Ashtabula River
May 8,9,10, 2009




Imagine wanting to canoe a river that you, nor your whole canoe club, has ever canoed. You need information on water levels, access points, camping and other aspects for the trip. The drawback is you live five hours away from the river. That is exactly what Jock was up against while planning the May OHCRA outing on the Ashtabula River. Located in the very northeastern part of Ohio, it is loosely bordered by Lake Erie and Pennsylvania. Jock and member Ron drove to the area a couple weeks before the trip and was put in touch with Matthew Smith, Assistant Scenic River Manager of the Ashtabula River, for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Armed with lots of Matt's knowledge, they soon had a wonderful trip planned. Lance came through, using the internet and found the Hide Away Hills Campground for us to camp in. What team work.

Friday, May 8th, the weather struggled between sun and rain, which made the primitive camping area very damp in spots. Tony arrived early, set up his shelters, and was soon met by Dan and Carolyn. They were out sight seeing to the many covered bridges in the area. Some of the longest covered bridges in Ohio are in the Ashtabula area. Dan and Carolyn were not canoeing this weekend and not long after they drove off, Harold and Laurie pulled in. Jock and Deb had a truck full as Lance and Ron are from the same portion of the state, so they all car-pooled, then Paul and Judy rolled in rounding out the Friday night campers. We tried to have a campfire but with the off and on rain, which was more on, we didn't last long. In fact, everyone was tent bound by 11:00pm, listening to rain pitter-pattering on the fabric.

Covered Bridge

Hide Away Hills Campground is the type of campground that has campers on permanent lots and kids driving golf carts all over. Saturday while eating breakfast, we saw two overweight males riding in a golf cart with a dog running along side. We made a comment about a lazy way to walk a dog. Then moments later, here comes another cart with an elderly couple and their dog, a beagle, was riding ON the cart with it's ears blowing in the breeze. Smart dog.

The morning was dry but clouds loomed overhead and we heard a weather report that called for rain early, then high winds. We had a planned 9:00am shuttle and as soon as Marty and his friend Ken arrived, off we went. The launch site was on Root Road, just south of the village of Kelloggsville, at a covered bridge. After leaving vehicles at the take out on Dewey Road and another covered bridge, we all launched our boats into the current. The Ashtabula is narrow 25 miles upstream from Lake Erie but the water was flowing really nice. The stream gage at Dewey Road was at 1.4 feet and anything lower would have made for a drag. 6 to 10 inches higher and we would have had the ride of a lifetime. The five canoes and four kkkayaks paddled downstream starting at 10:20am, relishing the water and the sounds of springtime. Our goal was 14.5 miles, which seemed to be easily reached with the current we had, however there were a couple logjams to portage over and farther downstream, shale ledges spanned the river from shore to shore. With 5-foot drops, we decided to portage almost all of them for safety reasons. Rain clouds blew over and spared us the drenching we anticipated. Instead, the wind kicked up dramatically, blowing us all over the place. Was it a curse to paddle into the wind or did it just make us stronger, more seasoned paddlers? Only the person in the boat can decide that answer.

Shale Ledges

We made the landing after 6 hours of paddling and headed back to camp only to find Laurie, who did not paddle, trying to "hold down the fort" so to speak. She fought the wind as it blew over and destroyed Lances Easy Up canopy and partially flattened two tents. Thanks Laurie for being there. After relaxing a bit, supper was started. An American Cookout themed potluck was enjoyed by all and as the wind died down, we lit and sat around a nice hot roaring campfire.

Sunday morning Lance and Judy cooked chocolate chip pancakes (regular ones too) while Jock cooked bacon and Tony had some sausage links. With full bellies, camp was slowly dismantled. Since it was Mothers Day, Tony headed out early for his 3-hour drive home to see mom while some of the others went sight seeing to the covered bridges.

Another fine OHCRA trip is in the history books, one that explored an unknown river for the 27-year-old club. Ohio has many interesting waterways just waiting for watercraft of all sorts to float on. So let's get our bodies out there and see what Ohio has to offer!!


View All Pictures From the Ashtabula