What better way to stay cool and have fun this boating season than gliding in a canoe across a quiet lake or paddling a kayak along a scenic stream? More than 60,000 miles of rivers and streams crisscross the state providing excellent boating experiences and unforgettable views of Ohio’s outdoors.
Traveling along these water routes lets us explore places unreachable by foot or by car, so don’t be surprised to see osprey and blue heron nests, beaver, river otter and other wildlife. A day of paddling on Ohio’s waterways and you’ll quickly see why it has become one of the fastest growing sports in the country.
With thousands of miles of rivers and streams, it’s no wonder the popularity of recreational paddle sports is growing so rapidly in Ohio. In an effort to improve access to these waterways, a program known as Discover Ohio Water Trails is underway to identify existing and potential stream-access sites. As access is improved, paddlers from Ohio and elsewhere will be able to better enjoy the state’s many rivers and streams as designated waterway trails.
“Canoeing and kayaking are so popular because they are affordable activities and excellent ways to spend a day in nature with your friends and family,” says Emily King, a boating expert with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
One of King’s favorite paddling sites is the Licking River, which flows through Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve in east-central Ohio. “This is an easy river to paddle, with good water flow most of the year, and you might just see a bald eagle soaring overhead,” she says. Towering cliffs and stands of tall trees provide an awesome backdrop as paddlers cruise with the river’s current.
Another excellent waterway to consider is the Sandusky State Scenic River in northwest Ohio. This wide-flowing river travels through rich farm land and past interesting geologic outcroppings. It’s also appreciated for having several good boating access points.
Other good paddling rivers in Ohio include the Big Darby in central Ohio. This easy moving river is ideal for beginners and features some great wildlife viewing opportunities. For those wanting to get a feel for whitewater paddling, the Grand River in northeast Ohio is a good choice. This river flows through Lake, Ashtabula and Trumbull counties, and it has good water levels throughout the summer.
If you’d rather paddle still waters, then Kiser Lake State Park is an ideal place to launch your boat. This Champaign County lake is nearly 2.5 miles in length and has more than five miles of shoreline to explore. Notable for its absence of motorized boats, Kiser Lake is a real paradise for paddlers and anglers.
Boat rentals are available at many of Ohio’s state parks and along portions of some of the more popular canoeing rivers such as the Little Miami River in southwest Ohio. Keep in mind that if you’re hoping to paddle around on the weekend, call ahead to check availability.
If you are new to paddling or have limited experience, a great place to begin learning the ropes is at one of Ohio’s canoe and kayak liveries, located along many of our most popular waterways. Most liveries provide basic instructions before launching (if they don’t then ask), and some even offer paddling clinics, which can give you a more thorough understanding of the sport.
The American Canoe Association also sponsors the Ohio College of Canoeing and Kayaking which provides the opportunity for novice paddlers to complete a basic skills course. Private clubs such as the Dayton Canoe Club and Columbus Outdoor Pursuits also provide basic paddling instruction. Additional information and links to related Internet boating instruction web sites can be found on the Division of Watercraft web page at ohiodnr.com.
Deciding which type of craft you would prefer to paddle a canoe or kayak can be challenging. While both boats are symmetrical at each end, they are very different otherwise. To help make the choice, ask yourself a few questions, such as what kind of water do you want to paddle and are children going to be part of the equation? Also, how much gear do you plan to haul?
Kayaks, which sit close to the water and are “wetter” boats, accommodate one or two paddlers and offer low wind resistance. They are easy to maneuver and cut through the water swiftly. Teens and their parents looking for a little more adventure might prefer trying kayaks.
Canoes can be paddled solo or with two to four passengers, but aren’t as quick through the water as kayaks. You sit higher in a canoe, providing a good view of what lies ahead. Canoeists have the option of sitting or kneeling, while also having ample room to haul gear. Families with young children will likely find a canoe their best option.
When it comes to paddling, you’ll want to make sure your day on the water is safe and fun by following these tips:
- Plan a trip that is suitable for everyone in the group
- Never paddle alone
- Venture out on a good weather day
- Remember that everyone in the group needs to wear a life jacket
- Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return then let them know when you are back safely.
You can learn more about boating on Ohio’s lakes and streams and where to find public access points by visiting ohiodnr.com .