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Ohio River

 

Markland Dam (Mile 531.5) to Warsaw, Kentucky (Mile 528)

 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

 

 

NOTE: This journal includes a portion of the Indiana shoreline that I missed the last time I was out here – Warsaw to Patriot.

 

 

Yes, I’ll admit it…  I bit off a little more than I could chew out here the last time and missed a section.  Hey, it was my first trip on the Ohio River - I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Today I wanted to rectify the situation while also exploring the area between the Markland Dam and Warsaw.  Yes, this would necessitate a downriver paddle to begin - something I don’t usually like to do - but I’ll explain further below…

 

The charts for this section of the river (102 and 103) are available at (http://www.lrl.usace.army.mil/optm/article.asp?id=145&MyCategory=41), but let me first mention for the sake on continuity that I’ll be describing this trip in an upriver fashion.  Not only are the miles numbered that way on the charts, but that’s also the way that I recommend paddling any river – upstream (try getting stuck downriver after the wind picks up and you’ll know what I mean!). 

 

Yes, I did the opposite today, by only after checking out the wind forecast for the area and only after getting to know it better on the charts.  Also influencing my decision:  I knew exactly where the ramp in downtown Warsaw was and my luck at finding ramps has been pretty much abysmal! Lastly:  this was a short section.  If the wind did pick up I’d only have to paddle a short distance back.  ( Warsaw’s a great city, by the way.  Check out their website at http://www.cityofwarsawky.org/). 

 

At any rate, I got my gear together and started paddling as a set of barges floated by under the escort of a Marathon Oil push boat called the Cincinnati. In fact, it seemed that Marathon was pretty busy today – a second set of their barges passed me by before I got all the way to the dam, this time being pushed by the Detroit. 

 

The dam is a pretty monumental sight as you approach it, by the way…

 

 

…and speaking of which, I made my approach on the lock or Kentucky side (the safer side where the boats go through).  I certainly wasn’t going to chance approaching from the other side!  My luck, I’d get caught by a current and pulled over.  That would mean certain death!  Besides, the lock side was intimidating enough as it was!  I really hugged that shoreline as I tried to catch a glimpse of what the landscape might look like up by the lock corner.  If I could get out of my boat and up onshore I might be able to get a better view of the barges locking through – a process I’d never before witnessed.  (I didn’t get all the way to the lock corner, by the way – lost my nerve – but I saw no easy take-out points.) 

 

Meanwhile, I’d heard the lock-through process can take some time, and since nothing yet seemed to be happening on this front I decided to see if I could get a better view of it from across the water.  However, prior to making that crossing I first paddled back upriver about ½ mile from the dam (near a marker called Arrival Point) for a measure of added safety.  Then, paddling in a slow upriver arc to counteract the slight wind and current I began to cross, only changing direction slightly past mid-river to then head in a direct line toward the opposite shoreline.

 

Once there, I found the shoreline to be pretty trash strewn, yet it was otherwise pretty pleasant with a nicely forested bank.  As far as the northeast corner of the dam, it appeared to contain a marsh-like area (although I again lost my nerve and didn’t get too close – I just didn’t know exactly what to expect).

 

Meanwhile, I didn’t forget to keep an eye on what was happening across the way.  Apparently the ships come up to lock gate, and once all is clear the gate is lifted and they enter into an inner chamber which will then lower them to the same level as exists on the opposite side of the dam.  I watched as the Detroit sloooowly submerged and disappeared from sight.

 

OK…   Since I’m technically starting my trip at this point, I’ll mention here that this section of river has roads which follow it for its entire length – IN156 on the Indiana side and US42 on the Kentucky side.  There are also 2 creeks which drain into the Ohio just before mile 530:  Dans on the Indiana side and Craigs on the Kentucky side.  I checked out Dans first…

 

Just inside its mouth there’s a beautiful riverboat casino - the Miss Belterra - part of the Belterra Casino complex which contains the tallest building for miles, a hotel.  Now I think I made it back into Dans about 200 – 300 yards, but to be honest I lost track of my paddle count.  I was distracted both by the boat and by the spectacular swan I encountered in the back of this stream!

 

 

Meanwhile, Craigs Creek Cove on the Kentucky side was a pretty sizeable one and I got back just shy of 2 miles.  I noticed 2 ramps inside the mouth as well.  The one on the right was public, and it looks to be a short drive southeast from the US42/Knox-Lilliard Road intersection.  This is the ramp I’d suggest using if you’d like to explore this section. 

