PLACES TO GO ON LAND HOME PLACES TO GO ON WATER
Belleville Dam (Mile 204) to Hocking River (199.5)
October 18th, 22nd and 24th 2012
This section was a challenge. It actually took me 3 days and about 60 miles of paddling to cover this little 4 ½ mile section of the Ohio! Why? The only public put-in I found in this area was slightly more than 4 miles up the Hocking River... To explore this area, then, you’ve got to paddle that 4+ miles out to the Ohio just to start (and if you count the return trip that’s about 8 ½ miles just to get to the river). Then you’ve got another 4 ½ to explore on the Ohio itself. Double that for a round trip as well, add it to the 8 ½ miles you’ve already paddled and you’ve already gone about 17 ½ miles.
…but what if you want to explore all the side streams too? Well, then you’ve got another wrinkle – the Lee Creek. The first day I came out here I got to the mouth of the Lee and thought: “This shouldn’t go back very far”. Well it did, and after I got to a split in the water nearly 2 miles in I realized I that wasn’t going to be able to paddle the whole stream without arriving back at the ramp well after dark. I had to head back (a safety concern of mine, being a lone paddler).
On my second day out here, I got on the water at the crack of dawn with the assumption that I’d have enough time to paddle the entire section to include Lee. This time I was able to get it all in and return to the ramp before dark, but with nearly 5 miles of paddling in the Lee Creek alone I hadn’t had time to paddle the other side streams in this section of the Ohio! It had been another full day, yet I still hadn’t been able to see everything I wanted to - hence the 3rd day. On the plus side, I was able to get more than 1000 photographs in the 3 days so I’ll have a lot of pictures to share…
The ramp I used is located right off Ohio Route 7 (or Ohio Route 32, or US Route 50 – they’re all 3 converged on this section of road) near the junction of Route 144. The spot is located in the northeast quadrant of this intersection right on the east bank of the Hocking River. It’s a nice put in with plenty of parking but no facilities.
For this section I’ll just go ahead and start from the Belleville Lock and Dam to keep with continuity (I’ve been describing the river from an upriver perspective). I’ll then put up some pictures of the Hocking River at the end of this journal. I hope to explore it in a separate series of journals at some point in the future.
The Belleville Lock and Dam (http://www.lrh.usace.army.mil/Missions/LocksandDams/BellevilleLocksandDam.aspx) lies at mile 204 and you’ll also find that Rock Run enters directly upstream from it on the Ohio side amid the community of Reedsville. Reedsville is a very picturesque little community, lying as it does alongside a hilly shoreline, yet you won’t be able to get into Rock Run very far. It opens up almost immediately to form a little circle of a pond and then the navigability ends at a small culvert running under Route 7.
Meanwhile, the community of Belleville lies directly on the other side of the water in West Virginia. There looked to be a push boat over there with its own little cove. Go a little further upriver on this same side and you’ll note a large RV park which happens to abut another of the old lock and dam locations (in this case, Old #20). Here the old lock structures look like they’ve really been kept up well. In fact, they might even be used as dwellings now.
As for the RV park, I can’t seem to locate a name for it but it lies very near to the Humphrey Cemetery on the outskirts of town. If you were to follow Public Stream Access Road (a.k.a. County Route 2/5) just north of the community off US68 – and follow it westward to the end – you’d wind up at the spot. For more information, here’s a West Virginia DNR (Department of Natural Resources) site that tells you a little bit about it: http://www.wvdnr.gov/fishing/public_access.asp?county=Wood&type=Public+Access+Sites&point=P158.
Look back over on the Ohio side now and you’ll notice a great scene in the fall with all the houses and the forest foliage. You’ll also have reached a stream called Sugar Camp Run. I paddled into this one under a large metal culvert bridge. You’ll find that this stream doesn’t go back too far (and unfortunately I lost my notes on just how far but it’s got to be less than a mile) but I’d be very respectful of landowner privacy back here. There’s a little cabin that’s very close to the water and had I seen anyone about the place I would have felt like I was impinging on them in this regard.
Paddle back out to the Ohio River now, and the next thing you’ll encounter is the aforementioned Lee Creek on the West Virginia side. I know I’m zig-zagging quite a bit from shoreline to shoreline here, but Lee enters the Ohio near mile 202 in West Virginia directly across the river from the Blake Run Light and Day Marker in Ohio. The picture below was taken looking at the mouth from across the water.
As mentioned, Lee has about 5 miles to explore and I can tell you that it is well worth your time to do so! You’ll encounter a variety of terrains, some beautiful farm scenes and one fantastic little section of palisades! In general, this stream takes the shape of a question mark (albeit an electrified one) and as I neared the mouth I met up with a little duck standing guard. Later I was to be greeted by a couple white geese.
As you first paddle into Lee you’ll find yourself alongside the grounds a beautiful low-lying farm on your left and a large campground on your right. The picture below was taken on the first day when the skies were quite overcast…
You’ll also go under a couple bridges and pass a couple shallow side streams. These streams will also provide you with some pleasant scenes…
Then, just after the second bridge, you’ll encounter a split. You won’t be able to get very far if you go to the right, but you will get a better perspective of the aforementioned farm when you look back out toward the main stream…
Then, as you continue back on the main stream, you’ll make a light left turn followed by a very sharp right and as I look at the maps of this area now, I find that there’s a little road back there on the right side called “Sherwood Forest Drive”. That was the answer to a crossword puzzle clue I just had today – “Where Friar Tuck Frolicked”! (Is that a good sign?) You’ll find other lanes back here too that are named for characters in the book: Friar Tuck, Little John, Nottingham, and of course, Robin Hood! It seems that the coiner of these names was a big fan of the classic tale!).
