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Ohio River

 

Robert Byrd Dam (Mile 279) to Gallipolis, OH (Mile 269.5)

 

Tuesday, August 17, 2012

 

(Navigation Charts 153 - 155)

 

 

I started out very early today at 7am with a desire to explore not only the Ohio River but also the side streams like I usually do.  The problem, I found out, was that quite a few of the side streams are navigable out here.  I knew about Raccoon Creek, the longest stream in Ohio, but I also found some others.  Teens Run lies just upriver from the Robert Byrd Lock and Dam, Crab Creek is just across from Raccoon Creek at mile 276 and the Chicamauga Creek enters too at mile 270.  Well, even with Teens Run unavailable and a bypass of Crab Creek due to proximity/privacy concerns it still took me 12 hours to complete this run.  I’d love to see one more ramp out here!

 

 

Anyway, I paddled on down to the dam from Gallipolis to begin.  This Robert Byrd Lock and Dam (http://www.lrh.usace.army.mil/Missions/LocksandDams/RobertCByrdLocksandDam.aspx) was built in 1937 with the lock chambers being re-done in 1987 to make them larger (and you can still see the original chambers if you look at the structure) but building the new ones must have been quite a challenge!  It appears as if they either incorporated an island into the new lock structure or they made one because the river essentially splits here, with access to the lock being on the West Virginia side.  All of it makes for quite a vast area and I paddled around in here very, very carefully indeed!

 

I first arrived on the lock side but I didn’t want to get too close to the chamber lest I inconvenience the lockmaster in allowing him to think that I wanted to come through. I didn’t, so I got up to the “Arrival Point” mooring cell near the Ben Lomond Light and Day Marker at mile 277.5, went around the back of it to take my pictures and then paddled very carefully and quickly over to the other side of the river after judging the current.  Today the wind was blowing upriver at a solid clip so I had a little leeway. 

 

Sorry my pictures didn’t turn out too well today due to lack of sun, but this first one is a view from arrival point…

 

 

And here’s a comprehensive view of the area from the middle of the Ohio…

 

 

When I got to the other side I got my Teens Run disappointment.  The mouth (on the Ohio side) was just beyond the restricted zone!  I couldn’t explore it (or at least bring myself to violate the zone) but later I was provided with an unexpected consolation prize - an unnamed stream that I hadn’t been aware of. 

 

There was something else too…  It seems that there was once an old lock and dam structure here just upstream from the new one – Old Lock and Dam #26 – yet, surprisingly, I found no trace of it! I’ve passed other of these old structures before (and all, of course, have been removed) but I’ve always been able to see at least some hint that there used to be one.  In fact, I’ve found that most of these locations still have the old structures up on shore, but such was not the case here.  Did they break everything down and then move the material to the new location, incorporating it into the new lock and dam?  I don’t know, but the only clue you’d have that there was ever anything here at all is a little lane off Ohio Route 7 called “Old Lock 26 Road”!   My eyes met with the scene below at about this point.

 

 

Below are some more pictures of the new dam from this (Ohio) side of the river.  You can still see the old lock gates to the left…

 

 

…and I’ve got to include a shot of the rolling hills of West Virginia in the background here, but at one point on the Ohio side you might just notice the coolest little hunting structure you’ll ever see on the water.  I’m reluctant to include a picture out of it out consideration for the privacy of the owner, but if you’re out here you’ll have to check it out.

 

 

UPDATE:  I recently received an email from a kind gentleman in Gallia County named Craig.  Craig is more familiar with the history out here and he states that:  "Before they built the new locks the support buildings were on the WV side and quite visible as many of the others are.  But when they built the new locks they actually cut a new channel on the WV side widening the river considerably, thus demolishing the old buildings.  If you look at your 'comprehensive view' photo, the island is actually the old shore line and ran pretty much right where you took the photo form.  They did this to eliminate a sharp left turn as you came out of the locks southbound.  Thank you Craig!

 

Anyway, when I reached the mouth of the stream I’d come to call my “Teens Run consolation prize” at mile 277.5 (the stream doesn’t appear to have a name – maybe they could call it “Consolation Creek”) I found that it was directly across from the aforementioned Ben Lomond Light and Day Marker.  I paddled in 1/3 mile before a wire fence informed me that it was not desirable for me to go on! This stream was incredibly beautiful, though, running as it did through scenic farmland with banks of colorful wildflowers.

 

 

Emerging from the creek I stopped to take in my surroundings again at mile 277.5.  When you’re out here you’re really in a wilderness of spectacular farmland which stretches all around you.  The area is so open, in fact, that you can actually see the river as it stretches way ahead of you into the distance. 

 

 

Notice in the picture below how the land crops out from the shorelines on each side as if it had “fingers” stretching over the water.  The finger of land jutting out from the right followed by the land jutting out on the left will tell you that the river is about to make a right curve. Following that, you can make out another “finger” of land emanating from the right – the river is curving left up there - and do you see the land behind it? That’s the stretch of land where you’re bound if you’re traveling as I am and within that stretch lies Gallipolis! In fact, if you look even further into the distance you can see that the river makes another left curve up there toward Point Pleasant waaaaay up around mile 265.5.  You can see for nearly 12 miles!

