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Ohio River

 

Cheshire, Ohio Ramp (Mile 257.5) to Pomeroy-Mason or US33 Bridge (Mile 251.5)

 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

 

(Navigation Charts 157 and 158)

 

When I’d paddled from Gallipolis to Point Pleasant last week my camera had gone out and I wasn’t able to get all of the pictures I’d wanted, so today part of the plan was to remedy that situation by paddling the next upriver section while overlapping it with a little of the last trip so as to get some of the pictures I’d missed. The plan changed…

 

The boat ramp I’d end up starting from was in Cheshire, Ohio.  This ramp is a nice one that lies just upriver from the Kyger Power Plant and directly across the river from what I found to be a little island (Eight Mile Island), but when I got on the water I found that the wind was blowing just hard enough that I was going to have to paddle upriver instead of down. 

 

You’ll have to judge for yourself when you’re out but I’ll generally paddle against the wind on a relatively calm river – whether that’s upriver or down - because the current on such a river is likely to be less powerful than the wind.  When I start I want to be against the wind so that later in the day when I’m a little more tired I can be with it.   The Ohio might not be so calm at other times of the year but in the summer it’s pretty tame (provided you don’t go near the dams, of course). 

 

Today I encountered my first towboat – the Wally Roller – almost immediately.  I couldn’t make out what company owns this boat but these well-kept, pleasant looking vessels always make for great scenes on the river - no matter how homely their accompanying barges might look!

 

 

And dominating the scene, of course, was the power plant looming downstream…

 

 

I started upriver, opting to leave the island exploration until next time. 

 

At mile 257 I first encountered what the charts indicated was AEP’s (American Electric Power) York Complex on the east side of the river.  There were a couple boats docked here - the Legacy and a smaller one that I couldn’t quite make out the name of.  I didn’t want to get too close, but I’ve discovered that these smaller boats are usually ones dedicated to the particular spots they’re in.  For example, this smaller boat might move barges just around this particular facility or maybe a little way down the river while the larger one will move barges all the way up and down the river. 

 

Next came mile 256 with a couple things – on the left (Ohio) side there was a business that was indicated as being “J. Hall (Trust)” but I must admit to having no clue on this facility.  I saw no indications, nor can I find anything else online, but I’m assuming this is a business that has something to do with the power industry. It’s fairly close to the plant.

 

 

Meanwhile on the West Virginia side I saw an interesting old structure here too.  The charts indicated that this was a periodic loading point but from the water it looked pretty forlorn.  I did, however, see what looked like a nice family enjoying this pleasant spot on my trip back (and for that matter I also saw some very nice beach-like spots in this section - particularly on the West Virginia side today).

 

 

Next you’ll find the river starting to sweep to the right up ahead as you go under some power lines and at the exact spot they cross you’ll find a little creek on the West Virginia side.  This creek is not indicated on the charts but there’s a large submerged rock at the mouth to distinguish it.  I was only able to get in a matter of several yards.

 

At the same time the curve of the river has occasioned a somewhat interesting shift in the Ohio road patterns.  Looking at a map you’ll find that Ohio Route 7 which has been following just about every curve in the river since Huntington, West Virginia will now veer away from the river.  It’s making a short cut.  It’s heading straight up to Marietta, cutting off a good portion of the river as it does. It seems to be following the principle of “the shortest distance between 2 points is a straight line”! 

 

At mile 255.5 you’ll find a daymark on the Ohio side and as I looked back toward the power plant I got what I thought was the best picture yet.  I have to include it, too, but this will be the last one of the power plant! 

 

 

 

Next in West Virginia came a long line of recreational vehicles which stretched nearly ½ mile. I saw indications as to the Olde Oak Campground and even Camp David here!  For that matter, there also seemed to be several tiny communities on this side spaced within about ½ mile of each other before a couple larger towns cropped up further down – Hallwood, West Columbia and New Castle were their names. Something else of interest?  Up onshore at one point I saw some stone slabs. These might merely have been headstones for graves, but to me they looked more like little concrete bridge supports.

 

Back in Ohio you’ll pass under a couple more sets of power lines at around mile 254.5 and then you’ll spot the mouth of the Leading Creek amid the community of Hobson Station, Ohio.  This stream was an interesting one.  I didn’t know it at the time, but there’s actually a little forest preserve back here, apparently called the Wilson Wetlands Wilderness Area (yeah – a real tongue-twister!). 

 

I couldn’t find any other information on this one but I can tell you there’s a real nice boat ramp at the spot and, as per a sign, the park itself must be part of what they call the Leading Creek Water Trail.  Paddling it would seem to be encouraged and this is a good thing.  The stream is a super nice one with a dense green canopy of trees hanging over much of the length. 

 

 

 

I was able to make it back a good mile and half but you could probably make it back even further. Me, I found that the water was getting very shallow and I felt a little vulnerable paddling by myself having just seen a dog house at a dwelling right up on the bank. The point at which I stopped was one very near where a third bridge in quick succession crosses over the water. The first was apparently a railroad bridge, the second looked to be for County Highway 21 and the third I know was for Route 7. Look how clear the water was back here! Anyway, back the river...

 

 

 

 

When I’d first entered Leading Creek  (taking the picture below) I’d noticed a barge coming toward me on the water – upstream –and I now saw two more as I emerged – another heading upstream and one coming down.  While I didn’t catch the names of the first two (they were too far away) the third one I did catch and I was impressed. 

