PLACES TO GO ON LAND HOME PLACES TO GO ON WATER
Syracuse, Ohio (Mile 245.5) to Racine Lock and Dam (Mile 237.5)
Thursday, September 13, 2012
(Navigation Charts 159, 160 and 161)
The ramp in Syracuse that I used for this trip (see directions below) is a really nice one with a very interesting little ecosystem off to the left of it when you get to the bottom. The location is also part of the Syracuse Community Park so there’s plenty of parking available here, but even if you can’t find anything there are some overflow options.
Today I got on the water, headed over to the West Virginia side in order to get the best pictures of Syracuse and Racine, and then began paddling upriver. From the point of the ramp you’re at about mile 245.5 on the Ohio and what the river will do here is make a right curve, to follow with a long 4 ½ mile straight stretch. Then, after a second right curve, you’ll arrive at the Racine Lock and Dam up at mile 237.5 to end this section.
You’ll find, by the way, that the bulk of my pictures were taken from the vantage point of one looking downstream as this was the best way to take advantage of the sun today. This is evident in the pictures below. The first was taken looking back at the area around the ramp and the second is one of Syracuse, Ohio.
Syracuse is, as one might expect, a very small town with a population that’s purported to be a little less than 1000. I can’t find a web presence for them, but I did notice a nice looking little café in town called the River Way Café. From a river perspective, however, one spot that particularly intrigued me was the one pictured below. Quite a bit of landscaping has obviously been done here and I’m wondering if this might have been part of an old town park (one older than the one from which I put-in).
Meanwhile, on the other side of the river, there’s another little town called New Haven, West Virginia. This community is supposed to be a little larger than Syracuse (at around 1500 in population) but I couldn’t see much of it at all from the water.
Reaching the mouth of the Little Broad Creek at mile 244 I turned around to take the first picture below. The Little Broad was navigable roughly 200 yards for me today (back to the point of a bridge span for US highway 33) and when I came out my eyes were met with scenes like those in the second picture…
Check out the river bank in here too! I’m wondering what kinds of creatures might live in all those holes you see? Beaver? Otter? …or maybe groundhogs like the one I saw back at the Mason/Pomeroy Bridge?
Anyway, just upriver from this creek you’re going to start to see quite a bit of industry on the West Virginia side as you make your way around the first right curve in the river. Coming up is a very large American Electric Power (AEP) operation and as I started to paddle around this area I did so very carefully, yet when I saw a towboat approaching up ahead I decided that it would be better – and safer – for me to paddle back over on the Ohio side.
You’re apt to find several vessels in this area and I initially encountered two of them - the one which was approaching (the Bruce D. of McGinnis Inc.), and another vessel which had passed me heading toward this point on my last downriver trip (the Mr. King, also of McGinnis http://www.mcginnisinc.com/). It seems that McGinnis might be one of the contractors for the plant.
Later, after I’d passed through the area, I took the shot below looking back. I think it gives the best overall view of the area (that’s the towboat Andy Mullins below with the red crane, by the way). AEP actually has two power plants here in close proximity. The first is the Mountaineer Plant at mile 243 (it’s the one with the nuclear reactor) followed by the Philip Sporn Plant at mile 242. The Sporn location is apparently set to close at the end of 2014, however, and here’s an article about it: http://www.mydailytribune.com/view/full_story/14035327/article-AEP-Phillip-Sporn-Plant-projected-to-fully-close-by-Dec--2014.
Meanwhile, across from all this in Ohio, your eyes will meet with some very pleasant rural scenes. You’re coming up on the community of Racine and you’ll see a long row of nice houses to start, but once you reach mile 242.5 – at a point right just past the nuclear reactor - look for an old lock and dam. This one, old number 24, appears to have been turned into a campground and RV park.
What floored me, however, was a phenomenon that I didn’t notice until I was returning to the ramp later in the day. It seemed as if there was a large, long, shimmering creature moving just underneath the surface of the water here – one that also had orange spots! It took me a while to take in this scene. What was really happening?
Well, the “creature” was the old lock wall, but why did it seem to be moving? I looked closer and saw the reason... It seems that a school of minnows had been swimming here and that they’d apparently been separated by the wall which lies only about an inch or so under the surface of the water. Well, it turns out that the motion I was seeing was due to the “strays” trying to struggle over the wall to join their comrades!
As for the orange spots on the wall, I can only speculate that they were made as boats bumped against the wall and produced chips. As for the resulting orange hue? Two guesses: either it’s due to some form of algae that might be partial to such spots or perhaps it’s due to some type of mineral exposed under the surface of the rock. I’d be interested to know for sure…
Anyway, once you pass by the second power plant location on the West Virginia side you’ll be in the midst of the Racine community in Ohio. Here I found one old building to be particularly intriguing. It was clearly visible from the water and it appeared to have the name of “Cross - Established 1860”. There’s a nice little beach here too, but if you go a little further up you’ll spot the town boat ramp. This is a multi-lane affair which appears to lie in the midst of another nice community park.
Continuing on, you’ll see some power lines up near mile 241. Here lie some moorings on the Ohio side for a business that I can’t seem to find the name of, while at the same point in West Virginia you’ll find an AEP water intake and what looks to be a grain storage location. When I got to one of the power line towers, however, I spotted something a little more interesting - a huge nest with the “owner” perched near it! This looks like an osprey to me, but I’m not sure...
The West Creek enters here in West Virginia too. It wasn’t navigable to me, yet among the alga that thrives in this section you’re liable to see some gar out “fishing”. These fish are able to camouflage themselves incredibly well. Look how they angle themselves so as to better blend in and disguise themselves from the minnows they’re hunting!
From here on out things will get pretty quiet with only a couple light and day marks to interrupt your reverie as you round a right bend to make your last 3 miles up to the Racine dam. Here you’re apt to find the beaches in West Virginia to be pretty inviting and some of them make for convenient spots to stop, rest and snap off some photo’s. That’s the S. W. Price below…
As for the Racine Dam, I can’t seem to find a lot of information on it other than what’s on the Army Corps of Engineers site (http://www.lrh.usace.army.mil/Missions/LocksandDams/RacineLocksandDam.aspx), yet I found the structure to be just as formidable-looking as the others that I’d encountered - and I certainly tried to steer clear of AEP’s James E. Pinson here as the vessel had to make a wide curve toward me to enter the lock chamber.
For me, however, a distinguishing feature of this one was a very pleasant grove of trees lying on the Ohio side. The areas around the dams aren’t usually so inviting!
From here I headed on back. I’ll explore the area above the dam on the next trip, but what follows are some more of the pleasant scenes which are typical of this section.
From the square in downtown Gallipolis go 21 miles and after Ohio Route 7 goes from one lane to 2 take the Ohio 124 exit. Then, at the end of the ramp, take a right and go about 2 miles until the road dead-ends. Then take a left (heading away from Pomeroy, Ohio) and go 3 ½ miles. You’ll pass a Marathon gas station, the River Way Café, a post office and a roadside turn-off. Then keep a sharp eye out for Marina Street. The ramp is at the end of this very short lane. If you pass up Marina Street just go to the next one, go to the end and follow as it veers to the right around some ball fields. You’ll wind up in the same place.