The many waters of Portage Lakes State Park offer visitors a variety of outdoor recreational experiences. Boating, swimming and fishing
are popular. Anglers will find good catches of largemouth bass, walleye,
muskellunge, pickerel, pan fish, channel catfish, bullhead and carp. Portage Lakes is named after the old Indian portage path which connected the
Cuyahoga River flowing north to Lake Erie and the Tuscarawas River which
through the Muskingum, flows south to the Ohio River. This proved
advantageous for the Indians and early settlers as navigation from Lake Erie
to the Ohio was possible with only one eight-mile portage overland. Portage
Lakes State Park lies at one of the highest points of the state and on a
major watershed divide in Ohio. Some water from the lakes reaches Lake Erie
and some flows to the Ohio River.
The area became an important trading post for settlers and Indians. It was a
recognized landmark during the War of 1812, serving as a rendezvous point of
American troops. The old Indian portage path was part of the ancient
boundary between the Six Nations and the Western Indians.
The city of Akron was laid out in 1825 and was first settled by Irish
laborers and others working on the Ohio Canal. Once the canal was completed,
the town flourished. Several important industries brought prosperity to the
area including stoneware potteries, sewer pipe manufacturing, the match
industry and, most recently, the tire and rubber industry. At one time, the
Blue Diamond Match Company in Akron used three million board-feet of white
pine lumber per year for the manufacture of its matches.
Several of the Portage Lakes were built as feeder reservoirs for the canals
to maintain the required depth of four feet. The lakes were used for this
purpose until the canals were abandoned in 1913. The lakes were then used to
meet the water needs of the local industries. Some portions of the remnant
canals in the Akron area can still be boated.
The Ohio Department of Public Works maintained the canal lands for
recreational purposes until 1949 when the Portage Lakes were transferred to
the newly formed Ohio Department of Natural Resources.