Paddling a river trail near you

Brad Ross - Contributing Writer

Paddling is one of my favorite stress-relieving activities. Once you are on the water, it doesn’t take a lot of energy and thought to find yourself at peace. My brother’s family and mine have made several trips to the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota where there are literally thousands of water trails on small to large interconnected lakes. Paddlers can travel deep into the wilderness and experience the real beauty of God’s creation up close and personal.

There is something exhilarating about paddling/backpacking into the wilderness, soaking up sunrises and sunsets, listening to the loons, and enjoying beaver, otter, eagles, moose and occasionally bear, in their natural setting. You can even learn some good life-lessons along the way.

One in particular I will never forget. We were deep into the reaches of the lakes and it had been a particularly wet week with over twelve inches of rain. One morning after coffee, the weather cleared and my brother suggested we leave camp set up and just go for a day paddle. We were about three lakes away from our camp when it began to rain again … hard. We got off the water and pulled the canoes onto shore, but there was nowhere to find shelter so we just stood in the rain and sleet, decked in our rain suits.

It rained so hard the canoes filled to overflowing in about twenty minutes. As the weather cleared, my brother and I walked to the water’s edge contemplating whether to stay a little longer or to make a dash back to camp. We sat on a large boulder at the shoreline, each with one foot in the water. As we discussed our options, a bolt of lightning, then a thunderous crack hit on the opposite shoreline.

A few seconds later, we each rolled off our respective sides of the rock having experienced a tremendous blow to our backsides. A jolt of lightning evidently traveled through the water and hit us where we were grounded on the rock. Lesson learned. Stay out of the water during a lightning storm (and never listen to your little brother, even if he is a fire chief!)

Even if you aren’t able to make the journey to faraway places like the Boundary Waters, we have a lot of great paddling spots right here in central Ohio. I recently tried out the new canoe and kayak launch at Alum Creek Reservoir at the Howard Road boat launch. It is a wonderful launch site that makes paddling accessible for everybody, no matter your skill level. If moving water is more to your liking, there are several water trails mapped out with information on launch sites, distances and more.

According to, a water trail is defined as, “a stretch of water along a river or shoreline that has been mapped out with the intent of creating an educational, scenic, and enjoyable experience for recreational canoers and kayakers.” An official trail usually consists of a network of marked access points, resting areas, and points of interest for users of human-powered watercraft on lakes and rivers.

One of my favorite water trails nearby is the Kokosing River in Knox County. Like most designated water trails, there are maps showing the various access points so that paddlers can choose the length of trip that is desired. The maps also indicate any difficulties that might be experienced, such as riffles or rapids, or dams that need to be portaged around.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has a great website that identifies all the designated water trails in Ohio. The website is This site also has links to information on paddling safety, current water levels of the rivers, and much more. The city of Columbus’ Parks and Recreation has designated the Olentangy River Water Trail. Go to and search for Olentangy River Water Trail.

Next spring, the Delaware County section of the Olentangy River Trail will be posted on Preservation Parks’ website. The river trail is currently closed due to construction of the Pandhandle Road bridge, but once open will connect to the lower section through Columbus.

Paddling is fun and easy and now is one of the best times of the year to go. The air temperature is moderate, plenty of sunny days, and the changing colors of the leaves make for a very enjoyable day outdoors. So when you get stressed, remember – just stay calm and paddle. Also, check out our newly designed website at

Brad Ross

Contributing Writer

Brad Ross is communications specialist at the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District. He can be reached at [email protected]

Brad Ross is communications specialist at the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District. He can be reached at [email protected]