The 10 Best Ohio Lakes For Swimming

Written by Carrie Woodward
Updated: July 11, 2023
© Karl Zhong/
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There are 110 natural lakes in Ohio, which together cover a surface area of 4,658 acres. Of Ohio’s 88 counties, 21 counties have natural lakes. Including public and private lakes, many of which are human-made, there are about 5,130 lakes. The largest lakes accessible in Ohio are Lake Erie, Pymatuning Reservoir, Grand Lake St. Mary’s, Mosquito Creek Lake, Indian Lake, Berlin Lake, Shenango River Lake, and Senacaville Lake. 

However, this does not include the numerous small ponds, which are many in number but have small acreage. If you count these, there are around 50,000 bodies of water (lakes and small ponds) in Ohio! These make up a surface area of 200,000 acres! 

However, of all of these lakes, only 447 are accessible to the public and have five or more acres of surface area. 186 of these are public reservoirs. Swimming in natural bodies of water, including oceans, lakes, and rivers, is a great way to relax and enjoy time outside. Thankfully, Ohio has many beautiful beaches! 

To help you find a place to cool down and get outside this summer, here are some of the best lakes in Ohio where you can go swimming this summer. 

Headlands Beach State Park opened in 1953 as Painesville Beach State Park but was renamed two years later.

Warnings About Swimming in Lakes and Ponds

While swimming in lakes and rivers can be a wonderful way to get outside, it is important to be aware of the germs that may be present in contaminated water. It is important to be cautious and take a few simple steps that can keep you safe and healthy. 

  1. Check online to find out whether a lake or river is monitored, under advisory, or closed for health and safety reasons.
  2. If you have any cuts or open wounds, consult with a healthcare provider before swimming in a natural body of water. 
  3. Stay out of the water if the water looks discolored or cloudy or smells bad, you see pipes draining into the water, or you are sick with diarrhea. 
  4. If you have any open cuts or wounds, stay out of the water or use a waterproof bandage to color the affected area. Swimming in bodies of water can cause germs to get into an open wound and make you sick.
  5. Don’t swallow water, keep sand away from your mouth, do not poop in the water, and take children on bathroom breaks to keep the swim area clean.

With these guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in mind, enjoy your time outdoors swimming in lakes and rivers near you!

Tappan Lake

A sunset over Tappan Lake in Scio, Ohio.
Night falling over Tappan Lake in Ohio.

©Carson M/

Tappan Lake, in Deersville, Ohio, is near a restored Native community by Shoenbrunn State Park and is part of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District. This beautiful lake is a popular destination for summer swimming, boating, and camping. This 2,350-acre lake is a reservoir that offers two public boat launch ramps, a marina with dock rentals and boat rentals, over 500 campsites, and 11 vacation cabins. Lay out on the swimming bench, watch Fourth of July fireworks, hike the nearby trails, or go fishing.

The Tappan Lake beach is open annually from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Beach-goers swim at your own risk with no lifeguards on duty. There are also changing rooms, restrooms, a pavilion, and a beach concession stand. The beach hours are Monday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Salt Fork Lake 

Salt Fork Lake
Sunset over Salt Fork Lake in Ohio.


Salt Fork Lake, in Lore City, Ohio, is a peaceful lake in Salt Fork State Park. Ohio’s Salt Fork State Park is the largest state park in Ohio and covers 17,229 acres of Guernsey County. This park has incredibly diverse species of plants, geological features like shelter caves and sandstone blocks, and wildlife like wild turkeys and white-tailed deer

In addition to hunting and fishing opportunities, campsites, 14 scenic hiking trails, and a snowmobile loop, in the park, Salt Fork Lake includes a public swimming beach. This 2,952-acre lake includes a 2,550-foot beach, which is among the largest inland beaches in Ohio. The beach features a concession stand, changing rooms, restrooms, and outdoor showers open for visitors. You may go swimming during daylight hours, but swim at your own risk since no lifeguards are present. The beach is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

If you want to enjoy a longer period of rest and relaxation, the nearby Salt Fork Lodge is a nature resort with indoor and outdoor pools, a golf course, and a private beach for visitors.

Cedar Point Beach on Lake Erie

Shoreline Sunset in Sandusky, Ohio
This gorgeous sunset over Cedar Point Beach in Sandusky, Ohio is a common sight at this public beach on Lake Erie.

©Alyssa Buchanan/

Cedar Point Beach, in Sandusky, Ohio, is a public beach located along Lake Erie. This mile-long beach attracts visitors who want to enjoy the shoreline and enjoy Cedar Point’s amusement park. From beach bungalows to jet skiing and windsurfing, Cedar Point is a premiere Ohio destination for fun in the sun near, on, and in the water. 

