In the fertile valley of the Scioto
River, the prehistoric Hopewell culture built its ancient city of the deadthe
extensive "Mound City Group" earthworks. Some 1,500 years later, the rich
bottomland along Paint Creek and the Scioto River sustained the Shawnee. In 1793, surveyor
Nathaniel Massie from Virginia began exploring the origins of the Scioto River. In 1796,
at the confluence with Paint Creek, he founded a settlement he named Chillicothe (a
Shawnee word meaning "town"). The town flourished and when Ohio achieved
statehood in 1803, Chillicothe was named her first capital.
To the east of Chillicothe and the fertile Scioto River valley, the picturesque
foothills of the Appalachians rise. Uphill from the rich bottomlands, the slopes climb
steeply to high sandstone ridges broken by deep ravines. Through Ohios early history
and frontier days, these hills remained just out of reach of human development as other,
more hospitable areas were settled. The hills held a wealth of important resources,
however. The area earned the name "Tar Hollow" for the pine tar derived from the
knots and heartwood of the abundant native pitch pine trees. Pine tar was used in pioneer
households as a primary ingredient in soothing balms and animal liniments, as well as a
lubricant for wagons and equipment.
as the population of Chillicothe swelled, the hilly wilderness became dotted with
homesteads. Hardscrabble farmers and moonshiners eked out a living on the steep slopes and
high sandstone ridgetops until the Great Depression. The Tar Hollow region became public
property in the 1930s when impoverished farms were purchased in Ross and Hocking counties
under the Land Utilization Program of the U.S. Department of Agricultures
Resettlement Administration. This New Deal program was designed to give poor farmers a
financial windfall and a chance to improve their financial prospects on more productive
farms or in the city.
Another Depressionera agency, the USDAs Works Progress
Administration (WPA), built recreational facilities on these newly acquired public lands.
To quench Ohios thirst for water recreation, the WPA built 15-acre Pine Lake. A
resident camp complex, including a lodge surrounded by rustic sleeping cabins, was built
to accommodate overnight guests. The old-fashioned craftsmanship of the New Deal public
works programs was showcased in the camp buildings, featuring carefully assembled
mortise-and-tenon beams, hand-carved sandstone water fountains, and a beautiful stone
fireplace in the lodge. In addition to these facilities, forest stands were improved and
timbered areas replanted, roads and trails were cut, and a ranger station was built. In
1939, the area was leased to the Ohio Division of Forestry for administration as Tar
Hollow Forest-Park. Ten years later, the newly created Division of Parks took over 540
acres, and the remaining 16,000-plus acres would continue to be managed as Tar Hollow
In its early years, Tar Hollow State Park was already known locally as a prime
recreation area. During the camping boom of the 1950s and 1960s, the parks
reputation spread as a favorite southern Ohio camping destination. Today, Tar Hollow
boasts three campground areasthe Ross Hollow family campground offers 28 campsites
with electrical hookups and modern restroom facilities, 49 non-electric campsites are
available at the Logan Camp family campground, and the Northridge camp area offers 12
primitive sites. The resident camp has retained all the charm and popularity of its early
days, and has benefited from modern renovations. Today, the impressive lodge serves as a
dining and recreation hall for 4-H clubs, scout troops and other organizations, with 28
rustic sleeping cabins nearby.
Perched high in the rugged Appalachian foothills and surrounded by forest, Tar Hollow
State Park is a natural choice for outdoor adventure. Day-hikers can enjoy breathtaking
views, and backpackers might imagine themselves in the midst of frontier Ohio while
trekking the 21-mile Logan Trail. Each spring, daring diners gather in the state forest to
hunt the elusive morel mushroom. Tar Hollows five secluded picnic areas are some of
the most scenic in all of Ohio State Parks. Pine Lake is an oasis offering swimming,
boating and fishing.
adventure doesnt stop there. Tar Hollow offers thrills on wheels on its mountain
bike trail and BMX bike track. The 2.6-mile mountain bike loop trail features creek
crossings and challenging hills. A short side trail leads to the BMX bicycle obstacle
course, which is spiced with steep inclines, flattened "table tops" and concave
True to Tar Hollows frontier motif, an authentic log cabin serves as the
parks quaint general store/ nature center/ camp office. The historic two-room cabin
was moved from nearby Great Seal State Park and rebuilt in its present location in 1995.
The general store is the center of recreational opportunities and naturalist activities.
An 18-hole "mountain golf" putter golf course, as well as basketball, volleyball
and horseshoe courts, deliver exciting family fun.
with so much emphasis on recreation facilities, Tar Hollow State Park retains its
wilderness character. Occasionally, a bobcat sighting is reported, and wild turkey and
ruffed grouse are abundant. At least three varieties of salamander call the forest home,
along with the five-lined skink and fence lizard. The shy and secretive timber
rattlesnake, an endangered species in Ohio, also lives in these hills. Should you be lucky
enough to catch a glimpse of a timber rattlesnake, dont panic and dont disturb
the snakethey are usually not aggressive. Simply walk away, report your sighting to
the park staff or local wildlife office, and cherish the memory of a truly wild
Staff Profile Today
Tar Hollow State Park Manager Mike Borland has been overseeing
operations at the park since 1978. To Mike, Tar Hollow is a classic state park that fits
his image of what a state park should be, with plenty of forest, and yet all the
facilities needed for comfort and convenience. Mike especially loves the examples of
beautiful old stonework throughout the park, from the sandstone block foundations and the
shelterhouses to the sandstone block structures used to slow stream bank erosion.
When Mike arrived at the park, time had taken its toll on the resident camp. Hidden
behind the obvious charm of the vintage buildings, the condition of the vintage wiring and
plumbing had grown ugly. Local 4-H clubs, church groups and other youth organizations
began using the resident camp facilities in the early 1940s, before the Ohio State Park
system was officially created, and returned each year with fresh young faces as the
campers grew to adulthood. A strong allegiance grew from this long shared history, and
when the problems became critical in the early 1980s, the community rallied to help Mike
save the beloved resident camp. They formed the Tar Hollow Advisory Council to raise funds
as well as awareness for the need for renovations and repairs. The resident camp buildings
got the needed attention, and the advisory council has been active ever since, lending a
hand with various park improvements.
Staff Profile Yesterday
It seems that Tar Hollow State Parks first manager, Jimmy Patterson,
was destined for the jobhe spent his teenage years living in Tar Hollow State Forest
with his father, the forest manager. At 16, Jimmy went to work in the state forest each
summer while he completed his education. After a tour of duty in the South Pacific during
World War II, Jimmy returned to Tar Hollow. For three years, he worked full-time in the
state forest until the Division of Parks was created in 1949 and a portion of the forest
was designated as one of Ohios original state parks.
Despite our sometimes romantic notions about the prosperity and excitement of the
post-war "good old days," life for the old-time park managers was anything but
glamorous. Jimmy worked 7 days a week, often for 16 hours a day, mowing grass, maintaining
buildings, constructing new facilities, removing sediment and debris from the lake,
hauling fresh water to the busy resident camp night and day, and assisting park visitors.
His skills were mostly self-taught, and he accomplished his amazing lifes work
through lots of hard work, along with a great deal of resourcefulness and ingenuity. Jimmy
Patterson is one of the men who built our state park system from the ground up, with very
little help and very little funding, in the midst of many hardships. To him and his
contemporaries, we owe a debt of gratitude.