Anyone can hike the trails at Lake Katharine State Nature Preserve, but the quiet lake at its center is only open from April to October to five paddlers a day who obtain a special permit. The lake-use policy is strict, but it has maintained one of the most unique and pristine waters in Ohio.

Lake Katharine State Nature Preserve 1703 Lake Katharine Rd. Jackson, OH 45640 614-265-6453 Homepage

I grabbed a permit for a Friday in early May, and my trip reminded me of canoeing through the Canadian outback. I featured the lake in a recent column. Here's more in pictures.

View larger image A lone dock is the only boat access to the lake. Here's one deterrent for prospective boaters looking to get a day permit: You've got to carry everything -- boats and all -- down about 100 stairs. If you're paddling, the entrance is on the north side of the park, off of Rock Run Road. The hiking trailhead is on the southeastern side, off of Lake Katharine Road.

View larger image Sandstone cliffs towering up to 70 feet line the shore, one of the most beautiful features about the preserve.

View larger image Two branches of the lake come to a picturesque point beneath the clouds. The scene will look familiar to anyone who's paddled the Boundary Waters or the Canadian Shield.

View larger image A pair of fishermen stalk bluegill and bass at the lake's western end, where shallow flats abound. The lake offers only bluegill, bass and crappie because it's not fed by tributaries and baitfish are prohibited.

View larger image A midland painted turtles catches rays atop a fallen tree trunk. Wildlife viewing is unbelievable at the park. Shortly after he scurried into the water, a green heron tracked my kayak for 100 yards.

View larger image Evergreens and deciduous trees line a shallow part of the lake. These shallow sections are one reason Lake Katharine is so enjoyable for canoes and kayaks.

View larger image A fallen pine tree spikes through the clear blue water. It's not exactly Caribbean quality, but visibility in this spring-fed lake will surprise most Ohio boaters.

View larger image A rock outcropping juts from shore, creating one of the lake's twisted fingers.