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Zaleski State Forest is the second-largest state forest in the U.S. state of Ohio, located primarily in Vinton County, with areas in Athens County as well. The 28,000 acre (110 km²) forest surrounds Lake Hope State Park in Vinton County, and extensively borders the Waterloo Wildlife Research Station in Athens County. It is also located close to the Wayne National Forest. In addition, the older and much smaller Waterloo State Forest in Athens County is administered as part of the Zaleski. The forest is named after the Vinton County village of Zaleski, where the forest headquarters are located, and is centered on State Route 278.
The forest has active logging programs, and is one of the few in Ohio to have a working sawmill. The forest also features a 23.5-mile backpacking trail, a network of bridle trails, a horse camp, a large lake (Lake Hope), and the Hope School, an old but renovated one-room schoolhouse. Part of the Zaleski Mound Group, a group of Native American mounds built by the prehistoric Adena culture, is located within the forest.
Recently, the state of Ohio acquired a conservation easement to 10,000 acres (40 km²) of the Raccoon Creek Ecological Management Area (REMA), located south of the forest and formerly owned by Mead Paper Company (now part of MeadWestvaco). This area will be administered in conjunction with the state forest.
The forest is located in the rugged hills of the unglaciated Allegheny Plateau in Southern Ohio, with elevations ranging up to about 1100 feet above sea level. The area has an extensive history of coal mining, coke production, and steel production. The historic Hope Furnace can be seen at Lake Hope State Park, just across the road from the forest.
- Owen, Lorrie K., ed. Dictionary of Ohio Historic Places. Vol. 2. St. Clair Shores: Somerset, 1999, 1369.