 

The ramp on the other side belongs to the Smugglers Cove Marina, formerly Dans (this Dan must have been quite a guy – there was a ramp and a creek named after him!).  Smuggler’s Coves’ website is http://smugglerscovemarinaonline.com, but the Pier 99 Marina is also back here with a convenience store and BP gas station.  Seems Craigs Creek is quite the aquatic playground! 

 

Anyway, this cove spreads in a few directions, but I headed back and to the right, eventually reaching a “T” about 1 ¼ miles in.  There were 2 low bridges back here, just negotiable to the paddler but a bit too low for a power boat.  Both were navigable too, but I didn’t have enough time.  I opted for the one on the right - Craigs Creek itself. 

 

After you negotiate the bridge on this one you’ll be in a totally different environment.  Compared with all the boats and houses you’ll have seen to this point, it looks much more like a wilderness back here.  It also branches again, so just to be consistent I headed to the right, soon finding myself in a very low lying area where the houses had returned. 

 

“Hmmm…  This is getting a little too up close and personal.”  I thought.  “I think it’s time to head back now!”  And so, once I’d gotten to the end of the other (unnamed) branch, I encountered a beautiful environment... 

I also had a meeting with a pretty bold little turtle that held its’ ground long enough for me to get some less than perfect pictures…

 

Back to the Ohio  Just as you emerge from Craigs Creek there’s a nice looking restaurant with a great deck on the Kentucky side where you might spend some quality time with the river – the Sunset Grill (http://sunsetgrillontheriver.com) – and just upriver from this is another interesting spot at which a few old barges have been left discarded along the shoreline.  In fact, a couple appear to have been made into a makeshift dock.

 

Meanwhile, the Turtle Creek enters at mile 529 on the north side of the river on the outskirts of Florence, Indiana.  I didn’t paddle in since it looked pretty crowded with boats, but there’s a harbor here along with the Castaways Yacht Club and a Marathon station for boats.  It looks really nice!

 

…and speaking of looking nice, check out Warsaw, Kentucky on the other side at mile 528… 

 

(As a side note, there’s an ancient ramp just downriver from Warsaw on the Indiana side.  It doesn’t look to be solid enough for power boats, but it would be OK for paddlers.  Seems there’s a pull-off from the side of the road - IN 156 - from which you can access it).

 

Also passing me at about this point was the Steven J Mason of the Ingram Barge Company (http://www.ingrambarge.com)...

 

It was from here on that I was exploring the aforementioned area that I missed the last time in Indiana.  Once again, the shoreline is very nicely forested at this point, and the foliage reminded me of just how close we were getting to fall - the leaves were just beginning to change color. 

 

I also met what I believe was an osprey in this section.  These birds are simply amazing the way they fish!  You’ll catch them out of the corner of your eye as they swoop down from whatever tree they’ve been perched upon and hit the water – hard! – to grab their prey.  You’d think they might hurt themselves hitting the water so heavily, but it’s quite a spectacle.

 

Last up – Bryant Creek.  This one appears to be quite private at first, but that’ll soon change with a public ramp back on the left and quite a few boats and dwellings on the right.  I got in about 1 ¼ miles.  In terms of navigability this cove is “A” shaped, with 2 points of drainage into the Ohio and a tiny little island in the middle.  I encountered a heron in here with a great perch to start…

 

…and I also thought the fallen tree below made for an interesting sight…

 

This cove gets really shallow at the furthest point and the fish were really enjoying it.  In fact, all it seems you’d need is a canoe or kayak and a net!  They were jumping all around me.  Even the ones I couldn’t see left telltale swooshes of mud in the water.

 

Anyway, emerging back onto the Ohio from the other side of the “A”, I was intrigued by the sight of a little pier out in the middle of nowhere and I crossed back to the Kentucky side at about the same point I did last time, across from a really grand house.  I got back to Warsaw barely before dark. 

 

The ramp and park look pretty safe, by the way, but I did notice a certain element which might be of concern if you arrive solo much later than that.  I say might because my instincts as far as people’s tendencies are usually wrong.  As always, however, pick your spots and be please careful out there – bring a phone too.

 

DIRECTIONS:

 

From Cincinnati:

 

I took the Verona exit off of I71 and headed north on KY14 until it dead-ended at a combined US42/127 in 2.5 miles.  Then taking a left, I simply kept following the US42 signs until I reached Warsaw, Kentucky.  I took a right on 1st Street (before the Family Dollar) and eventually spotted the ramp right down by the water, but there are about 3 streets you can take a right on and still arrive at the same place.  Look for the little pier and picnic canopy.

 

From Louisville:

 

Take the KY35 exit off I71 and head north directly into downtown Warsaw.  Then, if you just keep going north (around the old courthouse) toward the water you’ll wind up at the ramp and park.