PLACES TO GO ON LAND HOME PLACES TO GO ON WATER
Racine Lock and Dam (Mile 237.5) to Mill Creek (Mile 231.5)
Friday, September 21, 2012
River Charts 161 and 162
If you, too, ever want to attempt a navigation of the Ohio River via out-and-backs trips then I can tell you right now that you’ll probably be putting in a good amount of time at the public boat ramp in Millwood, West Virginia that I used today – especially if you also want to explore all the side streams. This was my second consecutive time here and I’ll probably be putting in a third (full directions below).
The reason for this is that you’re in the midst of a 16 ½ mile stretch of the Ohio River here and this is the only free public put in that I know of between the Racine Dam at mile 237.5 and the ramp in Ravenswood, West Virginia at mile 221. You’ll thus need to break the distance into 2 sections unless you want to do a 33 mile out-and-back.
Not only that, but I’ve found out that the slack water in Mill Creek (into which this Millwood ramp enters) goes back a full 6 ½ miles for the paddler. It’s not until you reach a series of 3 riffled sections that your progress is likely to be impeded. As a result, this creek is a 13 mile out-and-back paddle by itself and a full day trip for most. I’ll cover it in a later journal. For this particular narrative, I’ll continue to relate my progress on the Ohio in an upriver fashion starting from the Racine Lock and Dam at mile 237.5.
First, however, here’s how to get out to the Ohio from the ramp… When you put in you’ll want to make a right (a right from the perspective of one standing at the bottom of the ramp looking out, that is). You’ll essentially be headed west. Then, when you reach the first intersection (just past a little side stream) you’ll head right again. The Ohio is a little over a mile away after a sharp “S” curve and a Valley Incorporated (http://www.valleyincwv.com/) terminal. When you reach the river your eyes will be met with a scene like the one below.
Anyway, when you reach the Racine Lock and Dam complex at mile 238 you’ll find that it actually seems to lie closer to the community of Letart Falls than it does to Racine. I turned around at the arrival point not wanting to get too close (the second picture is a "zoom in"). Here you’re in the midst of what is, for the Ohio River, a rather extreme left curve which extends from here all the way to the mouth of the Mill Creek at 231.5 and beyond.
You’ll also see that there’s a CSX Railroad line which runs throughout this entire stretch on the West Virginia side (I’d see one train later in the day), while in Ohio you’ll find some pretty impressive looking farmland - if you have the height to be able to observe it! I didn’t in my kayak this time, but wait until the next upriver section!
Anyway, the area around the dam was one that I was hard pressed to get good pictures of because the area was so vast. The sun glare didn’t help either, so - like the last time - my pictures turned out much better when I took them looking backward. The last shot below was taken in this fashion as the William H. Elliot passed by me heading toward the lock chamber...
By the time you reach mile 236 you’ll find a spot on the charts that’s indicated as being an occasional loading and unloading spot near the mouth of Spring Run, but I found the stream itself to be too clogged with algae today to be paddle-able. It looks, however, like this stream marks the downriver end of the community of Letart, West Virginia (as opposed to the Letart Falls, Ohio community which lies just across the river). There’s an old boat ramp here as well but it looks private.
Perhaps more significantly, you’ll also be looking at the tip of an island here. …and guess what the name of it is? Letart Island! I didn’t end up having the time to paddle around it but by my estimation it’s around a mile in circumference. Also of note is that this land mass is part of the Ohio River Island National Wildlife Refuge, run by the Fish and Wildlife Service (http://www.fws.gov/northeast/ohioriverislands/). Trespassing on this particular island is forbidden, but I do know that some of the other islands allow for exploration, most notably the Manchester Islands down at mile 396.
After you pass the northern tip of the island at mile 235 you’ll see Tombleson Run enter the river on the West Virginia side at mile 235. I was able to get into this one about ½ mile and I did see a ramp back here that the charts indicate as being Larry’s Locker Campground and Marina. There were some RV’s parked here but I saw no boats docked.
Go a little further past the ramp you’ll find some great houses as the water begins to get a little shallow. I stopped at a point where the stream makes a sharp left curve to enter into a little hollow. Here I was a bit too self-conscious to continue due to the proximity of the dwellings and the low shoreline, but it sure was beautiful! The first two pictures were taken in the back of the creek while the last one was taken as I came out and looked back downriver toward the dam.
When you reach mile 234 back on the Ohio you’ll find that the point marks the division between Mason County and Jackson County (http://www.jacksoncounty.wv.gov/Pages/default.aspx) in West Virginia. The Jackson website has a beautiful picture of the landscape which is typical of the area, but it was also in here that I began to see a group of what were either egrets or white heron on the Ohio shoreline. Alas, the picture is not the best…
Also at this point is a Shelly Materials location (http://www.shellyco.com/), although I did see a sign marked “Reserve Transportation Inc.” here too. You’ll find Shelly locations all over the river and I’ve seen them as far downriver as Gallipolis. I’m sure they have many more as well. Check out “Mr. Hungry” in the second shot!
…and look across the river here too. There’s a great looking home in a beautiful location just upriver from this point. It’s at the same spot as the Tom’s Run Light and Day Mark at mile 233.5. What a great rural railroad scene! I hope the owner doesn’t mind me putting up this picture, but if Tom’s Run is a stream in this area I saw no sign of it!
Neither did I see Johns Run for that matter! It’s supposed to enter the river at mile 232.5 right at the spot of a Martin Marietta location (http://www.martinmarietta.com/). This company produces sand and gravel from a mine that they operate here. Also note the nice floral basket that nature has made of one of their old barges…
Paddle another mile and you’ll have reached the mouth of the beautiful Little Mill Creek. I made it a bit over a mile into this one, yet it wasn’t just the scenery that made this such a wonderful experience! You see, as I paddled I was hearing the beautiful sound of church bells! To hear such sounds amid such an equally incredible background was a deeply memorable experience for me. In fact, it made for a perfect symphony of sight and sound which, combined with the spirituality of the music, was very moving. Watch out for bee hives though (check out the last picture)!
Mill Creek itself (as opposed to the Little Mill Creek I just described) lies just a little further upriver on the Ohio. It’s across from the community of Apple Grove, Ohio at about mile 231.5. As mentioned, there’s quite a bit to explore back in this stream and I’ll soon compose a separate journal on it. The first picture below is a preview of the next trip on the Ohio from this point while the second is a preview of one scene you’ll find back here.
From the McDonalds in downtown Point Pleasant, West Virginia head out of town on State Route 2 (toward Ravenswood) and go 20 miles. Then keep your eyes peeled for the State Route 62 intersection. (You’ll note that Route 62 will have veered off to your right earlier in this stretch – it rejoins Route 2 here). You’ll make a right and then another immediate right into the ramp parking lot. You can’t really miss it – it’s right there. I also saw a couple farm produce vendors across from this point. This ramp has a good but not incredible amount of parking. There are no facilities.