 

 

A couple more streams next come up at mile 276.  The aforementioned Raccoon Creek is the one on the Ohio side and I found out it’s a full 114 miles long.  I’ll have to do a separate set of journals on it sometime, but today I got in about a mile before I had to turn back due to time constraints.  As it turns out, I could have gotten up about 6 or 7 more miles before I would have been blocked by a dam up near Northup, Ohio!  Note, however, that to the left of the mouth you’ll see what looks like a spectacular farm.  This farm seemed to be playing peek-a-boo with me as I could only see it in fits and starts through the trees.

 

Paddle further in and you’ll pass under a bridge for Ohio Route 7 which follows along the river quite closely in this section, but after this point you’ll spot a very green patch of land on your left.  It was here that I could easily envision an old pioneer cabin having been at one time…

 

 

 

The rest of the stream was lined with quite a few dwellings and so I felt a little intrusive as I paddled, but I did enjoy the experience...

 

 

The Crab Creek over in West Virginia, meanwhile, was one that I decided to pass up after looking into its’ mouth and finding that there were way many recreational vehicles lined up right along the bank.  I would have felt a little too self-conscious and intrusive paddling into this one! 

 

One more word about streams in the interest of completeness:  There were six more little ones between this point and Gallipolis (excluding the Chicamauga Creek that I’ll discuss in a moment), but none of these were paddle-able or even noticeable at times.  They were:  Sardis Run, Fullers Run, Mutton Hollow (or Rocky Run), Evans Run in Ohio and the Sand Fork and Ferry Creek in West Virginia.

 

At mile 274.5 you’ll find a little line of houses in West Virginia near the Beale Landing Light and Day Marker and then you’ll reach the village of Clipper Mills, Ohio at mile 274. Noticeable here is an old abandoned barge on the shore to go with quite a few mooring cells and all of it has the appearance of being an old dock location.  The charts indicate it as having been the old Mack River Terminal.  A little further up there’s a second inactive spot - the Clipper Mills Dock Company as per the charts.

 

 

What greets you next is a right curve that will lead you back to Gallipolis.  Throughout this section you’ll find some very nice homes off Route 7 on the Ohio side (the West Virginia side too, but they’re less noticeable) with little hills in the background.  Then, when you reach the next light and day mark at mile 272 – Clarrion Ripple – you might be able to spot a Marathon gas station up on shore. They should blaze a trail up to this one!  They might get some business from boaters looking needing supplies or refreshments!

 

The rest of the trip is a very pleasant paddle through a very wide area of water around the curve – a curve that will straighten out to leave you at the mouth of the Chicamauga Creek.  (The pictures below were taken as I paddled downriver in the morning.)

 

 

 

 

 

As for the Chicamauga Creek, I’d paddled it first thing in the morning and as I did so I wanted to be as quiet as possible, but upon entrance I happened to attract the attention of one of those annoying yapping dogs!  I cringed as I went along and hoped that the dog, barking away because of my presence, wouldn’t wake any neighbors who might still be sleeping!  Don’t get me wrong – I love dogs (nice ones!) - but in this age of dog silencer collars I don’t know why people with skittish, bark-at-everything dogs don’t put on their animal out of consideration for their neighbors.  They are fairly inexpensive and they don’t harm the dog!

 

Anyway, after passing a marina I found that the Chicamauga was one enchanting stunner!  It flows right around the back of Gallipolis and it actually runs through a wildlife refuge known as the Elizabeth L. Evans Waterfowl and Bird Sanctuary.  I can’t find much info on the sanctuary but the stream is really something (although anyone but a paddler wouldn’t be able to get in too far due to the depth of the water after passing the first bridge).  I got in about a mile and up to the point of some sports fields. 

 

Most interesting here? Everything!  In fact, you might be awed enough by the beauty of your surroundings that you could almost imagine yourself in the Garden of Eden at spots – and yes, that’s a deer in the middle of the last picture!

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a short distance from the Chicamauga back to the ramp at Gallipolis and as I paddled alongside this quaint little river town I now call home I pondered what I’d seen today. It was a long trip but it was certainly worth the effort!  As always, I offer this experience to any who might derive some benefit from knowing what it might be like.  Whether you paddle the entire distance I did today or you just get in a portion I hope you’ll find this narrative helpful.  Below are some last pictures of the area around Gallipolis…

 

 

 

 

 

DIRECTIONS:

 

 

This is easy. Just head into downtown Gallipolis and the ramp is just adjacent to the town park, but below it on the bank of the Ohio.  If you’re looking at the park you’ll want to make a turn toward the river on the street which encompasses its south westernmost edge – Court Street.  Hit the dead end at the river, turn right and you’ll see the little lane which leads to the ramp on your left.