Hocking Hills State Parks - Tar Hollow click photo to see larger picture

Tar Hollow

Twisting park and forest roads pass through deep ravines and dense woodlands. Scattered short leaf and pitch pines growing on the ridges were once a source of pine tar for early settlers, hence the name Tar Hollow. Dogwoods, redbuds and a variety of wildflowers color the hillsides in the springtime. Fall's pageant of color is spectacular.

Nature of the Area

At one time, Ohio was covered by a warm, shallow sea. As land rose to the east, sand and gravel were washed westward into Ohio's waters. Southeastern Ohio's sandstone was formed from this sediment. These sandstone hills are covered with a rich, diverse forest. Oak and hickory prefer the dry ridge tops of the area, while sycamore, black willow, buckeye and silver maple line the stream valleys. The forest not only supports a variety of hardwoods but also contains a vast array of ferns, mosses, mushrooms and wildflowers. Bloodroot, wild geranium, cardinal flower and Solomon's seal are typical wildflowers found in the forest.

Surrounded by the rugged foothills of the Appalachian Plateau, Tar Hollow State Park and surrounding state forest are characteristic of the wilderness that blanketed Ohio in the days of early settlers. It is a stronghold for many exciting species of wildlife. Numerous reptiles and amphibians, colorful game birds, songbirds and secretive mammals can be found here. The timber rattlesnake, dwindling in Ohio due to deforestation, hold son in Tar Hollow's forest. The five-lined skink, distinguished by its brilliant blue tail, is found in the area along with the elusive fence lizard. Painted turtles can be seen along the shores of Pine Lake while the lumbering box turtle inhabits the dry land. Salamanders such as the red-backed, dusky, long-tailed and northern two-lined thrive on the cool, moist forest floor. In spring, the wooded hollows echo with the gobbling of wild turkey and the drumming of the ruffed grouse. Rare sightings of bobcat have been reported in this unique, wild region.

History of the Area

This region was wilderness to early man. Indians and settlers both found the land, especially in the valleys, to be rich and fertile. Many different Indian tribes contributed to its history. From about 200 B.C. to 500 A.D., the Hopewell inhabited the area. This culture left burial mounds that can still be seen. Later both the Shawnee and Mingo claimed the area as hunting grounds.

In 1796, Nathaniel Massie platted a town on the Scioto River just north of the mouth of Paint Creek which he named Chillicothe. One hundred of the first lots were offered free to the first settlers. Farm lots in the area were sold for one or two dollars an acre, in 100- to 200-acre tracts. The area attracted many Kentuckians and Virginians. In 1803, Chillicothe became the state capital.

For a time, the ridges to the east of Chillicothe remained wilderness because the hills were too steep to farm. But as the pressure for land and lumber increased, the hills of Tar Hollow were gradually cleared and inhabited by marginal farms. Life was difficult and settlers took advantage of every resource available. The region derives its name from pine tar, an essential commodity in early Ohio households. It was taken from the knots and heartwood of the native Pitch Pine tree to be use din the home manufacture of balms, animal liniments, and lubricants for pioneer wagons and equipment.

In the 1930s, the Tar Hollow region was purchased for conservation purposes under a New Deal program, the Ross-Hocking Land Utilization Project. People were given a new financial start in life and were encouraged to move to the cities. Most, however, bought more poor ground outside the park and continued to live as they always had.

During the Depression years, recreation facilities including the 15-acre Pine Lake and group camp were built by the WPA and NYA programs. In 1939, the Ohio Division of Forestry accepted  operational control of the land which was then known as Tar Hollow Forest-Park.

When the Ohio Department of Natural Resources was created in1949, the Division of Parks and Recreation accepted land of several state agencies including the old Division of Forestry. Tar Hollow State Park was developed from the earlier forest. The park, today, is bordered by Tar Hollow State Forest -- Ohio's third largest state forest.


The campground is set in a wooded hollow near the lake. Twenty-eight electric sites and sixty non-electric sites, both sunny and shaded are available. The campground is equipped with showers, pit latrines and a dump station. Pet camping is permitted on all sites. A group camp area is available for organized groups on a reservation basis. Camping is permitted at five shelters.


Boating with electric motors only is permitted on the 15-acrePine Lake. The lake is perfect for canoes and rowboats. A launch ramp is located near the beach.

Fishing and Hunting

Bluegill and other pan fish provide good sport for the fisherman on Pine Lake. Excellent hunting opportunities exist for squirrel, deer, grouse and turkey in the adjacent state forest. A valid Ohio hunting and fishing license is required.


Picnicking is a popular pastime at Tar Hollow. The picnic areas offer excellent scenery and a peaceful setting. Six shelter houses can be reserved through the park office, while the others are available on a first-come, first-served basis.


Ross Hollow Hiking Trail, located near the camp, provides foot access to the hills of Tar Hollow. The 21-mile Logan Boy Scout Trail (red blazes) traverses the park and forest. A section of Ohio's Buckeye Trail (blue blazes) also passes through the area. Bridle trails and a horse camp are located on the forest land. A backpack camp is located at the fire tower.

Area Attractions

Tar Hollow State Forest is managed to provide timber, wildlife habitat, forestry research and demonstrations of good forest management. During the spring and fall forest fire seasons, the prevention, detection and suppression of wildfires within the protection area becomes a major objective. Nearby state parks include Great Seal (just north of Chillicothe), Scioto Trails(south of Chillicothe) and Hocking Hills (near Logan). These areas provide a variety of recreational opportunities. Conkles Hollow, a state nature preserve, is found within the Hocking Hills' region. Ross Lake, a wildlife area operated by the ODNR Division of Wildlife, offers good fishing opportunities.

Mound City Group National Monument, three miles north of Chillicothe, includes 23 prehistoric Indian burial mounds, a museum and a visitor center. Adena, the beautiful hilltop estate where Ohio's sixth governor, Thomas Worthington, once entertained noted guests is now operated by the Ohio Historical Society. The mansion, outbuildings and grounds are restored to appear as they did in the early 1800s.

Tecumseh, an outdoor historical drama, is presented during the summer in the Sugarloaf Mountain Amphitheater just north of Chillicothe. The drama depicts the life of the Shawnee Chief Tecumseh. Ross County Historical Society in Chillicothe highlights the region's history. The Capital Room records Chillicothe's early years as Ohio's first capital.

Tar Hollow Map

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State Parks