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Mirror Lake is a pond on the campus of Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. Visitors, students, faculty, and staff enjoy the fountains that run in spring, summer, and autumn.

Mirror Lake
Mirror Lake in April 2021
Mirror Lake
LocationColumbus, Ohio
Coordinates39°59′53″N 083°00′52″W
Primary inflowsGroundwater
Primary outflowsSewer to Olentangy River
Basin countriesUnited States
Water volume666,500 US gallons (2,523,000 l)[1]
Surface elevation738 ft (225 m)


Historically, the lake was spring-fed, and sat on the property of William Neil. The trustees in charge of purchasing land for the new Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College, which would later become the Ohio State University, chose to purchase Mr. Neil's land after drinking from the spring.[2] The spring dried up in 1891 when the city of Columbus struck the source of the spring while installing a sewer line through campus.[3] Between 1891 and 1972, the lake was filled using water from the Olentangy River. The water source was subsequently provided by the city of Columbus municipal water supply, at a new location on campus near the location of the original lake.[4]

In 2014, a well was dug to feed the lake from groundwater, eliminating the need to use municipal water.[5]


Mirror Lake jumps

It was a tradition for students to jump into the lake at night in the week leading up to the annual football game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Michigan Wolverines. Although students have jumped into Mirror Lake since 1969, the modern tradition started in 1990 when Jim Jones led a parade of students on a traditional march around campus. At the end of the parade — at Mirror Lake — students made the celebratory jump.[6] Approximately 12,000 people either jumped or were near the lake for the 2009 jump.[7] Jumps have occurred several times outside of Michigan Week, including on the night of May 1, 2011 when students jumped into the lake in the wake of the death of Osama bin Laden.[8] The Mirror Lake Jump events were not university sponsored, and people were encouraged by university officials to not participate in the events.[9] The tradition ended in the mid-2010s after a student death occurred, and the university began enforcing policies to prevent jumps from occurring.[10] Jumping into Mirror Lake is a fourth-degree misdemeanor, however police acknowledged that they ignored this during jump events in order to focus on the safety of those present.[11]

Students jumping in Mirror Lake before the 2009 game
Students jumping in Mirror Lake before the 2009 game


A study was conducted during one of the Mirror Lake Jumps where water samples were taken from the lake throughout the night. It was noteworthy that the ammonia levels in the lake greatly increased throughout the night. This has been attributed to people urinating in the lake.[12] There has also been concern that the lake may be a potential source for disease infection, salmonella is a concern.[13]

Deaths and injuries

The event was associated with a variety of emergency room visits, and loss or destruction of property. The 2009 jump, for example, was associated with approximately 25 trips to the emergency department for cuts, sprains, and other injuries, as well as other injuries exacerbated by the use of alcohol.[14] In 1985, a student was left paralyzed after making a shallow dive into the lake, and hitting her head on a underwater planter.[13] In 2013, a man was found unresponsive in the lake during a lake jump and later died.[15]

On November 25, 2015, shortly after midnight, Austin Singletary's body was found underwater after jumping into Mirror Lake during the annual jump.[16] A preliminary investigation and autopsy concluded that the death was the result of a fracture of the C-5 vertebra, which can lead to paralysis of the arms, legs and diaphragm, causing death.[16] He was pulled from the lake in cardiac arrest around 12:20 a.m.[17] He immediately received treatment by on-site paramedics and was rushed to Wexner Medical Center on Ohio State's campus, but later died. University Officials took to social media and news outlets to help identify Singletary. President Michael V. Drake later released a statement, saying, "We are heartbroken over this horrible tragedy. We have tentatively identified the young man as a student and are in the process of reaching out to his family. During this difficult time, counseling services will be made available throughout the holiday weekend for those who seek support."[18]

End of the tradition

After the death of Austin Singletary, Ohio State Officials quickly announced plans to work with students and the Ohio State community to end the annual jump.[18] Ohio State's Undergraduate Student Government soon after released a statement agreeing to work with the university to end the tradition and "create a new one".[19] After mirror lake was reconstructed in 2017, several new features were added to discourage jumps, including a "quick-drain" feature, and dense vegetation between the path and the lake.[20] The lake is generally drained each year around the Ohio State-Michigan game to prevent jumps.[21] Ohio State's Police Department has cited several students for attempting to jump in the lake area for criminal trespassing.[22][23]

