The lake provides flood control (authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1938) for the communities along Paint Creek. In addition, it provides water supply for Highland Water Company, increases water flow downstream during low flow conditions, and provides recreational opportunities and wildlife habitat. The 6510-square-mile Scioto River basin is the principal drainage system of central Ohio, embracing all or part of 29 counties. It begins in eastern Auglaize County and joins the Ohio River at Portsmouth. In March 1913 the flood of record (to date) struck the Scioto and most of its tributaries. It took 145 lives including 93 people in Columbus and 18 in Chillicothe. It flooded 4,000 homes in Columbus and inundated 75% of Chillicothe. The record flood along Alum and Big Walnut creeks occurred in January 1959, and produced the second highest crests at Columbus and Chillicothe. Storage of floodwater behind Delaware Dam reduced the crest downstream from the dam. Congress authorized a new study of water-related problems in the Scioto basin and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1962, recommended a plan, which led to the construction of multi-purpose dams on Alum Creek, Deer Creek, and Paint Creek (the Corps completed Delaware Dam in 1951). The levee around part of Chillicothe was included in this plan. Through mid-1980 the four dams had reduced flood damages in the Scioto basin by $141 million. These benefits are gained by closing the dam gates when heavy storms develop, and storing excess runoff in the lakes. This prevents millions of gallons of water from running downstream and raising flood heights. Crest reductions are beneficial along the tributaries on which dams are located, the Scioto and Ohio rivers and, in some cases, the Mississippi River. During widespread flooding the projects are operated as an integrated system. Paint Creek dam is 37 stream miles above the confluence of Paint Creek and the Scioto at Chillicothe, and 100 miles above the junction of the Scioto and Ohio Rivers at Portsmouth. Congress authorized the project in the Flood Control Act of 1938 for flood reduction, recreation, potential water supply for Greenfield, water quality improvement, and fish - wildlife conservation. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction of the project in 1967 and completed the dam and recreation facility in 1974. The project, 20 miles west of Chillicothe in Ross and Highland counties, regulates runoff from 573 square miles - about 50% of Paint Creek basin’s drainage area. The Dam is composed of an impervious core (a wall of clay material extending across the center of the dam) contained both upstream and downstream by an embankment of rock. The dam is 118 feet high and 800 feet long. Water is discharged from the lake through a tunnel adjacent to the dam. A concrete tower structure at the upper end of the tunnel contains control gates. Water can be drawn from two different levels for downstream water quality and temperature control. A gated spillway, one-third mile south of the dam, provides an 'escape' route for excess water in the event the lake ever reaches its maximum level. This prevents the lake from overtopping the dam. In the spring, the lake is raised to elevation 798 (feet above sea level) which provides a surface area of 1190 acres for recreation. Streambed elevation at the dam is 750. At this level the lake extends 4 miles along Rattlesnake Creek to one-half mile above Rt. 753. It runs up Paint Creek one mile above the Paint-Rattlesnake confluence. During the fall and winter, the lake is lowered to elevation 787.50 to provide additional space for storing floodwater. Its highest possible elevation is 845, at which point the gates are opened to permit water to flow through the spillway. At maximum storage elevation the lake extends past Greenfield and Centerfield. Restrooms are located at the Project Office, playgrounds, picnic areas, campgrounds, and boat ramps. Rock climbing is permitted on the Harmony Trail wall and the Spillway walls only. Climbing maps are available at the Corps of Engineers office. Minimum impact climbing practices are encouraged. No lead climbing, no bolting, natural colored chalk only, bouldering no more than 4 ft. off the ground, and climb during daylight hours only.
Universally Accessible Facilities are provided at the Corps Project Office, and in the State Park areas.
The Paint Creek Lake area offers several points of interest within a short drive. Visitors can enjoy geographical features created by glacial activity, Native American cultural areas, and other cultural points of interest. To name just a few, those opportunities include: Highland Nature Sanctuary, outdoor drama - Tecumseh held at Sugarloaf Outdoor Drama Theater, Serpent Mound, Seip Mound, Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, and Rocky Fork Lake. Glaciers destroyed the Teays River and created the Ohio River. The Ice Age began 1,000,000 years ago and ended 10,000 years ago. In central Ohio, the ice sheet crept to Chillicothe where it blocked the mightiest prehistoric river in North America-the Teays. A thousand miles long, the Teays headed in North Carolina and flowed through Virginia to the present site of Portsmouth. There it swerved northward to Chillicothe, then westward across Indiana to the present Illinois River valley, then south to the Gulf of Mexico just below St. Louis. Blocked by the ice, the Teays formed a 200-mile lake extending back to New River Gorge, 40 miles east of Charleston, WV. It covered the present sites of Portsmouth, Ashland, KY, Huntington and Charleston. The Ohio River developed from glacial drainage. The original path of the Teays today is followed by the New and Kanawha rivers from North Carolina to Nitro, WV, and by the Ohio from Huntington to Portsmouth. In addition to its unique geologic setting between the glaciated plain and Appalachian Plateau, the lake lies in the midst of prehistoric Native American village sites and mound building activity. Nearby evidence indicates the former presence of the Paleo-Indian, Archaic, Adena, Hopewell, and Fort Ancient cultures. Seip Mound is adjacent to U.S. 50 between Bainbridge and Bourneville. The Hopewell Culture National Historical Park is on Route 104 just north of Chillicothe, Ohio's first capital. In modern times, the area was common ground for the Native American Tah-gah-jute and later named Logan, and Tecumseh whose dream of an Indian confederacy is told in the outdoor drama at Chillicothe. The limestone and dolomite formations are highlighted at the nearby Highland Nature Sanctuary, formerly called Seven Caves, which are an Ohio Natural Landmark. As a non-profit organization, admission is by voluntary donation. The caves are now closed for exploration as an attempt to slow the spread of white-nose bat syndrome and bat habitat is being restored. Rocky Fork State Park, near Hillsboro, surrounds a lake developed in 1953 by the state of Ohio for conservation and recreation.
