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family on river kayaking at The Ohio River Paddlefest in Cincinnati Ohio

Paddle Ohio

The top 5 places to kayak and canoe in Ohio.

The Ohio River Paddlefest in Cincinnati

Paddle Ohio

By Emily Floyd

Posted On: Aug 1, 2021

One favorite outdoorsy pastime in Ohio is kayaking and canoeing. Ohio has an abundance of rivers, creeks, and lakes perfect for paddling the day away – whether you're searching for somewhere to leisurely float along or some rapids! Here are five favorite places to paddle:

group of people canoeing the little miami river in cincinnati with canoes from Morgan's canoe livery

Little Miami River in Cincinnati

The little Miami River is the premiere kayaking and canoeing destination in Southwestern Ohio. Located near Cincinnati and running 111 miles through five of Ohio's southwestern counties, there's plenty of water trail to traverse. A great place to launch from is near Fort Ancient (Lebanon Morrow/S.R. 123 Exit 32 off of I-71), a stretch of the river that meanders through a lush valley. The area has many places to pull off for a picnic lunch, take a dip in the river, and even camp overnight.

If you're in search of a place to rent watercraft, I highly recommend Morgan's Canoe Livery, which offers several different packages as well as campgrounds among other amenities.

blue raft with yellow hocking hills text on side from hocking hills canoe livery along hocking river in athens county ohio

Hocking River in Fairfield, Hocking and Athens County

The Hocking Hills region of Southeastern Ohio is one of the most beautiful areas in the entire state, and if you're looking for an alternative to hitting the trails, paddling down the Hocking River is a great option. Boasting some of the same famous scenery featured along the trails of Hocking Hills State Park, the river is an incredibly beautiful destination!

One popular place to rent watercraft is Hocking Hills Canoe Livery, which offers kayaking and canoeing, as well as rafting. 

people with canoes wearing shirts from trapper johns

Big Darby Creek near Columbus

Big Darby Creek, located in central Ohio, is a perfect place to experience Ohio's incredible biodiversity. This National Scenic River is located among hundreds of acres teeming with wildlife, making the Battelle-Darby Metro Park a must-see!

If you're looking to rent, one of the more popular liveries is Trapper Johns, located about 20 minutes south of Columbus, in Grove City. The company offers an array of trips that cover both the Big and Little Darby Creeks. If you're feeling a bit more adventurous, they even offer a moonlight paddle experience!

family sitting on shore with feet in the water in front of marblehead lighthouse in ohio

Lake Erie near Sandusky/Marblehead

Having grown up visiting Lake Erie, this is one of my personal favorite places to experience Ohio's natural beauty. Lake Erie offers a more leisurely kayak and canoe experience, with a multitude of bays and alcoves to paddle around. The Marblehead area is incredibly scenic, and has many public areas to launch out from.

There's also an abundance of wildlife and natural scenery, as well as some famous and historic vistas such as the Marblehead Lighthouse, Cedar Point, and Kelley's Island. Plus, Lake Erie has some amazing sandy beaches if you're looking to stop off for a picnic lunch and soak up some rays!

river at mohican state park in ohio

Mohican River in Loudonville

The Mohican River located in Loudonville, which has been nicknamed 'Ohio's Canoe Capital' due to the abundance of liveries located in close proximity to the town, is definitely an essential part of this must-see list. Being located between both Columbus and Cleveland, Loudonville is a convenient destination. The river runs through Mohican State Park, which is arguably one of the most beautiful regions of the state.

If you want to make your paddling experience into a weekend-long adventure, the area boasts both camping and lodging accommodations, as well as other activities such as hiking and zip lining! Mohican Adventures offers canoes, camp and cabins for the ultimate family fun weekend.

young couple paddling on ohio river at ohio river paddle fest in cincinnati ohio

BONUS: The Annual Ohio River Paddlefest

This first Saturday in August - Aug. 7 this year - Paddlefest is one of the largest paddling events with over 2,000 participants traveling to paddle in canoes, kayaks and other fun human-powered water crafts. For even more fun, check out their Outdoors for All Expo on Friday, Aug. 6, which features exhibits on local parks, places to pickup outdoor gear and other outdoor fun ideas! 

You can find information on the great rivers and streams to paddle in Ohio at ODNR

And for more outdoor fun and adventures, check out #OhioFindItHere at Ohio.org.

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