Light up the lake

Mirror Lake during at Light Up The Lake event
Mirror Lake during at Light Up The Lake event

Light up the Lake is an event held annually to start the holiday season. Christmas lights are hung throughout the Mirror Lake and Browning Amphitheater area. A lighting ceremony takes place when the lights are turned on for the first time of the season, usually the week following Thanksgiving. These lights are left up for several weeks throughout the winter months. The lights and lighting ceremony are organized by the Ohio Staters, a student service organization. Light up the lake occurs most years, but not every year, depending on construction and other factors determined by the university.[24]


  1. Sutelan, Edward (2018-11-19). "How many buckets would it take to fill Mirror Lake?". The Lantern. Retrieved 2021-04-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. Lacumsky, Juli (2010), "Where we walk today" (PDF), AgriNaturalist, Columbus, Ohio, vol. 116, p. 33
  3. Drobik, Michelle (2011-12-08). "Twelve Days of Buckeyes: Mirror Lake's colorful past". From Woody's Couch. Retrieved 2021-04-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. "Mirror Lake". Retrieved 2021-04-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. Binkley, Collin (13 August 2014), "Ohio State to refill Mirror Lake with water from new well", The Columbus Dispatch, Columbus, retrieved 29 November 2015
  6. Milgrom, Ari (2009-11-18). "Where did the Mirror Lake jump come from?". The Lantern. Archived from the original on 2009-11-20. Retrieved 2009-11-18.
  7. Cubert, Kathy (2009-11-23). "Mirror Lake water testing more in-depth this year". The Lantern. The Ohio State University. Archived from the original on 2011-06-07. Retrieved 2009-12-14.
  8. Binkley, Collin (2011-05-03). "Leap into Mirror Lake marks end of an era". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 2021-04-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. Adams-Gaston, Javaune. "Mirror Lake jump". Retrieved 2021-04-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. Huson, Michael (2015-11-25). "Ohio State identifies deceased student, aims to end Mirror Lake tradition after tragedy". The Lantern. Retrieved 2021-04-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. Marotti, Ally (2010-11-21). "Officials: Don't jump Thursday". The Lantern. Retrieved 2021-04-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. "Wee bit of pee in Mirror Lake after OSU jumps". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  13. Thompson, Josh; Snodgrass, John (2005-11-16). "Mirror Lake poses a real threat for trespassers". The Lantern. Retrieved 2021-04-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. "Mirror Lake Jump-In". Student Wellness Center. Archived from the original on 2010-11-25. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  15. "Mirror Lake Near-Drowning Victim Pronounced Dead".
  16. Narciso, Dean (2015-11-26). "Ohio State student died of broken neck from Mirror Lake jump". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 2015-11-26.
  17. "Man dies after mirror lake jump". November 26, 2015. Retrieved November 25, 2015.
  18. "Statement on Mirror Lake Tragedy". November 25, 2015. Retrieved November 26, 2015.
  19. Nelson, Ashley (2015-12-03). "Ohio State USG votes in support of ending Mirror Lake jump". The Lantern. Retrieved 2021-04-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  20. Cartwright, Summer (2017-06-08). "Mirror Lake's renovation upped $2.4 million, will include quick-drain option". The Lantern. Retrieved 2021-04-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  21. "Mirror Lake drained as Ohio State prepares to play Michigan". NBC4 WCMH-TV. 2020-12-07. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  22. White, Chris (2018-11-20). "Ohio State students issued police summonses for allegedly trespassing in Mirror Lake". WSYX. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  23. Milnes, Owen (2020-11-12). "Five individuals cited for trespassing in Mirror Lake". The Lantern. Retrieved 2021-04-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  24. DeCarlo, Leisa (2014-12-03). "Ohio Staters to celebrate Light Up the Lake for the 10th time". The Lantern. Retrieved 2021-04-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

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