 

 

I’d first noticed some barges upstream, you see.   They were tall ones with canopies over them yet they were moving so slowly that I at first thought they might actually be stationary.  I thus decided that I had time to paddle back over to the other side of the river and I ended up being happy for this.  It gave me a better glimpse of what was coming. 

 

With its “head” barely visible above the massive load it was carrying I was soon passed by a little towboat aptly named the Nature’s Way Challenger.  It was valiantly striving to bring what was obviously a very heavy load of 9 barges downstream.  This boat was truly an inspiration - a little engine that could, if you will.   

 

 

According to Dicks Towboat Gallery (http://www.towboatgallery.com/Natures_Way_Challenger-0533962.php?mnu) this vessel is owned by a company that is also called Nature’s Way and this would, of course, explain the “N W” logo I saw on the boat.  In researching it, it looks like this company doesn’t yet have a website but it soon will.

 

At any rate, once the Challenger had passed I had the opportunity to check out my surroundings and what I found was an ancient rusted barge on this West Virginia side at about the point of a cleared out, sandy spot.  From here, however, it was really pretty quiet along this shoreline. Another daymark did come up just past mile 253 but after that, there was only what looked like a bit of loading machinery at the site of the Raven Hocking Coal Company before you reach Clifton, West Virginia at mile 252. 

 

In Ohio, however, it will start to get a little busier as you’ll be able to see the beginnings of Middleport, Ohio (http://www.village.middleport.oh.us/vom/WELCOME.html).  Today I was lucky enough to have another towboat (the Dirk Taylor) present this village to me (it’s a village and not a town as per the website) on what looked like a platter of barges!

 

 

Middleport looks quite pleasant and I saw many people out enjoying walks along the water.  They’ve got a boat ramp here too with a little fishing pier but y’know what else they’ve got? I didn’t see any sign of it when I was paddling today but having just looked up the town on an online map I’ve found that there’s a bed and breakfast within walking distance from the ramp –the Downing House Bed and Breakfast! Here’s the website: http://www.thedowninghouse.com.

 

 

 From the history on the website this place looks outstanding.  It was originally owned by a riverboat captain named Downing who befriended none other than Mark Twain!  As such, the rooms at the inn are named after such characters as Huckleberry Finn and Becky Thatcher!  I’ve been looking for places for a paddler might easily stay on the river if they didn’t care to camp and this would appear to be a good option.

 

As for the history of the village itself, it was apparently established in 1798 by a group of settlers who floated down from Marietta (about an hour north of here) in a flatboat.  They settled at the mouth of the Leading Creek at that time, but most of the town now seems to lie a little further upstream. 

 

 

Back in West Virginia the aforementioned community of Clifton, West Virginia lies at mile 252.  A bit smaller in size than Middleport, I almost missed it.  In fact, you could be forgiven if - at first glance - you happened to confuse Clifton with a boat colony!  It’s got a line of boats and/or docks which looks to stretch just about its entire length.

 

All this time, of course, you’ll have been able to see the Pomeroy-Mason Bridge lurking downstream with the city of Pomeroy, Ohio lying just beyond.  This bridge reminded me of the one I saw just downstream of Maysville, Kentucky back near mile 411 (the William Harsha Bridge).  Perhaps these spans seem similar because they were both completed fairly recently and they look quite modern as a result. 

 

Anyway, this Pomeroy-Mason Bridge (according to its Wikipedia page) is also known as the Bridge of Honor and it was apparently completed in 2008 by the C.J. Mahan Construction Company.  It’s quite nice and I’d reach it just after passing a trio of what the charts indicated were ice piers on the Ohio side just upstream from the ramp in Middleport.  [Since writing this I've been apprised of the significance of these ice piers by the Mayor of Middleport .  He tells me that the steamboats used to use these as effective shields against ice flows on this river.   Hiding behind these meant protection from being crushed by flowing ice.  Thank you Mayor Gerlach!]

 

 

I assumed these structures were remnants from an old unloading station, but I also encountered a rarity here – 2 of them, rather.  Fellow paddlers!  These guys were canoeists and they appeared to really be loaded up with gear.  I wondered if they were paddling the entire length of the river…

 

 

 

Anyway, when I got up to the bridge I decided it was time to head back.  This was a little disappointing as I saw on the charts that there was a McDonalds with a dock up in Pomeroy but I figured it would keep until next time. I can’t wait to see it though!

 

Something of interest on the way back, however, was that I thought I saw someone standing atop the summit of a rock outcrop (a promontory, I guess you’d call it) on the West Virginia side at about mile 253!  In looking at a blowup of the picture I took it now, though, it looks more like a little flag.

 

…but will someone please comfort this very sad-looking stone wall?  It looks quite lonely…

 

 

 Last was a stop to enjoy one of the beach-like spots for a time.  It really can be quite enjoyable out here!

 

 

 

DIRECTIONS:

 

 

This is another super-easy one since Cheshire is such a small town.  Cheshire is where the Kyger Power Plant is located.  All you have to do is follow Ohio Route 7 down from Marietta, up from Huntington or just get to the route and follow along it until you get to Cheshire.  The ramp is in the town park at the end of East Poplar Street on the northernmost side of town. County Road 39 will also will take you directly to this ramp.