This quiet oasis just outside Zanesville, a stone's throw from Newark and an hour from Columbus, was once the focus of a man's ambition to build a hub of industrial activity. In 1803, Moses Dillon, the park's namesake, purchased a scenic tract of land along the Licking River that is today Dillon State Park. Moses Dillon built and operated an iron foundry in the area, and founded the village of Dillon Falls. Eager to unleash the potential of the Licking River and boost the prospects of Dillon Falls, Moses Dillon dammed the Licking to generate water power for the community. Today, the foundry is a memory, but Dillon's name lives on in the park and in his contributions to the design and construction of the unique "Y" bridge in Zanesville in 1814, an early engineering marvel that still spans the confluence of the Licking and Muskingum rivers.
A century and a half after Moses Dillon attempted to tame the Licking River, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a permanent dam on the Licking and created 1,660-acre Dillon Reservoir to provide flood control as well as recreation. Since 1968, the reservoir has served as the hub of recreational activities at Dillon State Park. Boaters can enjoy unlimited horsepower boating, along with a full-service marina. Fishing is also popular at Dillon, and anglers can look forward to good catches of muskie, walleye, largemouth bass, crappie and catfish. A bath house, showers, snack bar and children's wading pool add convenience and comfort for swimmers enjoying the water along the 1,360-foot swimming beach.
Sports enthusiasts of all types can find something to love at Dillon. The game court area by the beach includes tennis courts, shuffleboard courts, horseshoe pits, basketball courts, volleyball courts, paddle ball and handball courts as well as playgrounds for young children. A 300-yard sled hill near the campground provides winter fun, weather permitting. The park offers seven miles of scenic hiking trails. Ten miles from the park, Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve offers a 4 ½-mile paved trail suitable for bicycles and skates, wheelchairs and pedestrians.
Dillon's Sportsmen's Area boasts several outstanding facilities. Two lighted fields offer trap and skeet shooting with high, low and combination houses. The rifle range offers 100-yard targets, along with benches and protection from sun and rain. Cover is also provided at the pistol range which has 25-yard targets and room for 10 shooters. The Sportsmen's Area offers weapons instruction and safety classes, shooting and archery meets as well as individual target practice. The Sportsmen's Area is across Dillon reservoir and west of the camping, cabin and day-use areas, allowing it to peacefully coexist with other park facilities.
Nearly 4,000 acres of park land and an additional 4,000 acres of adjacent wildlife area teem with familiar Ohio species including red and gray fox, ruffed grouse, pheasant and quail. Wetlands along the lakeshore provide homes or resting places for 21 species of duck including wood duck, pintail, blue-winged teal, scaup, American wigeon and ring-necked duck. Great blue, green and black-crowned herons inhabit the marshes. Numerous sightings of golden as well as bald eagles have been reported. American egrets, marsh hawks, osprey, sora rail and Wilson's snipe may also be seen here. Hunting of waterfowl or upland game is permitted in season. A lottery drawing for the opportunity to erect duck blinds is held each year in August.
Dillon offers the best of both worlds for overnight guests. Each of Dillon's twenty-nine vacation cabins sleeps six and has two bedrooms, bath with shower, carpeted living room with convertible sofa-bed, fully-equipped kitchen with dining area, and a screened porch. Each cabin also comes equipped with cable TV, a microwave, air conditioning and heating for year-round comfort. One by one, the cabins are being remodeled to include a wooden deck, revamped kitchen, updated bathroom, double French doors to the porch, new carpet and decorator window treatments, new living room furniture and a gas log fireplace. Campers can choose from 183 family campsites with electrical hookups on-site, along with a well-stocked commissary and modern restroom, shower and laundry facilities close by. Twelve walk-in non-electric campsites offer wooded privacy for a back-to-nature tenting adventure.
Special events are Dillon's specialty. Every summer, Dillon's scenic rolling hills and placid reservoir are the backdrop for a thrilling spectacle. Sleek, high-tech boats fly through the water at speeds reaching 100 miles per hour as they compete in the Zanesville Regatta. Little wonder the boats are called hydroplanes--they look as much like aircraft as they do watercraft. Dillon has hosted the regatta since 1993, and the event grows bigger and better each year, with more attractions and excitement. The annual Halloween Fright Night and Haunted Trail provides thrills of another sort for thousands of visitors, with creepy costumed characters and spooky decorations. Theme campouts, holiday gatherings and craft shows round out the special event offerings.
Community involvement is an important ingredient in Dillon's recipe for success. The Dillon Area Advisory Council was established in 1989 to address water quality issues and assist with park improvement projects. The 25-member group has raised funds and provided resources for new and improved facilities, including a new shelterhouse, as well as for educational projects, naturalist programs and special events. Among the Advisory Council's fundraising projects is a hog roast and craft show held at the park each fall. See the calendar of events for details on all the upcoming events.