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Get To The Heart Of The Matter In Ohio’s State Parks System

As far as state nicknames go in the U.S., some are more direct than others (Florida’s “Sunshine State”), some can be a bit grandiose (Alaska’s “The Last Frontier”), and some are just plain quirky (Rhode Island’s “Little Rhody”).

Most nicknames spring from some native wonder, some grander ambition, or a description of past glory. Often, states will carry more than one nickname, depending on who one asks. Minnesota, for instance, has no less than four nicknames!

Ohio, located right in the heartland of America, carries perhaps the most apt nickname: “The Heart Of It All.” Indeed, if one wore a shirt emblazoned with the map of the continental U.S., the state would sit just over the breast above the heart.

More than just a happy fashion accident, though, it could be argued Ohio itself is the very “heart of the matter” when it comes to the goings and comings of American life.

It sits at the convergence of the Rust Belt states of Western New York, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania and the Midwest states of Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Throughout the centuries, commerce, trade, and culture have filtered through its borders as the country expanded westward in the 19th century and back and forth throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. 

For major sports fans, the road to a National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s collegiate football championship will be decided in some part by the Buckeyes in Columbus. Basketball fans will remember fondly the recent nearly annual National Basketball Association Finals battles in neighboring Cleveland. 

Indeed, these veins and arteries and many more that flow through the sprawling organism that is the U.S. usually find their way to and through Ohio. There is much to be learned about and enjoyed there, and thankfully its State Parks system gives visitors ample opportunity to do just that.

Below are some can’t-miss sites in the Buckeye State:

Blackhead Gorge State Nature Preserve: In addition to its importance to the varied aspects of American life, Ohio is also one of the country’s most beautiful and ecologically diverse areas. Take, for instance, Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve, which features one of the more well-known outdoor destinations in the area, the great Black Hand sandstone canyon. More than 775 acres make up this park, and it’s a favorite for hikers and bikers year-round. Come and enjoy its beauty and countryside scenery. 

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Belgian Coke Oven Ruins: Few states were as vital to industrialization in America during the 19th century as Ohio, and this park near McArthur, OH, stands in tribute to that long-ago importance. While the iron furnaces may no longer rage at Belgian Coke Oven Ruins, the history is still as thick as the smoke that once was. The region where it sits was once one of the largest iron-producing regions in the country due to its abundance of natural raw materials needed to manufacture iron in charcoal furnaces. Visitors can step back into a time when the iron furnace rules the industrial landscape at this site.

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Marblehead Lighthouse: Ohio also boasts some of the most scenic freshwater coastlines in America, as evidenced by Marblehead Lighthouse on the shores of Lake Erie. The oldest lighthouse in continuous operation, Marblehead welcomed home safely sailors for decades and continues to do so to this day. Stop in, learn more about the incredible history, and gaze in wonder at the stunning vistas of the mighty lake at this spot.

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