Canoeing offers excellent opportunities for viewing fall color
|Canoe in Ohio this fall.
The fall season is one of my favorite times to canoe in Ohio, a time of year with the needed ingredients: cooler weather, fewer insects and beautiful fall color.
In Ohio’s northern counties, fall color will be best during the first two weeks of October, when the leaves are displaying their finest autumn hues. Southern Ohio will be in its splendor during the later half of October, when cool evenings and shorter days get those trees changing quickly.
Some fall color experts say that foliage along the water is apt to have the most vibrant colors, giving canoeist the best seat in the house for autumn’s colorful show. The rich golden leaves of the River birch can be seen along many of Ohio’s streams. Sycamore trees are also found growing near certain streamside woodlands. Although their large leaves drop earlier than other hardwood trees, they usually are the first trees to turn bright yellow and their dappled bark lends a festive air.
A beautiful river for canoeing in northwestern Ohio is also one of the most historic in the area the Maumee State Scenic River near Toledo. The river is named after the Maumee Indians, who used the waterway as a major transportation route to Lake Erie.
Popular canoeing areas in northeastern Ohio are the Beaver Creek State Scenic River in Columbiana County, which flows through some of Ohio’s most scenic and wild terrain; West Branch Reservoir in Portage County, rich in history of the Pennsylvania & Ohio Canal; and Clear Fork Creek, where it meets the Mohican River near Malabar Farm State Park in Ashland and Richland counties.
Central Ohioans may want to canoe on the Olentangy State Scenic River, north of Columbus. Just west of the state capital are the Big and Little Darby creeks. These two scenic waterways make fine canoeing from U.S. Route 40 at Battelle-Darby Creek Metro Park south to the Scioto River. With its many coves and inlets to explore, the reservoir at Alum Creek State Park, just north of Columbus in Delaware County, is also ideal for canoeing.
The Little Miami Scenic River in southwestern Ohio is known for its abundant plant life and striking geologic formations. From its headwaters in Clark County, the river flows more than 100 miles through five counties, before joining with the Ohio River near Cincinnati. In its northern reaches above Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve, the narrow river meanders past steep rock cliffs and towering sycamore trees. Below the gorge, the river widens with the valley where bluffs as high as 300 feet line the water.
Canoeists in southeastern Ohio have an abundance of areas for fall canoeing. Paint Creek and Rocky Fork state parks, located in Highland County, are both recommended. So is Lake Hope State Park, tucked in the rugged, heavily forested region of Vinton County near Nelsonville.
Near the banks of the Ohio River in Meigs County, paddlers can enjoy the placid lake waters at Forked Run State Park. Surrounding the 102-acre lake are deep ravines and hillsides, where vast stands of oak, hickory, maple, tuliptree and native pine trees grow. The Shade River State Forest lies adjacent to the park and covers more than 2,400 acres in these foothills of Appalachia.
Another reward of canoeing is the opportunity to see wildlife relatively close. Floating quietly down a stream or gliding across a placid lake allows you to approach shy animals without alarming them as easily as when on foot. You may see a variety of wildlife near the water’s edge as they hunt for breakfast after daybreak. Keep your eyes open for a raccoon searching for crayfish, white-tailed deer peeking cautiously from behind a hemlock tree, or turtles poking their heads up from the water.
While enjoying a day on the water, keep your fall canoe trip safe as well as memorable. Remember to dress appropriately, as air and water temperatures are lower, and always wear your life jacket. Be familiar with the stream you’re canoeing, and beware of lowhead dams and other potential problem areas. A list featuring boating access points and lowhead dam locations can be obtained online at ohiodnr.com/watercraft
For those who don’t have their own canoes, check out the state’s “Travel & Tourism” web page at ohiotourism.com for a list canoe liveries. You can get the latest Fall Color Report from ohiodnr.com or by calling 1-800-BUCKEYE.
Surrounded by such glorious autumn colors, no matter where you decide to canoe, you’re time spent paddling along an Ohio waterway is sure to be rewarding.