Portage Lakes–Lake Nesmith
eBird Bar Charts by Season
Ohio Birding Day Hike
Portage Lakes Trails
Tips for birding Lake Nesmith
There is a small paved parking lot best accessed from Carnegie Avenue, but it receives little maintenance. Please be cautious of the drop from the sidewalk to the parking lot and speed bumps and potholes that become hidden in the snow and ice.
From Susan Carpenter
Birds of Interest
Caspian Tern, Bonaparte’s Gull, and migrating and winter waterfowl such as Common Loon, Redhead, and all three merganser species.
About Portage Lakes
The Portage Lakes are a group of reservoirs in Northeast Ohio. The name comes from an old Indian portage path which connected the Cuyahoga River flowing north to Lake Erie and the Tuscarawas River, a tributary of the Muskingum River, which flows south to the Ohio River. This proved advantageous for the Indians and early settlers as navigation from Lake Erie to the Ohio was possible with only an 8 miles portage overland. Portage Lakes State Park lies at one of the highest points of the state and on a major watershed divide in Ohio. Some water from the lakes reaches Lake Erie and some flows to the Ohio River.
In 1825 the Ohio Legislature appropriated funds for the construction of a large network of canals and reservoirs to supply water for the canal system. The Portage Lakes, a series of lakes south of Akron, were created as part of this network of water supply reservoirs. They were formed by the construction of dikes and dams to raise the water levels of some of the swamps and small lakes typical of this heavily glaciated southern part of Summit County.
The use of the Portage Lakes as a water supply for the canal system ceased in 1913 when the canal was abandoned as a means of transportation. However, during this period the rubber industry was expanding in Akron, and the demand for industrial water increased. The Portage Lakes and a portion of the canal system were used to meet the water demands for industrial development along the canal and Summit Lake. During the dry years of the early 1930s, the Portage Lakes were drawn down to such an extent that a new reservoir – Nimisila – was built to direct water from Nimisila Creek into the Portage Lakes.
The Portage Lakes are at three topographical levels. Long Lake, the lowest lake, was formed by flooding a swamp area which had a small pothole lake at its south end. North Reservoir and the middle level were formed by a dike flooding a flat area of land and a small pothole lake known as Hower Lake. At the highest level, and impounding the largest acreage of water – 1,192 acres, are three separate reservoirs: East, West, and Turkeyfoot. Turkeyfoot Lake is connected to West Reservoir by a channel. West Reservoir overflows into North Reservoir and is connected to East Reservoir by a channel. East Reservoir has a control structure from which water is released into a channel which flows into Long Lake.
Turkeyfoot Lake: 483 surface acres – 12.6 feet average depth
West Reservoir: 105 surface acres – 11.3 feet average depth
East Reservoir: 208 surface acres – 14.8 feet average depth
North Reservoir: 165 surface acres – 10.0 feet average depth
Long Lake: 231 surface acres – 16.3 feet average depth
Restrooms on site.