Getting kids outside exploring waterways, fishing, hiking, kayaking, and bird watching is a great way for them to connect with nature, learn about the local flora and fauna, and get exercise and fresh air. Fortunately, the West Chester, Ohio, area abounds with outdoor spaces with plenty of waterways to have fun on or along. The next time you want to take the family out to explore nature, check out these five waterways near West Chester.

Caesar Creek State Park

A young girl rides in a kayak on a waterway near Chester, OH

20140531-IMG_9026” licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 via Flickr by kellyv

Take a day trip about 30 miles east of West Chester to the beautiful Caesar Creek State Park. This large 7,530-acre park includes a man-made lake, over 43 miles of hiking trails, Caesar’s Creek Pioneer Village, and a nature center. Considered one of Ohio’s premier outdoor recreation areas, the park is a great place to bring the family.

Kids of all ages can try their hand at angling for largemouth and smallmouth bass, flathead catfish, carp, bluegill, and muskellunge. Caesar Creek Lake features over 40 miles of shoreline to fish from and it’s a breeze putting in a kayak if you want to fish and explore the lake while on the water.

The lake also has 1,300 feet of public beach to sunbathe or picnic on, and there’s a designated swimming area so the kids can safely splash about and cool off. In addition to boating and fishing, you can hike or mountain bike on trails scattered through the meadows and ravines that highlight the park. Step back in time to see how the settlers lived when you visit the Caesar Creek Pioneer Village.

You and the family can learn more about the flora and fauna of the area when you visit the nature center. If you’d like to stay a couple of days, you can camp at the campground or spend the night at one of the nearby lodges. You can find Caesar Creek State Park at 8570 E. State Route 73 in Waynesville.

Beckett Park

Stay close to town and enjoy a day of free catch-and-release fishing when you visit Beckett Park located at 8545 Beckett Road in West Chester. This 150-acre park has an east and west portion with different amenities. The west side has two ponds that are stocked with local fish. Also included in the west end of Beckett Park, is a natural area that kids love climbing and playing on.

On the east side, you can rent a picnic shelter with its own fireplace where you can make s’mores to have with your picnic. When the kids want a break from fishing, they can play in the pioneer-themed playground, utilize the soccer and ball fields, or hike along the nature trails.

Thomas O. Marsh Park Fishing Lake

Head west about 13 miles to 6440 River Road in Fairfield to find the natural spring-fed Thomas O. Marsh Park Fishing Lake. This lake has over 4,000 feet of shoreline to fish from, or you can launch hand-powered boats, such as kayaks, canoes, or rowboats to fish from the center of the lake. Thomas O. Marsh Park Fishing Lake is regularly stocked with favorite angling fish such as largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass, carp, crappie, northern pike, trout, and walleye.

There’s no need to carry fishing supplies as you can get everything you need from the on-site Bait House shop that carries all you need. You can also pick up sandwiches, snacks, and beverages at the store. Please note that swimming, windsurfing, or kiteboarding is not allowed on the lake. There is a small entrance fee, and you are required to have an Ohio state fishing license.

Lake Butler Paylake

If you’d like the thrill of catching 50-pound catfish, then head over to Lake Butler Paylake to see if you can catch one of these monster fish. Lake Butler Paylake hosts numerous fishing tournaments throughout the fishing season for all levels of anglers.

The bait house carries all the supplies you need to land one of the big catfish and also has a restaurant so you can satisfy your hunger. You can also participate in carp fishing competitions or just enjoy a day of casting and getting fresh air. Stop by 7505 West Chester Road to have a fun day of fishing.

Little Miami River

For an adventurous day of kayaking or canoeing in the West Chester area, make a reservation with a guided tour company to take you down the Little Miami River. These guided trips are great for the whole family, school field trips, corporate events, or just to enjoy floating down the river. Depending on the tour company, you can reserve a short two-hour paddle or a longer four-to-five-hour paddle that includes transportation back to the launch site.

While the tour companies provide all the gear and safety equipment you’ll need for your day on the river, taking a kayaking or canoeing class before your journey can help you become familiar and comfortable with paddling a boat. You’ll learn how to safely roll and recover, learn paddling techniques, and how to maneuver and navigate down rapids and over obstacles.

The Little Miami River is a designated State Scenic River that’s over 111 miles long and runs through several Ohio counties. The river originates near Loveland and eventually meets the mighty Ohio River just east of Cincinnati. Anglers enjoy fishing the Little Miami River as they try for channel catfish, smallmouth and largemouth bass, walleye, and sauger. You can also fish from the shores of the river with several places to park and access the banks.There you have Crème de la Crème of West Chester, Ohio’s, list of amazing waterways in our area. What is your kid’s favorite activity to do when out on the water? Do you have a hidden waterway that we missed? If you have a recommendation for waterways to explore, please drop us a line and let us know and we’ll add it to our list. Please note that most of these waterways do require a fishing license, so be sure to check the local requirements.