PLACES TO GO ON LAND HOME PLACES TO GO ON WATERR
Gallipolis, Ohio (Mile 270) to Point Pleasant, West Virginia (Mile 265)
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
(Navigation Charts 155 – 156)
A proud new resident of Gallipolis, Ohio (http://www.cityofgallipolis.com/index.php) I figured I’d make my first paddle of the year an exploration of the area around me, but with the ramp downtown being the only one within 10 miles of the Robert Byrd Lock and Dam downstream I had only one direction I could effectively go – upriver. You don’t want to make your first paddle of the year a 20 mile out and back - especially if you like to explore the side streams as well (Raccoon Creek and Teens Run in this direction looked fairly lengthy). I therefore decided to wait until I was a little more “warmed up” later in the year for that little jaunt, instead opting for this trip up to the next river town of Point Pleasant. First Gallipolis…
Interesting history here in Gallipolis! It seems the town was essentially given to a group of settlers in order to make amends for wrongs that were done to them by unscrupulous parties. From what I understand a group of settlers was lured across the sea on the promise of some great land near this spot in Ohio. Well, when they got here they found that the rights to the land they had purchased did not exist! They then eventually petitioned the government for help and they got it in the form of some woodcutters who came in and blazed the town plot for them. It really is a great story of wrongs being righted in the name of justice.
As far as how it’s situated, Gallipolis is a town that is nearly right down on the water and it’s quite inviting. There’s a ramp front and center which comes with a large parking lot and a little above that you can clearly see the town park. It would be easy for a paddler to come in, relax at the park for a while, have a meal at the town diner and get supplies at the Dollar General or the hardware store that are right here off the park.
As for today it was a very hazy one with temperatures that must have gotten into the hundreds. You can see this below in the pictures I took of the push-boat Donna York as it passed by. These aren’t the best shots but they do put a hazy day on the river into perspective. You’ll notice how “clouded” the first picture is with the sun glare while the second is much clearer with the sun behind me. If you don’t have something to block the sun you might very well have a load of barges bearing down on you without you knowing it! I don’t wear sunglasses as I want to see the natural color of things when I’m out, but I do have a baseball cap jammed all the way down over my eyes and a towel over my head to block the peripheral sunlight.
Anyway, I first paddled around a little while trying to put Gallipolis in the best perspective picture-wise. Here are the best of what I could get…
Interesting is that just upriver from the town ramp there are some of what the charts call “ice piers”. These are apparently old loading/unloading structures and you can see them to the right of the last picture above. It was taken from the perspective of one who might be paddling down to the city from upstream. [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!]
(There are, by the way, two little streams that enter in this stretch according to the charts and one of them lies directly across from Gallipolis, yet neither was evident to me today. Conversely, I did encounter another later which was.)
A little island (Gallipolis Island) comes up just past mile 269. This is a slender little affair, possibly only ¼ mile in length, but today it provided a nice respite from the sun as I drifted along the left side of it and let the trees on the island side shelter me. A few turkey buzzards seemed to have the same idea! Then, when I reached the northern tip of this island there were some grounds of a local residence which really had a nice setup complete with a few different kinds of trees and a U.S. flag. This was a very pleasant looking spot to enjoy the river.
What I next encountered was a large plot of sandy beach just upriver from the island. It didn’t seem to be being used, but it might eventually – and I hope so for the sake of the Riverside Motel that’s here. The Riverside might be a nice place for a paddler to stop if these grounds were made available for take-outs. You’d only have to cross over Ohio Route 7 (which can be, but is not usually terrifically busy here). Unfortunately this inn doesn’t seem to have its own website but I wish they did – they might have a picture of their classy little riverboat-adorned sign which lies beside the road.
From here the river starts to get a little barge-laden on the Ohio side and I know this to be a very commercial spot with Wal-Mart, K-Mart and just about every fast food restaurant you can name having stakes here. My guess is that judging by how many barges were here today – about 2 solid miles of them – that much of the goods these places sell must still be transported by the river. The whole area is very flat and low-lying with some of the stores visible from the water.
Mile 268 started the barges, and as per the charts this was about same the spot where Arrow Concrete should be (although I can’t find a website for them either) but since there was a little towboat working amongst the barges at this point I decided to head on over to the West Virginia side – I wanted to be out of his way.
Well, it was in the midst of making this crossing that I got my first glimpse of the Silver Memorial Highway Bridge that spans the river between the northern outskirts of Gallipolis and Point Pleasant. It was just up ahead near mile 266. Also visible here in West Virginia was that little uncharted stream I mentioned earlier. As per an online map there’s a road here called Salt Creek Road... Guess what? Maybe this is Salt Creek??? Hmmm…
At any rate, the stream flows under a little viaduct and while I didn’t really find it to be paddle-able per se, I did get some great picture opportunities of the bridge here as well as some of the towboat that was getting a workout on the other side. West Virginia Route 2 is directly beside the water at this point, by the way, and it will stay that way all the way up to Point Pleasant. Likewise, Ohio Route 7 will follow very close to the shoreline on the Ohio side for this stretch.
At mile 267 you’ll find Campbell Transportation (http://www.barges.us) on the West Virginia side. I saw a few vessels here including the Allegheny which was apparently from Pittsburgh, and one called the Kanawha. As per their website, Campbell actually appears to consist of two companies – Campbell Transportation and C& C Marine Maintenance. The former appears to provide transportation services all along the Ohio River together with some of its larger tributaries (including the Allegheny and Kanawha Rivers, namesakes of the boats) while the latter provides all manner of harbor, marine and industrial services to include repairing, cleaning and manufacturing of vessels and barges. You’ll want to steer clear of this facility, however. I saw all kinds of warning signs posted.
