A campsite along the shore in Pymatuning State Park

Pittsburgh Camping: Pymatuning State Park

Photo: DCNR Pymatuning State Park

Pitch a tent near the shores of this massive reservoir.

Plan a camping-paddling-fishing extravaganza at Pymatuning Reservoir, a 17,088-acre lake with campsites for every taste. The two campgrounds—Linesville on the north shore and Jamestown on the south—are both a short walk to the water’s edge. Additionally, Ohio operates its own state park on the eastern shore of the reservoir, and there are private campgrounds all around the lake, so there’s always something available.

The Civilian Conservation Corps built much of the original park infrastructure in the 1930s. Before that, the area was a giant swamp that was unsuitable for farming. So the reservoir was created to serve as flood control for the Beaver and Shenango Rivers and to establish wildlife habitat.

The latter goal has a unique legacy here. While a “No Feeding Wildlife” rule applies everywhere else in the state, there’s an exception for the northern spillway at Pymatuning. Feeding the fish and birds that gather there is a tradition that dates back to the earliest days of the park, and continues as a nod to the history and culture that surrounds it. Families with young children: Don’t miss the chance to get some up close views of the local fauna.

For anyone, getting out on or in the water is a must. There are a few beaches to choose from and plenty of places to launch canoes and kayaks, and the 20-horsepower limit on motorboats keeps the waters calm. Paddle out to the two islands near Jamestown, or drive north with a canoe or kayak to explore Black Jack Swamp.

A campsite along the shore in Pymatuning State Park Photo: DCNR Pymatuning State Park

Recommended Campsites

The southern campground, Jamestown, is the larger of the two sites but is a better all around choice. The northern loop (sites numbers 100 to 150) is ideal for a quiet escape; it's a few hundred yards away from the main camping areas and the tent sites are mostly primitive with no electricity. Even on busy weekends, this loop often has plenty of open spots (though it’s always best to reserve a site before coming, you’ll likely be able to get one last-minute). The lake is a short walk away, and it’s an easy 15-minute walk to the camp store, playground, and beach. (Bonus: pets allowed.)

Getting There

From downtown Pittsburgh, it can take as little as one and a half hours to reach the park. Head north on Interstate 79, then take 80 west for one exit. From there, Route 56 goes into Jamestown, and route 322 West leads directly to the park office. 

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Where to Chill

Mortals Key Brewing Company is just a few minutes away from the Jamestown Campground on the other side of the dam. No surprise: expect a wide selection of beers on tap. The outdoor seating is expansive. https://www.mortalskey.com/

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.