Cedar Point Beach is a great way to enjoy the beautiful Great Lake, Lake Erie, in a safe way. Lake Erie is a biologically productive, diverse Great Lake that is the fourth-largest of the Great Lakes and the eleventh-largest lake in the world. It also has warm, shallow water compared to many of the other Great Lakes, making it a favorite for swimmers. However, Lake Erie can have dangerous currents that flow quickly and pull swimmers away from shore. Therefore, swimmers must approach swimming in Lake Erie with great caution. 

With that in mind, Cedar Point Beach can be a great place to enjoy Lake Erie safely, within roped-off swimming areas. Cedar Point Beach also offers beach volleyball, lounge chairs, jet ski rentals, and restrooms. Visitors may go open-water swimming during Cedar Point’s operating hours.

Headlands Beach State Park on Lake Erie

Lighthouse at Mentor Headlands Beach State Park in Ohio with waves crashing on shore and dark clouds overhead.
Waves crash on the shore of Headlands Beach State Park, which has the longest natural sand beach in Ohio.

©Showcase Imaging/

Headlands Beach State Park in Mentor, Ohio, offers the longest natural sand beach in the state. This 35-acre beach on Lake Erie opened in 1953 as Painesville Beach State Park but was renamed two years later. This gigantic beach attracts many visitors every year and has been named among the top U.S. beaches. Since Lake Erie does not have many sand dunes and sandy beaches, Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve is a unique habitat for many plant and animal species in Ohio

Not only does Headlands Beach State Park offer a sandy beach to enjoy sunbathing and swimming, but you may enjoy walking the beach looking for sea glass or watching the vibrant sunset at the end of the day. Enjoy picnicking, birdwatching, fishing, hiking, or many winter recreation opportunities when the water is too cold for swimming. The mile-long paved trail for walking and biking runs the length of the park area and connects to the adjacent Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve, which has many other trails. 

During the summer, visitors may get food and drinks from a concession stand, access restrooms, and dispose of trash in park dumpsters. Glass, alcohol, and pets are prohibited on the beach. The beach is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Punderson State Park Lake

Brilliant autumn colors reflected in a serene lake (Punderson Lake in northeast Ohio)
In every season, including colorful autumn, Punderson State Park Lake is a serene setting in northeastern Ohio.

©Kenneth Sponsler/

Punderson State Park in Newbury Township, Ohio, has a 150-acre natural kettle lake that features a small swimming beach. Kettles form when, in history, a block of “dead” ice detaches from the glacier. The dead ice becomes buried in sediment and melts, leaving behind a pit. In many cases, water begins to fill the depression and forms a pond or lake known as a kettle. These are often shallow and relatively small lakes that are circular in shape. 

As a kettle lake, Punderson State Park Lake is the largest and deepest kettle lake in Ohio. Punderston State Park Lake has a 600-foot public beach with designated swimming areas. This beach opens every year after Memorial Day and stays open until Labor Day. In addition to swimming, Punderson State Park Lake is a great location to enjoy other outdoor activities, including paddling, fishing, camping, disc golfing, and hiking along the lake’s beautiful shoreline. 

Visitors say that the lake is easy to access and there is plenty of room to spread out and enjoy your favorite outdoor activities. A nearby lodge also overlooks the lake and is a beautiful place to stay and enjoy a mini summer vacation.

Buck Creek State Park’s Clarence J. Brown Reservoir 

Buck creek state park
Boats docked in the Clarence J. Brown Reservoir in Buck Creek State Park.

©Yinan Chen/Public Domain – License

Buck Creek State Park in Springfield includes a reservoir that is the result of a flood control project on Buck Creek. The Clarence J. Brown Dam and Reservoir were created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with construction beginning in September 1966. Buck Creek State Park officially opened in June 1975, and the resulting reservoir is managed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. 

The park offers numerous recreational opportunities on and around the 2,120-acre lake. Today, the reservoir in Buck Creek State Park features a 2,400-foot sandy beach where visitors can lounge on the sand or cool down in the water when it gets hot. However, visitors should be aware that the reservoir has a rocky bottom, and prepare by wearing water shoes.

Portage Lakes

North Reservoir,, part of the Portage Lakes, Akron, Ohio, October 2014.
Vibrant fall foliage in Portage Lake State Park near Akron, Ohio, which includes multiple reservoirs and recreation areas.

©James Marciniak/

Portage Lakes in Portage Lakes State Park is a system of interconnected waterways in Summit County near Akron, Ohio. This system is comprised of eight lakes, which offer visitors ample opportunity for swimming, boating, and fishing. Several of these lakes were originally built to be feeder reservoirs for canals built around the city of Akron. The reservoirs helped the canals to keep their required depth of 4 feet until being abandoned in 1913. Then, the lakes were used to supply water for local industry. Though the canals are no longer maintained, you may still navigate parts of the remnant canals in Akron by boat.

The state park is 411 acres of wetland area, beaches, and hiking trails, which provide many opportunities for birdwatching, hunting, and boating. 

