Forested hills, a picturesque lake and the lazy Ohio River characterize 791-acre Forked Run State Park. Located in the heart of Appalachia, colorful history, riverboats, scenic vistas and abundant wildlife give the park its rural charm.
The colorful history and folklore of the Ohio River create the character of Forked Run State Park. The Ohio River felt the pull of the Indian's paddle, served as a territorial boundary, brought settlers into the Northwest Territory and carried flatboats and "steamers" that shipped passengers and cargo from Pittsburgh to New Orleans.
The mouth of the Shade River which empties into the Ohio nearby was known as a gloomy, rocky place called the Devil's Hole. The Indians returning from their raids into western Virginia routinely crossed the Ohio at that point with their prisoners and plunder. They would travel through the valley of the Shade River on the way to their towns on the Scioto. Settlement of the area was slow to develop until the Indian threat had subsided and the discovery of coal in the region provided means of support.
As mining increased, towns sprang up along the Ohio. Pomeroy, Middleport, Minersville and Syracuse were important mining centers. The coal was used to manufacture coke which in turn was used in the many furnaces that smelted iron ore from the surrounding sandstone bedrock. The ore resulted in iron used to produce agricultural implements, ammunition and cannons for the Union Army during the Civil War. During the 1860s, Ohio was one of the nation's leading producers of iron.
Equally important to the prosperity of the area was the salt industry. The first salt well was drilled in 1850 near Pomeroy. Eighteen salt furnaces were in operation during their peak of importance. Nearly 3,600 barrels of salt were produced daily.
The villages of Reedsville and Belleville were important boat-building centers, and it was on this section of the Ohio River that Captain Horatio Crooks introduced the compound-cylinder steam engine.
John Hunt Morgan, the Confederate General, while on his raid through Ohio was hampered in his efforts here to escape into western Virginia. The local militia thwarted Morgan's effort to ford the Ohio near Pomeroy, and as a result, he was eventually captured in Columbiana County.
Today, the area is known as a truck-farming center which produces crops of cabbage, melons, sweet corn and the famous Ohio River tomatoes.
Construction of Forked Run State Park began in May of 1951. In October 1952, the 102-acre lake was completed. The lake was stocked and opened to the public in the following year.
Forked Run State Park is located adjacent to Shade River State Forest. Much of the forest's 2,601 acres is second growth pitch pine and Virginia pine. The area is also rich in hardwoods such as oaks and hickories. Hemlock and mountain laurel are found in some of the deep gorges.