Discover Mohican State Park and Malabar Farm

Waterfalls, caves, a historic farm and lots of river fun can be found in this beloved natural area.

Emma Frankart Henterly
Columbus Monthly
The Big House at Malabar Farm

These days, the concepts of sustainable farming are fairly common as humans grapple with the consequences of climate change. But in the 1940s, Mansfield native Louis Bromfield was among the pioneers and early educators of the movement when he set out to restore Malabar Farm in Richland County to its former glory.

“He definitely was instrumental in promotion of sustainable practices,” says Jenny Roar, manager at Mohican State Park and former manager at Malabar Farm State Park. “[Malabar Farm] was dubbed, at one time, as the most famous farm in America because of his—they called them ‘Sunday sermons.’ He would have people from all over … the country come to the farm to learn about sustainable practices.”

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Listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973, the property is still a working farm today; it honors its heritage with soil and water conservation practices, sustainable agricultural techniques and educational resources for visitors. The Big House, as the main former residential building on the property is called, is heated and cooled with geothermal energy, and a wind turbine provides additional green energy for the farm. Amenities of the park include hiking and bridle trails, camping, guided tours of the Big House and the farm at large, a petting zoo and more.

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Malabar Farm cows

If that’s not enough to entertain you for a long weekend, a 15-minute drive around the south side of Pleasant Hill Lake brings you to Mohican State Park, a veritable treasure trove of natural wonders. “There’s a lot of geology in the area; that’s what Mohican is known for,” says Roar. “We have all kinds of natural features.” Many of those features are thanks to glaciation more than 14,000 years ago, which created the 300-foot-deep gorge through the park that spans up to 1,000 feet wide. The Clear Fork Mohican River runs through this gorge, which features stunning overlook views, waterfalls, caves and more. The area also features old-growth white pine stands and is a Registered National Natural Landmark.

Lyons Falls at Mohican State Park

The area was originally used by the Delaware Native Americans for hunting; several villages were located nearby, though they were forced to relocate after the War of 1812. Also in the 1800s, John Chapman (aka “Johnny Appleseed”) could often be found in the area; legend says his name was once etched into the wall of Lyons Falls, but any evidence of the carving has since eroded away.

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Today, tubing and paddling on the river are popular pastimes; other activities include fishing, hunting and hiking, as well as horseback riding and mountain biking. The park features a full-service lodge overlooking Pleasant Hill Lake, furnished and climate-controlled cabins, a campground with an outdoor pool and full hookup, electric and nonelectric sites, an equestrian camping area and a primitive camping area with streamside sites. There’s also a nature center with year-round programming located in the park’s sizable campground. Sharp-eyed visitors may even catch sight of one of the bald eagles often seen in the area.

This story is from the June 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.