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Step Back In Time At Ohio’s Newest Gem: Great Council State Park

There’s a fresh addition to Ohio’s park system, and it’s steeped in historical roots that reach back to the Shawnee communities of the 1770s.

Nestled in the heart of what was once known as “Old Chillicothe,” the newly minted Great Council State Park offers visitors a unique blend of natural beauty and cultural education.

The park’s highlight is the 12,000-square-foot interpretive center, a three-story marvel designed after the Shawnee longhouses. These traditional dwellings were so much more homes. They were the epicenter of community life and the new center aims to capture that spirit. Its architecture blends modern design with traditional elements, featuring wood-inspired exteriors and clear glazing to mimic the depth of woodland that once dominated the landscape.

Upon entering, visitors are greeted by a living stream—a signature display that runs through the main floor alongside a theater, exhibits, a welcome desk, gift shop, and restrooms. The first floor serves as an inviting entryway into the world of the Shawnee, offering immediate immersion into the environment that once flourished under their stewardship.

great council state park ohio

An Educational Journey Through Time

The second floor is a chronological display of the Shawnee’s history in Ohio, from before European settlement to their lives today. This timeline is enriched with engaging stories of notable historical figures, making the history tangible and memorable for visitors of all ages.

The lower level is dedicated to temporary exhibits focusing on Shawnee history, culture, art, and modern life. These exhibits are designed to museum-grade standards, with strict environmental and security controls to protect sensitive materials and artifacts. This space not only serves as an educational resource but also as a secure repository for traveling exhibits and precious historical items.

A Living Landscape

Surrounding the interpretive center, the park itself is being developed to recreate the oak savannah that existed in the late 1700s. The design includes native grasses and pathways that echo the natural setting of a Shawnee village. An additional 14 acres have been acquired next to the main site to establish a native prairie with a half-mile loop trail, providing visitors with a direct connection to the kind of landscape the Shawnee once called home.

The park’s balcony offers sweeping views of the area, approximating the location of the original Shawnee council house—essentially the heart of the community in the 1700s. This thoughtful inclusion allows visitors to stand where Shawnee leaders once convened, adding a profound sense of presence and history.

Collaborative and Authentic

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, in collaboration with the three federally recognized Shawnee tribes, has taken great care to ensure that Great Council State Park is not only a place of beauty and learning but also a respectful tribute to the Shawnee people and their enduring legacy.

A Commemorative Opening

grand opening at grand council state park
The park will be officially unveiled at 10 a.m. on Friday, June 7, in a ceremony featuring Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and First Lady Fran DeWine. Located at 1575 US-68 in Xenia, it’s a short drive from Columbus and the park promises to be a cherished addition to Ohio’s state parks.