Bare feet are prohibited. Prepare to get wet! For more information, call 740-674-4794.
• Youth Archery at Beaver Creek State Park – Kids age 9 and up can meet at the archery range on Echo Dell Road directly across from the soccer fields on Friday, July 21, at 6 p.m. at Beaver Creek State Park. Learn archery skills and safety before getting to shoot a bow. Kids must be accompanied by an adult. For more information, call 330-385-3091.
• Trail Trek at Shawnee State Park – Treasure the trees, have fun in the flowers and blast off with the birds along a beautiful trail with the naturalist. Meet at the nature center on Saturday, July 22, at 9 a.m. Wear long pants and comfortable hiking shoes. For more information, call 740-858-6652.
• Sand Dunes Ramble at Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve – Join us on Saturday, July 22, at 10 a.m. for a ramble through the sand dune plant communities of Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve. This nature preserve harbors a variety of plants endemic to our Great Lakes coastal region, a number of which are state endangered. We will also take a look at the progress of the new boardwalk being constructed through the preserve. This hike is in conjunction with the City of Mentor’s “Beach Fest” being held the same day. “Beach Fest” is an annual event exhibiting local artisans, sand sculptures and hands-on activities from various presenters so plan on spending some time with us at the beach. People should meet at the east end of the Headlands Beach State Park near parking lot number 1. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 330-527-5118.
• Paddling Excursions at West Branch State Park – Join the naturalist for a short paddling tour of the lake on July 22 and July 29. The sign-up sheet is at the camp office. This activity is free of charge. Participants must be at least 12-years-old and physically able to maneuver the vessel, and people must sign a waiver to participate. We will be departing from the campground swim beach at noon, 1:15 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Some experience with paddling is helpful! For more information, call 330-654-4989.
• Nature Saturdays at Kiser Lake State Park – Every Saturday during the summer at Kiser Lake State Park, there is plenty to do, including on July 22 and July 29. Fishing tips at 9 a.m. What is biting, where and why? Meet at the nature center. Hooked on Fishing is offered at 10 a.m. We have some bait and poles; bring your own if you can. Little ones need an adult. Meet at the nature center. Then, make bird feeders at 11 a.m. and fill them. Hang it at your camp site and take it home. Meet at the nature center. At 2 p.m., the nature center will be open. Come and meet an animal, explore the nature center, see bones and critters. At 4 p.m., we will have creek dipping. Use a net to catch critters in the stream. Meet at the nature center area. Archery and target shooting will be available at 7 p.m., also meeting in the nature center area. Those under 16 need an adult with them. A movie under the stars will be shown that evening at the amphitheater. People are asked not to bring bikes because it is too dark, and they are a tripping hazard. For more information, contact 937-362-3565.
• Lake Fest at Cowan Lake State Park – A brand-new event to celebrate Cowan Lake and our community will be held July 22-23. Overnight camping on the beach, bonfires, boat parades, kayaking, sailing, fishing and more. For more information, email email@example.com or call 937-382-1096.
• Ice Cream and More at West Branch State Park – We will explore a different nature topic each week while enjoying a cold ice cream treat. Meet at the tent by camp office on July 22 and July 28 at 7 p.m. For more information, call 330-654-4989.
• Dragonflies, Warriors on the Wing at Stage’s Pond State Nature Preserve – Nothing brings out the kid in all of us like catching insects. Join us at Stage’s Pond State Nature Preserve, which holds a variety of species of these mosquito-eating warriors. Armed with nets, individuals and families will help us catch and identify these dragonflies. Children of all ages are encouraged to attend. Nets and guidebooks will be provided. Be sure to bring water, snacks for the kids and the enthusiasm of a child to catch these amazing creatures. We will meet at the parking area at Stage’s Pond State Nature Preserve, 4792 Hagerty Road, Ashville, on Sunday, July 23, at 10:30 a.m. For questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Summer Forest Hike at Burr Oak State Park – Join the naturalist for this 2.5-mile hike to discover summer’s delights along the trail including wildflowers, ferns and sandstone outcrops on Friday, July 28, at 9 a.m. Wear hiking boots and bring water/trail snacks. Meet at the old ranger station at the front of the park. For more information, call 740-767-3570.
• Creek Crawl at Shawnee State Park – Investigate the tiny creatures living under rocks, the animals tell the story of the stream. Wear old clothes and shoes, and be prepared to get wet and dirty. Meet at the campground amphitheater on Friday, July 28, at 10 a.m. For more information, call 740-858-6652.
• Adams County Prairie Tour at Shawnee State Park – Enjoy a day touring some of Adams County’s state nature preserves in peak blooming season on Saturday, July 29, starting at 9 a.m. We will journey back in time for lunch with a stop at historic Blake’s Pharmacy soda shop. Be prepared to spend five hours in the field with frequent stops at various locations. Meet at the Shawnee Lodge lobby at 9 a.m. For more information, call 740-848-6652.
• Moth Hours at Lake Hope State Park – Wait at the light traps for these late night fliers to land. There are so many colors, shape and sizes it’s hard to fall asleep watching them! Not all caterpillars turn into butterflies. Check out the naturalist’s collection of them. Bring a flashlight and camera. Meet at the nature center on Saturday, July 29, at 10 p.m. For more information, call the nature center at 740-596-3030.
• Lake Stomp at Guilford Lake State Park – We will be wading around the shoreline with nets to see what interesting critters we can catch and identify on Saturday, July 29, at 2 p.m. Bring some old shoes and plan on getting wet. We will be in the water. Meet up next to the campground beach at Guilford Lake State Park. This program is great for all ages, including adults. For more information, call 330-222-1712.
• Butterfly Photo Hike at Beaver Creek State Park – Meet in the parking lot near the bridge at the pioneer village at Beaver Creek State Park on Saturday, July 29, at 11 a.m. Bring the camera for a casual hike along the creek in search of butterflies. For more information, call 330-385-3091.
• Wild Animals at Geneva State Park – Meet on Sunday, July 30, at 10:15 a.m. to learn what people should do if they suspect a wild animal is orphaned. Following will be a presentation on why we shouldn’t feed wild animals. Meet at the cabin pavilion across the street from the campground. For more information, call 440-466-8400.
• Creeking at Salt Fork State Park – Meet at the Stonehouse Trail parking lot at Salt Fork State park for a creeking adventure on Sunday, July 30, at 11 a.m. People should wear clothes they don’t mind getting wet. For more information, call 740-439-3521.
To learn more about family-friendly events at Ohio’s state parks and state nature preserves, go to parks.ohiodnr.gov/calendar or naturepreserves.ohiodnr.gov/calendar.
Getting outdoors is an ideal way to relieve stress and boost mood levels. The new Explore Ohio initiative is aimed at encouraging people to exercise outdoors and become healthier in the process. Participants can log their miles, share their photos and create friends groups on the Explore Ohio website at ExploreOh.com. Whether people are running, hiking, biking, climbing, walking or paddling, Ohioans can keep track of their progress at ExploreOh.com and share their adventures on social media using #ExploreOhio. After reaching 100 combined miles of activity on the site, each registered user will receive an email with a certificate good for 15 percent off camping at any Ohio State Park.