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Hueston Woods is a great destination with a few nice surprises

By Richard Martin

Ohio is blessed with many fine lakes, some small and rural, others popular and bustling, some good for this and others ideal for that, but boaters who like both luxury and plenty to do with find it hard to go wrong at Acton Lake, which lies in Hueston Woods State Park. Everything you might want is likely to be here, including some activities that will surprise you.

Hueston Woods is 3,596 acres of park surrounding 625 acres of water, a fairly vast area of pretty country lying in southwestern Ohio about five miles northwest of Oxford. It's within an easy drive of both Dayton and Cincinnati, and is popular enough to draw up to 2 million visitors annually. Why so popular? One good reason is that it offers luxury accommodations in a nicely rural setting.

Those accommodations include the 96-room Hueston Woods Lodge, which sits on a bluff overlooking the lake. Its site was originally a council place for western Ohio Indian tribes, and continues to draw meetings and conferences from all over Ohio. Visitors can enjoy a 100-foot tall sandstone fireplace, two pools, an indoor and out, game rooms, tennis, courtesy docks, and an 18-hole, 7,005 yard, par 72 golf course.
For those with families who like to do at least some of their own cooking, the park has 25 Family Cottages that can sleep six people, with bath, kitchen, living room and screened porch, and ten Efficiency Cottages that sleep four. All cabins are equipped with cooking and eating utensils, towels and bedding. Boaters who like their living even more rustic might try the 25-site campground with its electrical hookups, showers, flush toilets, and a laundry and trailer waste station. Pets are permitted in a number of sites, so Rover or Fifi are welcome to come.

Boating is a popular sport at Hueston Woods, though boats are restricted to 10 hp. There are convenient launch ramps and public docks, and the lake with its 8 miles of shoreline has plenty of roaming room. Fishing at the lake on a scale of 1-10 is about a five, but that doesn't mean fish aren't waiting to be caught. There's a huge population of shad here, prime forage for bass and crappie, so not only do fish grow quickly, but they're often too stuffed on natural food to bite readily.

Still, the lake offers sunken Christmas trees for structure, along with fallen timber in the coves, and submerged barn foundations and stumps to hold bass and panfish. Working such structure with plastic worms and pig and jig combinations can produce strikes, and crankbaits tossed at shoreline structure can draw ambush-oriented bass, too. Crappie action is best along the northeastern and west shore, and catfish will bite in inlets after brisk rains.

One of the fine attributes of Hueston Woods is its near primeval forest, many acres of majestic beech and maple trees, some 200 years old. Matthew Hueston bought the parkland in 1797, after serving with General "Mad" Anthony Wayne in the Indian wars, and while most of his land went to crops, he saved a remnant of forest, which was held in trust and became a state forest. These days you can enjoy over 12 miles of trails in the park, and some, like the Big Woods Trail will take hiking boaters through 1.8 miles of majestic timber.

Other trails like the Cedar Falls Trail take hikers through a lush flood plain with mature black walnut and oak, across a bubbling little creek, and past a small waterfall. Visitors will see many wild flowers here and hike past outcrops of 450 million year old bedrock.

Other things to do at this fine park? You might try your luck on a large paintball field and target range. Bring your own equipment or rent some, and enjoy a lively afternoon. Take time to see the Hueston Woods Raptor Rehabilitation Center too, rent a bike and pedal rural roads, and visit the Pioneer Farm Museum. Lots to do at this pretty park.

For lodge information, you can call the front desk at (513) 664-3500. For the park office, call (513) 523-6347, and for words on the golf course

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