East Fork State Park is located east of Cincinnati. It is situated between Ohio 125 on the south and Ohio 32 on the north. Both roads can be accessed from 1-275 east of Cincinnati.
The south entrance to the park is located on Bantam Rd. which is at the traffic light on Ohio 125 and Ohio 222. The north entrance is located on old Ohio 32 just east of Afton. Access by going east on Ohio 32 from 1-275 to Half Acre Road, which is the entrance road to the Ford Transmission plant. Turn right at the first light and then left at the next light. The third light is at Old Ohio 32 where you again turn left which will take you east to the park entrance.
Where and When to Bird
Best during spring and fall migration. Also good waterfowl before and after hunting season and when the lake starts to freeze up so the boaters can’t launch their boats. The lake is very deep and there are large areas that stay unfrozen all winter. Waterfowl congregate at these areas and a spotting scope is required.
The water below the outlet of the dam is productive at this time. You cannot bird in the north camping area during the camping season, which is May through mid-September. All other areas are open to birders but you must not park along the main roads – only in authorized parking areas. Do be careful of your speed. It is expensive to collect a traffic ticket in the park.
The south swimming beach area is good from late August to late May. Waterfowl, grebes, gulls, terns. hawks. swifts and swallows can be seen from the beach in season. You will find small numbers of shorebirds on the beach. The grassy area is good for Pipits, Horned Larks, Snow Buntings, Killdeer. Last year a Buff-breasted Sandpiper fed for more than a week there.
Park at the parking lot at the top of the hill leading to the beach if you care to bird this area on foot. During spring and fall warbler migration the road from the top of the hill to the intersection (Park Road #3) allows for easy viewing. Park Road #3 will give access to areas of open fields for sparrows (Henslow’s). The second growth woods with thick undergrowth hides Gray Catbirds, White-eyed Vireos, Yellow-breasted Chats, Indigo Buntings and sparrows. Be alert for the Wild Turkeys that are numerous in the park.
Tate boat ramp and parking area, which is located at the end of Park Road #1 is good for orioles, cuckoos, warblers and in winter one can usually spot waterfowl in the shallow bay to the left of the ramp.
As you enter the park from the south, you will pass by a small pond on your left. When this area is not being used by fishermen it produces good birding.
Located at the east end of the road which runs in front of the State Park office are two abandoned paved roads. They are blocked off with an iron gate. Park here and walk either or both. They lead to the lake through woods and open fields. It is very easy walking and allows you to bird without traffic (people and cars!.).
At the west side of the lake (Ohio 222) take Slade road to the spillway and dam. There is a small parking lot located just to the left alter you come down the first hill. Park there and walk towards the lake (Back Run) along open fields. You will have a very good overlook of the finger of the lake and the woods around it. Kingfishers, orioles, swallows and kingbirds are often seen here, and in the fall migrating humming birds feed at the wildflowers on the hill to the lake.
The boat ramp area adjacent to the dam has nesting Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, Warbling Vireos, Common Grackle, Chickadee, Cardinals, Song Sparrows and Indigo Buntings in May.
The area along the road to the saddle dam is good for spring and fall migrant passerines, nesting Indigo Buntings, cuckoos, Brown Thrashers, Cardinals and Red-tailed Hawks. Turkey Vultures roost on the rocks and in the trees at the saddle dam. The view of the lake from the saddle dam is great, but you are not supposed to park here. Use the parking lot at the rangers office. There is an overlook of the lake and south beach here also.
On the north side of the lake, Horseman’s parking lot is located on the main road to the north shore boat ramp. Here in late February through early April, you can find Woodcock displaying their unique courtship in the adjacent fields at dusk. Whip-poor-will can be heard in spring near the camping grounds. Wild Turkey have been seen from the main road in the woods near the Horseman’s parking lot.
Located on the east end of the lake accessed by Clover Rd. at Ohio 133 is an overnight area. A small parking lot located at the end of Concord-Bethel Rd. can be used to park while birding this area. From the parking lot you can see the end of the lake that has a lot of dead trees standing in the cove. Red-headed Woodpeckers are nesting here. Osprey also use the area and you will see Green Heron, Great Egret and Great Blue Heron feeding here.
There are miles of hiking trails in the park, but be sure to stop at the park office and get maps if you are going to use these rails. Warning: in tick season, use all the proper precautions to prevent them! This park has more than its share of ticks!!