One of the favorite places to go swimming in Portage Lakes is at Turkeyfoot Lake, which has a 900-foot public beach, plenty of parking, and many surrounding hiking trails and picnic areas. If Turkeyfoot Lake is not for you, Rex Lake and Cottage Grove Lake both also have swimming areas for boaters.

Madison Lake

A rustic old barn stands by a weathered old tree in rural Madison County, Ohio.
Rural Madison County, Ohio, includes a reservoir in Madison Lake State Park.

©Kenneth Keifer/

Madison Lake State Park in Madison County, Ohio, features a 106-acre reservoir and 300-foot beach. Madison Lake State Park sits within the Darby Plains of Madison County, which were originally a forest area and a small number of wetlands and prairies. The State of Ohio began developing a lake in 1946 from a small tract of land, starting with a dam constructed across Deer Creek. The lake was filled in 1947 and the 106-acre reservoir, Madison Lake, came under the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Management in 1950.

Since then, Madison Lake has become a peaceful getaway for visitors. You may sail, canoe or kayak, hike, or swim. Visitors may walk a one-mile lakeshore trail, enjoy kayaking, boating, fishing, and picnicking, or the designated dog swim area where pets may go off-leash to frolic in the lake water. 

Mineral Springs Lake

Celandine Poppies and Large-flowered trillium at Whipple State Nature Preserve in Adams County.
Adams County, Ohio, has many hiking trails and places to see wildlife and enjoy nature.


Mineral Springs Lake in Adams County, Ohio, is a 100-acre fishing lake. The lake is surrounded by 500 acres of hiking trails and serene nature. Mineral Springs Lake is a natural spring-fed lake. The surrounding park area offers hundreds of campsites, boating, fishing, and kayaking opportunities. It all takes place in a picturesque and peaceful setting. Called one of the top cleanest lakes in Ohio, Mineral Springs Lake is teeming with wildlife. Among the unique species of fish and creatures in the lake, you may see the unique non-stinging freshwater jellyfish. Visitors may also enjoy beach activities such as sunbathing, volleyball, a playground, basketball courts, horseback riding trails, and many other amenities. 

Mineral Springs Lake Resort in Peebles, Ohio, also provides another way to enjoy the lake. The resort offers activities for kids. It has a dedicated swimming area. You can access the lake via resort boats. Additionally, the resort offers convenient proximity to town. This makes it easy for you to enjoy area restaurants or shop for your lake adventure essentials.

Nelson Ledges Quarry Park Lake

Nelson Kennedy Ledges Nature Photos
Go to Nelson Ledges Quarry Park in Ohio to see numerous unique rock formations, cliffs, and gorgeous forested landscapes.


Nelson Ledges Quarry Park Lake is a spring-fed lake in Garrettsville in Portage County, Ohio. This “hidden gem” has crystal clear, refreshing water, a sandy beach, and a stunning forest surrounding it. The beautiful Nelson Ledges Quarry Park is 250 acres of beautiful landscape with fishing spots, campsites, festival venues, and rock ledges. These rock ledges in the unique quarry setting also provide something for adrenaline seekers: cliff jumping

The average water depth is 30 feet. This unique quarry lake is rated as one of the cleanest lakes in Ohio. This cleanliness is due to the natural spring-fed water in the lake. Whether you intend to jump into the water from a designated cliff-jumping area or enjoy a shallow, roped-off beach, Nelson Ledges Quarry Park has certified lifeguards watching over the swimming areas every day. The lake is open for swimming from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the summer. For those who want to explore underwater life, masks, and snorkels allow for unique scuba swimming in the extremely clear water. If swimming isn’t your thing, camp on the isolated campsites or fish in the two designated fishing lakes. While you cannot bring your dog during most of the summer season, during the off-season you may hike the surrounding area with your furry friends!

Go Enjoy Lakes in Ohio

Do you want to enjoy Ohio’s natural beauty? Are you looking for endless outdoor activities? Or do you need a reason to unplug from technology? Regardless of the reason, one of these lakes in Ohio is the perfect place for you to enjoy the outdoors this summer! This short list only includes ten lakes in Ohio. There are so many other lakes and swimming holes in Ohio you may explore and enjoy.

Summary of the 10 Best Ohio Lakes For Swimming

1Tappan LakeDeersville
2Salt Fork LakeLore City
3Cedar Point Beach on Lake ErieSandusky
4Headlands Beach State Park on Lake ErieMentor
5Punderson State Park LakeNewbury Township
6Buck Creek State Park’s Clarence J. Brown ReservoirSpringfield
7Portage LakesAkron
8Madison LakeMadison County
9Mineral Springs LakeAdams County
10Nelson Ledges Quarry Park LakeGarrettsville
Summary Table of the 10 Best Ohio Lakes For Swimming

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About the Author

Carrie is a writer and fan of all types of plants and animals. Her apartment is home to more than dozen different houseplants and she aspires to adopt more in the near future. You can find Carrie taking long walks or reading a book under the trees in the park.

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