Late Autumn Paddle on An Historic Ohio River

Paddle on An Historic Ohio River

The Muskingum River is the longest continually navigable river in Ohio, and offers an enjoyable and easy day of kayaking, particularly on a week day in late autumn.

Muskingum Water Trail

In 2006, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources granted water trail status to the Muskingum River, the longest continually navigable river in the state of Ohio. The water trail designation is an initiative to increase accessibility of Ohio’s rivers and streams by providing well sited and designed launch ramps and up to date navigation information. With easy to find and use launch sites, and lots of water, the Muskingum River offers an enjoyable and leisurely day’s paddle, especially for novice kayakers.

Muskingum River History

The Muskingum River begins at the confluence of the Walhonding and the Tuscarawas rivers in Coshocton County. It is joined about ten miles downstream by Willis Creek, and about fifteen miles further downstream by the Licking River.

The river valley has ample evidence of Hopewell Indian villages and mounds dating back to 100 B.C. After that, the area was home to Native American peoples who named the river Moos-kin-gung, meaning Elk Eye River for the vast herds of elk that once roamed the river valley. After the American Revolution, the first permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory was established in Marietta, where the Muskingum meets the Ohio.

By 1841, a series of canal, dams, and hand operated locks were completed. These improvements to river navigability helped make this corner of Ohio Pottery supplier to the world, because not only was the area rich in the natural resources required for making the pottery, it could now be shipped down the Muskingum to the Ohio, and down the Mississippi to New Orleans. From there, Mc Coy, Weller, Roseville and others found customers all over the globe.

The original locks are on the National Register of Historic places, and are still in operation, and still operated by hand. These locks are available for use by pleasure and commercial boats for a fee, and are open during the season (from May through October) on weekends and on Fridays and Mondays as well during the summer. Most of the lock & dam areas have fairly easy portages for kayaks and canoes, but not all. All boaters, whether they plan to lock through or portage should contact the regional park office in advance.

Muskingum River Views

At 112 miles, the river runs through just about every type of environment in the state of Ohio, from small cities such as Coshocton, Zanesville, and Marietta, to woodlands, to gently rolling hills and farming country. In the stretch between Ellis Dam and Riverside Park in Zanesville, you’re apt to share the riverbank with cows seeking the shade of the towering elm, cottonwood, walnut and sycamores that line the banks, along with dense paw-paw thickets. Fishing is good here, with plentiful bluegills, crappie, saugeye, flathead and channel catfish, and largemouth, smallmouth, black, striped, white and spotted bass.

Because of its size, the river almost always has enough water for all kinds of boats, and can therefore be busy especially on weekends during the summer season, but properly dressed kaykers have it all to themselves in late autumn during the week.

Posted by
Arthur G. Moore

Arthur G. Moore is a veteran paddler. He has over 10 years of whitewater kayaking experience in his kitty. When he was young, he used to love kayaking in rapid III and rapid IV but as time went on, he decided to concentrate mainly on covering long distances on a standard touring kayak. He is currently working as a senior editor for Kayak Manual.

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