Beautiful William Harsha Dam is the perfect place to soak up nature on a large scale as you get in a good walk. The dam was built to create East Fork Lake, and can be reached by taking Route 222 to Slade Road. Slade Road takes you across the top of the dam, giving a gorgeous view of the lake on one side, and a large valley on the other where the lake water pours through a small opening and is the beginning of the East Fork of the Little Miami River. Past the dam is a nice visitor’s center and a scenic viewing area complete with small shelters that can be reserved. We could see exhibits through the windows of visitors center, but it was closed when we were there.
We walked on Sunday, July 23, 2017, at 11:30 a.m., and it was 75 degrees, and light rain. We parked at the visitor’s center and walked on Slade Road a short ways to the beginning of Deer Ridge Trail. The entrance to the trail is a small wooden bridge, and there is no sign marking the trail until after you have crossed the bridge and entered the wooded area. An information sign says the trail is 1/2 mile, and we walked it briskly several times.
The trail was made of mulch, and immersed us completely in the woods immediately. It dips and turns as it starts a loop, breaking into a small clearing at one point, made of high brush with some birdhouses. This part of the trail runs along Slade Road about 10 feet in from the road, and the wooded area in-between the trail and road hides the road most of the time. The trail then turns inland as it runs parallel to itself about 20 feet inland. This part of the trail runs along the edge of the valley created by the dam, with woods about 10 feet between the trail and edge of the valley hillside. There were benches placed along the trail at some lovely places to sit and gaze into the lush greenery and watch songbirds.
We then drove across the dam, (a hill made of large rocks,) and went to the picnic area in the valley side, called Tailwater Shelter and Fishing Area. There was a shelter, grills, playground equipment, and benches along the edge of the river. We could see dirt trails in the brush beside the picnic area as well. Every part of the dam area was clean, well maintained, and litter free.
Restroom: There were restrooms at the visitor’s center building, but they were closed. There was also a brick restroom building at the Tailwater Picnic Area that was open, clean, and well ventilated.
Traffic Noise: We couldn’t hear any traffic noise walking on the trail.
Historic Points of Interest: The dam was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1973. Besides their combat missions, the Corps has had civil projects since they were formed in 1810. They built or helped build our country’s roads, railroads, dams, harbors, lighthouses and more. The Corps operates and maintains over 700 dams nationwide, the benefits of which include flood risk management, safer navigation, hydropower, recreation and conservation.
Overall Rating: We loved the trail, and the fun of being at a dam. The trail was a perfect, fast way to become immersed in nature, and although there were others at the visitor’s center, we were the only ones on the trail. The trail was narrow at some places, where our bare legs rubbed against vegetation, and we wondered about the possibility of rubbing against poison ivy. We also imagined the experience would be different in the winter when there were no leaves on the trees, and you could easily see the road from the trail. The view from the road on top of the dam was amazing though, and it was fun to be reminded of the beauty of big spaces like lakes, valleys, woods, and sky, all put together to enjoy by man.
Nature enthusiasts Kathy and Greg Pfeiffer challenge parks and trails in the Clermont County area to see which ones are the best walking spots. To be part of their study, the trails have to be part of a park or natural area that is free to the public. If there is a trail or park you would like Kathy to report on, please contact her at email@example.com or by going to her website: www.kathleenpfeiffer.com.