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Monday, July 28, 2014
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Published: Tuesday, 6/17/2014 - Updated: 1 month ago

OUTDOORS

Paddle event showcases Ohio’s waterways

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE OUTDOORS EDITOR

You cross the bridge at around 50 miles per hour and catch maybe a glimpse, just a flash of the river flowing under the road. The waterway has a very detailed story to tell, painted in earth tones and babbling riffles, and dressed in lush vegetation and towering trees, but you miss all of that.

The wildlife that make that corridor their sanctuary flourish in this setting, but you see none of them when flying by in a car. Traverse that same river in a canoe or kayak, and the picture unfolds in front of you.

RELATED CONTENT: Paddle Ohio

The streams and rivers of Ohio might not rival those of the Rocky Mountains’ high country for clarity, but they do possess a charm that is addictive. A program called “Paddle Ohio” is directed at introducing more people in the Buckeye State to the scenic waterways that loop and thread across the countryside. The idea is that tours of this sort along Ohio’s state designated wild, scenic and recreational rivers will raise awareness on the importance of protecting Ohio’s highest quality waterways.

The “Paddle Ohio” initiative involves four guided trips on some of the state’s best recreational water trails. It takes place Sunday on a stretch of the Sandusky Scenic River in southern Seneca County, and on the Grand Wild and Scenic River in northeast Ohio, Kokosing Scenic River and Water Trail in central Ohio, and the Stillwater Scenic River and Water Trail in the southwestern part of the state.

The event also was planned to take advantage of the significant spike in the use of paddle craft — kayaks and canoes. According to the Division of Watercraft, the number of canoes and kayaks registered in Ohio has jumped from 52,339 in 2003 to 119,120 in 2013 — an increase of 128 percent. Over the same time period, the number of canoes and kayaks used in commercial operations — primarily rentals — has increased nearly 50 percent.

“The paddling sports are one of the fastest growing areas of recreation, but the big thing here is to promote Ohio’s waterways,” said Mike Miller, the assistant chief of watercraft with the ODNR.

“These streams are perfect for paddling.”

Besides following a meandering course through agricultural land and patches of woodlots, the Sandusky River, along with Ohio’s other scenic waterways, will likely offer paddlers a number of close-up encounters with the flora and fauna. Bald eagles often can be seen hunting along the stretch of the Sandusky where the guided tour will take place.

“These Ohio waterways are gems, and a lot of people don’t realize where they are,” Miller said. “People think they have to go to Pennsylvania or West Virginia to find streams like this, but that’s not the case. These scenic rivers in Ohio have high water quality, and a lot of unique species. We want people to know about it, and take advantage of it. And the best way to do that is to view these waters from a canoe or kayak.”

Miller said the stretch of the Sandusky River the tour will cover on Sunday is known for its smallmouth bass fishing, and abundant bird life. Christina Kuchle, who will help lead the Sandusky River paddle, said a variety of terrain and wildlife will greet the participants.

“There is also a lot of deep forested corridor, and a swath of large, beautiful trees,” she said. “It is a great habitat for raptors.”

Ohio was a leader in the river preservation movement more than four decades ago when it passed the nation's first scenic rivers act, calling for the protection of high-quality waterways for future generations to enjoy. The intent is to have these scenic rivers retain many of their natural characteristics, instead of being negatively altered by human activity. These scenic waterways are designated as places where the ecosystem can support a wide variety of plant and animal life.

WATER QUALITY WORKSHOP: Volunteers are needed to conduct water quality monitoring on the Maumee and Sandusky rivers for the ODNR Scenic Rivers program, and a series of workshops are being staged to train these individuals. Volunteers will be given free training in water quality assessment by learning how to net and identify the aquatic macro-invertebrates that live in these rivers.

The type, number and diversity of these aquatic macro-invertebrates are indicators of water quality. Interested participants are asked to preregister and attend one of the SQM training workshops. Old clothes and closed-toe shoes are recommended. On the Sandusky River, these workshops take place tomorrow at the Wolf Creek Park boating access area from 6-8 p.m., and on July 19 at the St. Johns Scenic River Area at the intersection of County Road 6 and Township Road 131, from 10 a.m. to noon.

The Maumee River training sessions take place on Saturday at Farnsworth Metropark, Roche de Bout Area, from 10 a.m. to noon, and on July 23 at Independence Dam from 6-8 p.m. More information on the SQM workshops is available at watercraft.ohiodnr.gov/​scenicrivers.

MAUMEE CLEANUP: The Sierra Club and Partners for Clean Streams are holding a “Get the Lead Out” cleanup at Side Cut Metropark on Saturday from 9-11:30 a.m. Volunteers will be collecting lost or discarded fishing gear from the area around Blue Grass Island and along the banks of the Maumee River.

Volunteers should check in at the Rotary Pavilion Shelter at 1025 River Road in Maumee. Trash bags, tools and gloves will be provided. For more information, contact Ava Slotnick at 419-704-4125 or Ava@PartnersforCleanStreams.org or Ann Keefe at 419-619-4436 or at the Ann.Keefe@sierraclub.org email address.

Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6068.


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