Anyway, in this section I also passed by another bird, in this case a Muscovy Duck. These avians have red around the eyes and they look more like geese due to their size. They’re apparently endemic to South America but it seems they’re also starting to migrate up here a bit more. I’ve seen a few of them on my trips. You can find out a lot more them by visiting their Wiki page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscovy_Duck. Someone did a really nice job on this write-up.
Anyway, you’re soon to see some nice rock palisades on your left as you pass around the sharp right curve I mentioned and in the midst of these is a great resting spot upon which the owner of this land might enjoy fishing…
Pass by a couple dwellings on your right now and you’ll enter into a left curve followed by a straight stretch. Reach the end of this, and you’ll find another fantastic farm to go with a major split in the stream. This area is a fairly wide, low lying one in which you’re apt to encounter numerous varieties of bird life.
Head to your left from here and you’ll be on the north fork. Head to the right, and you’ll be on the converged middle / south forks. I opted to explore the north fork first…
I sure hope I’ll be able to find the notes I took because I can’t remember exactly how far back in meandered in this direction. It had to have been at least a mile though. What you’ll do is pass a couple very small side streams and then straighten out to enter into a lazy left curve, and it’s along this curve that you’ll note what look like some picnic shelters (there might be a little lake back there too). This might very well be a private camping area. (Also of note is that there appears to be a road back there named “Schultz Mill”. Was there a grist mill nearby at one point? If so, I didn’t see any sign of it.)
At any rate, the slack water in this particular fork of the Lee ends soon after this, but not before it introduced me to a very picturesque little bridge… I’ve mentioned before that I really look forward to the surprise of discovering just what kind of scene will greet me at the back of any given stream. Sometimes it takes me quite a while and quite a lot of work to get there, but the views at the end have seldom disappointed. Such was the case here. I’d note again, however, that you’ll probably want to mind your “P’s and Q’s” back here. There’s another dwelling which lies pretty close to the water. You probably won’t want to get too close.
Back at the convergence of the forks, I next took a left to explore the Middle/South fork. I immediately met with the scene below. In this direction you won’t go very far before you reach a bridge that spans overhead. This is US68, and just after you pass under you’ll find that the forks split alongside the grounds of another farm. The farmhouse itself lies atop a little hill which slowly tapers down to the water amid what amounts to a mown stretch of grassland. It really has a commanding view and I was again a little bit self-conscious. As a result, I didn’t attempt the middle fork out of respect for the landowner but I did take a right to try a little of the south fork.
This branch will first take you along a fairly sharp left curve around the grassy land of the farm and at one point I espied a little cat furtively hunting for mice. Talk about getting the “evil eye”!
Then, when the curve ends and you begin to veer right you’ll see a spot where a bridge used to go over the water. Straighten out and you’ll find a bridge which still does span the water. It’s after this that you’re apt to be captivated by a beautiful sight – a sweet little section of palisades which concludes at foot-high waterfall! After 3 long days of paddling this was a very nice send off and it was well worth the wait!
Here are a couple scenes as I paddled back to the convergence of the forks…
…and as I was coming back to the Ohio on the first day I stopped to take this last picture from Lee Creek. Here I’m looking out at the Ohio just as a push boat is going by with a load of barges…
Back on the Ohio you’ll now be in the midst of a straight stretch which will deposit you in Hockingport, Ohio at the end – but not before you pass by another culvert on your left at mile . This one is for Indian Run. Like the culvert back at Sugar Camp Run you’ll be able to get under this one to explore a little bit if you want. In fact, I saw a power boat back here! The gentleman must have had to duck under the deck of his boat to get in. Below are some scenes from this stream…
I took the picture below back on the Ohio. The fall foliage was great today.
By this time you will have been able to the community of Hockingport, Ohio up ahead. What follows are some photos which were taken alternatively on sunny and cloudy days.
Before you get to the mouth of the Hocking River on your right hand side – and just before – you’ll reach another incoming stream. It’s unnamed so far as the charts go, but it’s a nice diversion. I got back perhaps ½ mile. Interesting here is that it looks like there’s a very narrow strip of land dividing this stream from the Hocking River and upon that land you will find an amazing dwelling. I hope the owners of this abode don’t mind my putting up this photo, because this is one unique sight! The house in the second photo below is actually a little paddlewheel boat! If, perhaps, the two streams ever rise to the point where this area is flooded the owner here will have no problem. He’ll simply float on the water!
These next two pictures were taken from the mouth of the Hocking – one on either side. There are some great looking dwellings here and there’s also a place that you can stop at to get gasoline for your boat.
I’ll leave you with a few pictures from the Hocking River. The Hocking is set to be a whole other series of trips for the future, but my main concern now is how I can possibly do the next upriver section of the Ohio itself. The next public ramp on the Ohio is in Belpre at mile 186.5 – fully 13 miles upriver from the mouth of the Hocking (and there look to be many long side streams in that section). There sure is a lot of water to paddle out here. I hope that this journal will be helpful to anyone who wants to paddle out here and wants to know what it might be like to do so.
The ramp I used is located right off Ohio Route 7. Don’t get confused as I did, however. US50 and Ohio Route 32 also merge with Route 7 for a time, but if you were to stay on Route 7 travelling between Parkersburg, WV and Pomeroy, OH this ramp would be almost right in the middle of the two cities near the junction of Route 144 just northeast of Coolville, Ohio. The spot is located in the northeast quadrant of the intersection right on the east bank of the Hocking River. It’s a nice put in with plenty of parking but no facilities.