Meanwhile, on the Ohio side of the river you’ll see a facility which is prominently indicated as being O-Kan at mile 266 http://www.okanmarinerepair.com. Interestingly, the towboat I’d paddled over to the West Virginia side for earlier was marked with its insignia too – O-Kan Marine Repair. This vessel was really prominent today – it was really working hard – and as I look at the company website now I see the reason why.
While O-Kan is actually O-Kan Marine Repair, they do seem to offer quite a bit more than just that. They also rent barges. Probably most, if not all, of the ones I’d been seeing for the last 2 miles must have been theirs. They also have shops for machining and fabrication according to their website, and they’ve also got a couple floating cranes. They offer dry-docking services too… In fact, the 3 blue “walls” you’ll see here actually look to be part of mechanisms which lift vessels out of the water – and not just small vessels either. These have a 3500 ton capacity (my understanding is that a car weighs about 2 tons)!
Now by this time you’ll have been able to spot a second bridge (the Kanawha & Michigan Bridge) up in the distance. This one is for a railroad, but clearly distinguishable between the two spans will be Point Pleasant with its long break-wall of white rocks.
Then, as you paddle under the first (Silver) bridge something else will become apparent. The Kanawha River! (I saw no sign, by the way, of the Willow Branch which supposedly comes just before the Silver Bridge). The Kanawha meets the Ohio just upriver from mile 266 on the West Virginia side at Point Pleasant, so the community would seem be named for the river convergence.
Yet another bridge spans the mouth of the Kanawha too, so you’ve now got 3 right here – two on the Ohio, one before and one after Point Pleasant, and another on the Kanawha which goes right into Point Pleasant. The picture below was taken as I floated around the tip of the point and looked upriver (on the Ohio) toward the railroad bridge…
Also on the grounds of the park is a monument dedicated to one of the Indian Wars, this one fought against Chief Cornstalk in 1774. It’s the obelisk near the middle of the picture below, next to the flag but that’s not all they have here. In back of the park (not visible) they’ve also got a river museum – the Point Pleasant River Museum (http://www.pprivermuseum.com) and here you can see displays on the history of the river and even take some simulated boat tours.
[Update: I’ve just returned from visiting this museum and what a pleasant experience it is! First of all, the ladies who run it are very gracious and helpful. I was encouraged to take my time in order to explore everything they have to offer. …and what do they have to offer, you ask? Well, just about everything a “riverlorian” could ask for! First of all, they have a great many displays on the history of the river and among these was one I found particularly intriguing – a section on the old show boats (including the Majestic). They also have a separate display regarding the Silver Bridge collapse of 1967 (which, by the way, these ladies helped write the book on: "The Silver Bridge Disaster of 1967". Copies may be ordered directly from the museum.)! I also encountered a remarkable number of model boats on display which included just about every kind of vessel you’ll find on the river.
Not enough? Ok... Do you want to see what kinds of fish are swimming in the water? They’ve got a large aquarium in a separate room which is big enough for you to see some up really close and most of them are quite sizable! In fact, I was so mesmerized just looking at them that I must have stayed in this room for a good 15 minutes alone. Do you want to do some research on the river and its’ history? Well, they’ve got a really impressive library room which covers just about every topic you’ll find relating to the river - be it river vessels, commerce or history – and they’ve also got a little book store and gift shop. Last but certainly not least is their boat simulation room - and I was truly mesmerized by this. You can actually get a feel for what it’s like to pilot various vessels on the water! Me, I spent all my time as a “towboat captain” just because these are the vessels that I see most in my travels, but you can opt for different choices. Anyway, what all this amounts to is one truly fantastic museum and I highly recommend it to anyone!]
Meanwhile, if you look over on the Ohio side you’ll find a long line of distinctive yellow bushes alongside the bank of one residence. You might also notice something else - a large amount of concrete along the shoreline. I understand that the old Silver Bridge which spanned the river from Gallipolis to Point Pleasant Bridge fell here back in 1967. Perhaps some of this concrete is from that fall?
Also on this Ohio side I noticed 3 or 4 ramps, none of which seemed to be particularly prominent. There was apparently once a marina here – the Twin Rivers Marina – but I didn’t see a sign of it. Perhaps one of the ramps used to belong to it, but the others surely looked private. I do know, however, that at least one of these is public – I’m just not sure which one. I’ll find out.
Speaking of ramps, there is another one just off Tu-Endie-Wei Park in West Virginia just upstream from the mouth of the Kanawha but it’s been blocked off by concrete slabs. It seems it’s now been claimed as private property. You’ll have to use the little pier that’s been provided by the city a little further up on the Ohio if you want to stop – and you should. They’ve done quite a bit of work to the waterfront here to include having a muralist, a man named Robert Dafford, come in and paint a good part of the break wall a la Maysville, Kentucky.
More info on these murals is here: http://www.pointpleasantwv.org/Main_Pages/Previous_Projects/BattleMural.html and here: http://robertdaffordmurals.com/Work_In_Progress.htm but you’ve got to see these works of art to believe them! There’s even one that encompasses the entire battle of Point Pleasant!
The first picture below will give you an idea of what it looks like as you float up to the city with the murals being partially visible up on the right hand side…
…and this second one is an overview of the city which shows you a part of the pier where you might dock a boat.…
One last thing – they do have a hotel right downtown if you want to stay the night and it’s situated just about a block away from the pier. This one’s a classic too – the Lowe Hotel (http://www.thelowehotel.com/information/information.html), circa 1901. It’s been restored and is still operating. Come visit a classic city and do it in style too!
Gallipolis and Point Pleasant - what a couple great river towns!
This couldn’t be easier. The ramp is right in the heart of downtown Gallipolis. Just come into town via Ohio Route 7 - from whatever direction - and just head east to the water. You can’t miss it. For more info, just pull up a map of the city online and blow it up.