William H. Harsha Lake2185 Slade Rd.
Batavia, Ohio 45103-9707
513-797-6081 | https://www.lrl.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Recreation/Lakes/William-H-Harsha-Lake/
William H. Harsha Lake
Nestled in a 4870-acre state park, William H. Harsha Lake, also known as East Fork Lake, offers both opportunities for recreation and space for appreciation of the extensive engineering work, employed to protect communities from severe Ohio River floods.
Since the early nineteenth century, the Army Corps of Engineers debated on the best methods of flood control but disagreements existed amongst engineers on whether reservoirs were a realistic option of a larger flood control plan. Major Ohio River floods in 1913 and 1937 led to reconsideration in flood control plans. In 1967, the United States Congress approved appropriations for the construction of 78 reservoirs in the Ohio Valley, including East Fork Lake.
Congressman Rep. William Harsha, for whom the lake is named, was instrumental in convincing Congress to fund the project. After years of state lobbying for flood protection, the Army Corps of Engineers completed construction of the dam and inundated the historic town Bantam with the 2,160-acre lake in 1978.
The United States government purchased the properties of 253 families in Bantam and Elk Lick by eminent domain to establish the new reservoir, raising significant opposition in the Little Miami Valley. Many of these historical buildings in this predominantly agricultural were demolished.
Today, the site is a cooperative management effort between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Its water serves as an important source for municipal water and recreation alike. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Visitor Center, next to the overlook, is certainly a gem of the site. In addition to the knowledgeable park rangers, a long timeline on the wall explains the historical significance of this land.
Notes for Travelers
Hours at the Visitor Center may vary, so call ahead of your visit.