Bicycles are permitted on main roads, day use areas, and campground areas. There is a mountain bike - hiking trail that begins at the State Park campground called the Appaloosa Run Trail with north south loops (4 to 6 miles). Views of the lake can be seen from various parts of the trail and picnic areas are located along the trail. There are numerous stream crossings, open meadows, and wooded hillsides. Mountain bikes are prohibited on the Milkweed Meadow Trail and Little Pond Trail. Contact a Park Attendant or Ranger for the location of these trails.
Paint Creek is a popular destination for canoeists and kayakers who take advantage of occasional special releases. In 2013, in partnership with Boy Scout Troop 5002, two concrete stepped creek access points were constructed in the downstream recreation area. These access points provide safe access to Paint Creek for paddlers as well as enabling easier access to anglers who wish to fish from the creek bank.
Campgrounds are located off Taylor Road and are operated by the State Park. The scenic hilltop campground has 199 sites equipped with electricity.
Paint Creek has long been a popular fishing stream. The lake includes white and black crappie, blue gill, smallmouth and spotted bass, rockbass, suckers, darters, channel catfish, and Saugeye. When the lake was initially impounded, it was not stocked because of the healthy native fish population. The ODNR's Division of Wildlife conducted a 5-year comprehensive survey, ending in 1979, and is continuing the no stocking program, except for continuing to stock Saugeye. State fishing and hunting regulations apply to the lake and the surrounding federally - owned property.
Several trails are located at Paint Creek Lake. Located at the Dam Site Recreation area are Little Pond Trail, and Harmony Trail. Located on State Park areas are the Appaloosa Run Trail, Log Cabin Bridal Trail, Snowmobile Trail, Rattlesnake Bridal Trail, Cross Country Ski Trail, Fern Hollow Trail, and Milkweed Meadow Trail.
Paint Creek State Park provides a variety of well marked and maintained bridle trails and a horse camp for anyone who enjoys horseback riding. A large staging area is located near the Pioneer farm where riders can get a trail map and choose appropriate trail loops for a short ride of a few hours or a whole day of riding. There is a main loop that is 18 miles long, the middle loop 13 miles in length, and the short loop of 7 miles.
In addition to fishing, hunting is also very popular at Paint Creek. Bobwhite quail, ring-necked pheasant, cottontail rabbit, white-tailed deer, fox and gray squirrels, and groundhogs are the major game species. Wildlife habitat includes established woodland as well as grasslands. Waterfowl hunting is available on the lake as well as Rattlesnake Creek and Paint Creek, which both flow into Paint Creek Lake. There are several parking areas located around the project boundary to facilitate access to wildlife hunting areas. State fishing and hunting regulations apply to the lake and surrounding federally owned property.
The marina is located on Deer Park Road directly off of Route 50. The marina provides docking facilities, boat rentals, snacks, fuel, and fishing supplies.
Two picnic shelters are located at the Corps of Engineers Paint Creek Damsite area. All shelters are available on a first come - first served basis EXCEPT WHEN RESERVED IN ADVANCE (a fee is required for reserving a shelter). Reservations may be made 360 days in advance by contacting the National Recreation Reservation Service (NRRS) at 1-877-444-6777, toll free or buy visiting www.recreation.gov. Specify the state of Ohio and Paint Creek Damsite Area to the customer service representative. For additional shelter information, call the project office at (937) 365-1470. In the State Park managed areas, Deer Park and Rattlesnake Recreation Areas and the Shoemaker Beach area also offer shaded picnic tables.
There is a swimming beach located on Upp Road off of Route 50. No lifeguards are working there and it is currently swim at your own risk.
The Corps of Engineers Visitor Center and office at Paint Creek Lake is located off of Rapid Forge Road at the dam. It is open daily Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. During the summer months the office is open on Saturday and Sunday also. Facilities and services include exhibits, maps, information, brochures, and rest rooms