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For the last three years, I’ve enjoyed the scenic road overlook along Route 44 as we would pass Punderson State Park in Geauga County on my way to my in-laws. There have been rare occasions when I’ve had my boat available to break away for a little exploring. Family functions and holidays have kept me from the water on these regular visits home.
The right opportunity presented itself when I had loaded my kayak and gear for a shot at the Grand River Race near Harpersfield in Ashtabula County. The day following the race allowed for a perfect opportunity to slip onto this little piece of water with my father-in-law.
For those seeking an all-day affair with nearly remote surroundings, you will have to look elsewhere. If you’re looking for a morning workout on a horsepower protected lake you’ve found a perfect spot to burn a few hours. In all there are only 2.6 miles of shoreline.
For those interested in the geography of Punderson Lake, I found the following information on the Ohio ODNR website. “Punderson State Park is located in the glaciated plateau region of Ohio. During the Ice Age, this area was buried under glacial ice. The last glacier to enter Ohio's boundaries, the Wisconsinan, receded about 12,000 years ago. Punderson Lake, one of Ohio's few natural lakes, owes its origin to this massive ice sheet. It is a kettle lake which was formed when a large block of ice broke off the glacier creating a depression which filled with meltwater. Punderson is the largest and deepest kettle lake in Ohio.”
Prior planning had set a 9 a.m. start time for our launch at the Punderson Boat Ramp. Punderson State Park offers many amenities, but its jewel is its 101 acre lake that sits at its center. Parking and launching is easy at its little boat inlet. At the northern most end of the lake, near the launch, there is a small boat house for last minute bait and munchies. There is also a sturdy creel of rental rowboats for anglers and pleasure boaters. Electric motors are the limit on this lake.
A minor technical difficulty set us back a few minutes at launch time when my partner found he grabbed the wrong PFD. A quick trip back home allowed me to stay and explore before heading out for our morning workout. Activity was surprisingly busy for a Sunday morning. An overnight rain storm had soaked the newly budding forest surrounding the park and a park employee was hard at work draining his rental fleet. There was a small island a couple dozen feet from the launch and I took the time to round this little bud of land, looking for wildlife and evidence of beavers. Finding none, I spend a few minutes practicing my bracing and adapting to the feel of my new Werner paddle.
The order for the day was to circumnavigate the lake in our kayaks, explore a bit and test out some new equipment. We started out along the eastern shore of the lake, spring was still in its early stages and the forest was still more brown than green. Early bird campers had already set up shop at the almost 200 site campground. I could smell the smoke and hear the crackle from an early morning campfire. I gave a nod to a fisherman that had set up shop on a small pier near the campground.
It didn’t take long to reach the southern most end of the lake near Route 44. Stopping for a quick breather and to observe a mallard couple, we proceeded along the southern shore for a backwater inlet that might produce a beaver sighting. The rain had helped to raise the water enough for us to explore this marsh area. We spotted a beaver den and several scarred trees, but no sign of Ohio’s largest rodent.
Leaving the marsh area, the Punderson Manor House loomed from the cliff above the lake. This English-Tudor manor house was started in 1929 and was not completed until 1948. That year, the ODNR Division of Wildlife purchased the land and lake for hunting and fishing. In 1951, the area was transferred to the Division of Parks and Recreation for development as a state park. A quick internet search about the manor house found that it is also well know for paranormal activity. Various “beings” have been known to haunt its halls. When ghosts aren’t greeting guests, the manor house is a well-known lodge with 31 rooms for visitors and has been known to have an excellent kitchen. Its indoor and outdoor pools also offer year-round vacationing opportunities.
Punderson State Park also sits in prime snow county. Geauga County is well known for its many feet of lake effect snow. The park also features a lighted sledding hill, 14 miles of tails to hike, cross country ski and snowmobile. I also found it interesting that the park also organizes annual sled dog races. There is also an 18 hole golf course for those interested in teeing it up.
Passing the manor, it’s hard not to notice the grand architecture and beautiful overlook. Less than a mile from the Manor House is the swimming beach. A few morning strollers were walking the nearly deserted beach and a ranger was making his morning rounds. We stopped at the beach to trade boats stretch our legs. As we left the beach, we passed a few more fishermen and quickly returned to the boat launch.
Having fully explored the lake, we decided to turn the rest of the morning into a workout. We made several more loops of the lake and a couple of sprints though the center to fully take advantage of our water time. The two and a half hours passed quickly and I enjoyed spending the quality time with family.
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