The Times Leader
Harrison County is becoming a tourism destination in Ohio
Aug 12, 2018
CADIZ — Harrison County is located in the rolling Appalachian foothills of the east central part of Ohio and offers a wealth of opportunities for recreation, outdoor fun and taking in historical points of interest.
County leaders are now working to capitalize on those attributes, promoting tourism and looking to attract visitors from near and far. According to Harrison County’s website, its economy originally was based on agriculture. The area served as a major wool producing region during the late 19th century. An oil boom hit the county in the early 20th century, followed by a prolonged dependence on coal mining. Agriculture, manufacturing, timber resources and tourism round out Harrison County’s economy today.
“Tourism is a big part of our local economy. Our natural resources including the numerous lakes, provide destinations for all kinds of outdoor recreation,” Harrison County Commissioner Paul Coffland said. “We also have numerous historical sites to visit.”
Harrison County offers more than 4,200 acres of public water with Clendening Lake, Tappan Lake and parts of Piedmont Lake located within its borders. These lakes are a part of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, which also offers 15,000 acres of public land. Within the MWCD there are 600 campsites, boat ramps, rental cabins and two full-service marinas. Sally Buffalo Park in Cadiz offers lakes, trails, campsites and cabins as well.
Harrison County’s website states that in addition to the amount of public water access available, the county has 20,000 acres of land open to public hunting and offers many opportunities for hunting and fishing. The MWCD offers fishing opportunities for large mouth bass, muskellunge, northern pike, small mouth bass, walleye, sauger, saugeye, catfish and crappie. Turkey and deer hunting opportunities are abundant, and annual deer harvests exceed 2,700 while the turkey harvest exceeds 500, according to the county’s website.
But if you prefer hiking, biking or horseback riding, Harrison County is still a destination to consider. The Buckeye Trail travels more than 40 miles through the county, connecting the three MWCD lakes, and the trail is open to horses in the Tappan Lake area. This trail, which includes the route of the North Country Scenic Trail, a designated National Millennium Trail, crosses the Skull Fork Bridge, the only remaining covered bridge in the county, which is within a short walk of what is believed to be the only 16-sided barn in Ohio.
Harrison State Forest offers 24 miles of hiking/bridle trails and campsites. The Conotton Creek Trail is a rail trail that runs 11.4 miles across the northern tier of the county, connecting the villages of Bowerston, Conotton, Scio and Jewett. Add to this the trails in Tappan Lake Park, and there are 85 miles of public trails in Harrison County. These are complimented by miles of hiking and bridle trails located at Faith Ranch, a 4,000-acre, family-oriented equestrian center, and the course at Mickey’s Mountain Bike Challenge, both of which are privately owned facilities that are open to the public. Additionally, the Ohio Department of Transportation has designated an on-road bicycle route from Marietta to Conneaut that passes through Harrison County.
The county website states Harrison County’s trails are not limited to hiking, biking, and horses; there are several “driving” trails that highlight scenic and historic points of interest. Two more of the 16 National Millennium Trails incorporate sites in the county. The Underground Railroad Trail has multiple sites in the area, and the Civil War Discovery Trail includes the Custer Memorial in New Rumley. Currently under development are portions of the Morgan’s Raid Trail, which follows the route of the deepest incursion of Confederate troops into the North during the Civil War, and which crosses the southern tier of Harrison County. The Tappan-Moravian Trail Scenic Byway travels through a large portion of the county and highlights the route traveled by the Delaware and Wyandot natives, and later by Moravian Missionaries as they made their way into the wilderness.
If museums or history are more your speed, you may want to look into Clark Gable, the famous Hollywood actor whose birthplace in Cadiz has been reconstructed and includes a gift shop and museum. The village celebrates his birthday each year on the first weekend in February.
Among famous county natives are also Gen. George Armstrong Custer and his brother, Capt. Thomas Ward Custer, who is one of only 18 Americans to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor twice. Both were born in New Rumley, where there is a statue and historical site.
Franklin College, located in New Athens, was a hotbed of abolitionist teaching during the years leading up to the Civil War. The building remains and is operated as a museum.
Numerous other sites and organizations of historical interest include the Coal Museum in Cadiz, the Harrison County Historical Society, the Harrison County Genealogical Society, and the Scio Museum. Harrison Hills Cottage Industries sells the products of more than 60 artisans from Harrison County and the surrounding area at its shop in Cadiz. Ourant School is a restored one-room schoolhouse that serves as a classroom for all second grade students in the local school district for one day each spring, affording them the opportunity to see what school was like in earlier times. The Harrison Coal and Reclamation Park offers an opportunity to see some of the largest equipment ever used in coal mining.
At the end of a day’s adventure when visitors need to rest, Harrison County is dotted with small villages containing bed and breakfast establishments, quaint restaurants and gift shops. Most villages have an annual festival, and the Harrison County Fair is held during the second full week of July each year. The county’s first winery opened recently in Freeport, and two others are slated to open soon.