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Water Blogged

By Casey Smith, naturalist We are so lucky here in central Ohio to have plenty of access to water to do things like boating, swimming, and fishing. I grew up around water, playing in a creek in the back yard, fishing with my grandpa, and spending summer days at the lake. I began teaching canoeing 11 years ago, getting my certification through the American Canoe Association. I’ve taught canoeing to people of all ages and all abilities. I once had two deaf people in the same canoe. We figured out a system of hand movements to get them working together to move their boat through the water. I love teaching canoeing for the same reason I love many parts of my job; it’s showing people something they may have never done before. Sometimes that means learning that canoeing is easy and fun. 

Just off Main Road in Delaware, our smallest park, River Run, provides access to the Olentangy River. It’s a great little place to put in for a canoe or kayak float. But there are some things you should know before you head out onto the water.

No matter where you go, safety on the water should be your number one priority. Be sure to have a life jacket and plenty of water. It’s a good idea to also bring sun screen, dry clothes, and a cell phone. You should always boat with a buddy, but if you must go alone, let someone on land know where you’re going and what time you’ll be back. Make sure you are familiar with the waterway you are boating. Dress for the weather.

Low Head Dam – By Chris Light [CC BY-SA 4.0 (
licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
If you decide to float the Olentangy from River Run, it’s a good idea to check the outflow of the Delaware Dam. If the water level is too low, you won’t get very far. If the water is high, a beginner could get into trouble. The outflow of Delaware Dam is measured in cubic feet per second (cfs). You can find Delaware Dam outflow information here. Anything above 100 cfs is good for a float from River Run. There is a great take out spot at Mingo Park in Delaware. It’s 6 miles if you float from River Run to Mingo, and with at least 100 cfs outflow it should take 2-3 hours.

On many of the waterways around Ohio, you need to watch out for low head dams. They were installed to help raise water levels for municipal water supplies, and are a danger because they produce recirculating currents that can trap and even drown paddlers. You should never go over a low head dam, nor approach one from the downstream side. If the water is high enough, you may not even notice a low head dam. ODNR provides a map of all the low head dams in Ohio, and you can find it here. Know where these dangerous structures are and be sure to portage (carry your boat on land) around them. There is a low head dam just north of the Main Street bridge, but if you put in at River Run, you are already south of it. The next low head dam on the Olentangy is just before it goes under 23 just south of Delaware – past the point where you would have exited the river at Mingo Park. After that, there are no low head dams until you get inside 270 in Franklin County.

Paddling is a one of my favorite ways to enjoy the outdoors. As we try to squeeze as much out of the last few days of summer as possible, please remember to take those extra steps to stay safe around the water.

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