Cuyahoga County has nearly a dozen private marinas and yacht clubs, but only four free, public boat ramps along its 30 miles of Lake Erie shoreline.
“They’re few and far between for some reason,” said August J. Schill III, assistant marina manager for the Cleveland Metroparks. “They’re the ramps that were put in early in the ‘40s and ‘50s and just stayed there.”
To the east and west, Lake and Lorain counties each have four public, free boat launches, too. That’s pretty common across the eight North Coast Ohio counties, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Of course there are plenty more beaches and parks, where you could launch a kayak or standup paddleboard from the shore. We’re specifically talking fishing boats and bigger.
What’s missing here is privately owned boat ramps the public can use for a nominal fee. The vacation destination of Port Clinton, Catawba and Marblehead, for example, has two dozen ramps anyone can drop by and drop into.
But ramps take up a lot of space, with parking lots to accommodate trucks and trailers. Maybe that’s why Cuyahoga County has only four. And maybe that’s why you don’t see trucks towing boats very often on the highways around Cleveland?
The Ohio DNR lists all public sites on its searchable coastal website. And there’s a smart phone app, called simply “boat ramps,” you can download to find one close by. (Though unfortunately it doesn’t differentiate between private and public launches.)
Boat ramps in Cuyahoga County are hopping on summer weekends.
But while there are lines, they move quickly, Schill said. Boaters may have to wait 15 minutes or so.
“Boaters don’t mess around,” he said. “They don’t let someone in front of them mess around. It keeps moving… They get everything untied, uncovered. So when it’s their turn, they’re in.”
In that spirit, here are the closest public boat ramps to Cleveland, from west to east, Lorain County to Lake County, to make your boat ramp experience more efficient.
Lorain Public Boat Ramp: First Street at Oberlin Avenue. Six lanes, with a bait shop on site, near a public fishing pier.
Lakeside Landing: Alabama Avenue, west of Lakeside Avenue in Lorain. With grills, picnic shelters and a 2,300-foot-long East Pier made of brick pavers.
Sheffield Lake Community Park: Lake Road at Lake Breeze Road. Two lanes, with a concrete boardwalk atop an L-shaped breakwater.
Miller Road Park: 33760 Miller Road in Avon Lake. Two lanes, with 400-foot fishing pier, playground and picnic tables.
Rocky River Reservation: 1500 Cleveland Metro Park Drive in Lakewood. With full-service restaurant, marina and shop at the Emerald Necklace Marina, on the Rocky River, which leads to Lake Erie.
Edgewater: Whiskey Island Drive in Cleveland. Eight lanes, near Edgewater Marina and Edgewater Park, with fishing pier, beach, beach house.
Gordon Park: 8701 Lakeshore Blvd. in Cleveland. Six lanes, with picnic shelters, grills and restrooms.
Wildwood Park: Lakeshore Boulevard at East 174th Street. With marina, fishing pier, trails, picnic areas, concession stand and playground.
Fairport Harbor Port Authority: End of Water Street. Four lanes, charges a fee.
Madison Township Park: 6717 Lake Road. With swimming beach, paved boardwalk, playground, baseball field, basketball and volleyball courts.