PLACES TO GO ON LAND HOME PLACES TO GO ON WATER
Guyan Creek or Little Guyandotte River (Mile 287.5) to Robert Byrd Dam (Mile 279.5)
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
(Navigation Charts 152 – 153)
You’ve heard the saying: “Water, water everywhere but nary a drop to drink”? Well, I’ve never really experienced what that meant until today but when I arrived at the K. H. Butler Department of Natural Resources Ramp off Ohio Route 7 (http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/website/watercraft/watercraftfacilities2/attrib_files/270008.htm) I promptly found out! As I was getting my gear out of the car I dropped the bag which contained my water and of course the lid came right off the bottle and I lost all but maybe a couple cups worth! I wasn’t going back, though. I was just going to have to be thirsty today.
On the plus side, I was soon to discover what might have been the prettiest stretch of the Ohio I’d yet paddled (although at this point I’d only covered about 1/10th of it). I mention this not only because of all the wildlife I saw on the day – both fauna and flora – but also because of the relative remoteness of this section which naturally contributes to its beauty.
The ramp I used today was almost right in the middle of this section of the river – at about mile 284.5 – and when you have a ramp that’s at this point in your journey you naturally have to decide what direction you want to travel in first. Well, I’d intended to paddle downriver to start and then go upstream but my water spill changed all that. I know that a lack of water will fade the senses over time, and I also know that for some reason my mind tends to dull anyway after a few hours of paddling. I thus had no choice. I had to explore the area around the dam first so that I could best be alert and prepared for it and this decided, I began to get my boat ready…
I was hearing the sound of sporadic gunshots. Oddly enough, someone seemed to be on the ramp grounds hunting (I didn’t see any signs of a shooting range) and they’d be at it all day – shots were still being fired when I returned in the evening at around 7. This must have driven the people at the R.V Park across the river here crazy - especially since the shots were reverberating off the hills in back of the park as well.
At any rate, among the first things I noticed when I got on the water was all the seaweed to one side of the ramp. I’d not seen the likes of it before and I was somewhat taken by it for it gave the appearance of there being a Christmas tree under water! Well, I’d find that this stuff would be quite abundant over the course of the day and I ended up taking what must have been a hundred pictures of it alone. Below are some of the best I could get. [I’d later find that this alga was quite prevalent all over this area of the Ohio from Huntington all the way up to around Ravenswood, West Virginia.]
“How can James be so enthralled by seaweed that he could take 100 pictures of it?” Well, that’s because it led to something else - it provided a great habitat for the likewise abundant schools of little minnows I’d see. There must have been millions if not billions of these and once I’d paddled down to the Guyan Creek to technically begin this section I’d encounter these little fish in full measure. I love the incredible circles they form! In fact, the first such circle I ever saw was on the Kentucky River and it was so dense that I actually thought it was a tire underwater! I ended up getting into the Guyan Creek (a.k.a. the Little Guyandotte River) about ¼ mile.
Now if you, too, begin on the Ohio from this point (mile 287.5) and head upriver you’ll find yourself in the midst of the beautiful mountains of West Virginia on your left side and the likewise beautiful farmland in Ohio on your right (although your views of the latter will be mostly blocked by trees). If that’s not enough to captivate you, however, you’ll also immediately note that the West Virginia shoreline is almost one continuous beach! The Ohio side is nice too (and the second picture below was taken when I stopped at a point near mile 287) but the West Virginia shoreline is simply incredible all the way up to the dam.
Anyway, the Swan Creek enters the river in the midst of all this at mile 286.5. This stream is drawn on the charts but it’s not named and I know it only because I’ve seen its sign while driving to work in Huntington, WV. The stream is a short one, however, and it was navigable to me only a couple hundred yards before I reached shallow water. Nevertheless, I did find it interesting that as I crossed under the Ohio Route 7 Bridge for this stream I was able to see remnants of what must have been the original bridge supports. I do wish I’d also met the streams’ namesake swan, though!
Meanwhile, back on the Ohio you’ll be able to spot a daymarker on the West Virginia side. This is the Glenwood light and daymark and it ushers in a little line of houses which represents this Glenwood community. There are a few boat ramps here but all look private. Meanwhile, the West Virginia mountains and the Ohio farmland will continue all the way to mile 284.5 where you’ll encounter the Eighteen Mile Creek in the former state and the K. H. Butler Ramp I used in the latter.
What is the significance of the “Eighteen” in Eighteen Mile Creek? Well, it appears that it’s 18 miles downriver from the mouth of the Kanawha River at Point Pleasant, West Virginia (and that’s 18 miles up ahead of you if you’re travelling/narrating as I am). For me, I got into this one roughly ¼ of 1 mile, in the process finding it abundant with wildlife. Not only did I have all the little fish I mentioned earlier but I also heard some fairly loud “splooshes” as I paddled and, looking around, I just happened to spot a trio of critters launching themselves into the water from holes just above the surface. They looked like beavers but – of course – it was too late to take a picture!
Then, at another point I spotted an animal just ready to pop out of its hole, but when it saw me it went right back in! I couldn’t tell exactly what this creature was but it could have been anything from a beaver to an otter to simply a squirrel. I don’t know. Finally, as I paddled out, I encountered a goose/duck down by the water and it was so incredibly mellow that I thought it surely must have been there when I came in (although how I could have missed it I don’t know!). I’ve encountered these birds before but I’m not sure of the proper name for them.
As you paddle out of this stream you’ll now find yourself alongside a nice RV Park – The River’s Edge Scenic Campground. This is a pretty large one which extends for nearly ½ mile and – just like the rest of the West Virginia shoreline here – it has its own section of beach. I seriously looked for a store here where I might have been able to get some more water but with no luck. I couldn’t find signs of one visible.
At this same point in Ohio you’ll have the aforementioned ramp and then you’ll find a line of dwellings, at the edge of which is a classic Mail Pouch Tobacco sign on a barn. This company (a.k.a. Bloch Brothers Tobacco) has really done a great job of embracing both its history and its rural roots. I still see a lot of these signs or remnants of them that simply need a new coat of paint and having now researched it, it appears that the Mail Pouch Tobacco Company is headquartered up in Wheeling, West Virginia.
Wheeling is another Ohio River town that I hope to document someday, but this company developed the barn painting program in the late 1800’s to advertise its product. At its height it’s mentioned that there were more than 20,000 of these barns across the country. (There’s another stream on the Ohio side here, by the way – Horse Creek – but it wasn’t much in evidence on this particular day.)
The river will now begin to straighten out and you’ll be able to see the Robert Byrd Dam up ahead in the distance beyond the Ashton Light and Daymark on the West Virginia side.
This greets you at mile 283.3 and it was here – directly between Eighteen Mile Creek and the upcoming Sixteen Mile Creek - that I encountered another diverse concentration of wildlife. Along with a few dozen geese, 5 heron and 3 wood ducks I also spotted a deer strolling up on shore.
The heron were interesting. I almost always see them alone and I – although seldom - see them in two’s, but I almost never see them in congregations like this. This spot must be quite a draw – and not only that, the location seemed to be especially magical today for another reason. Whilst I was enrapt in taking pictures of all this and the seaweed/minnow habitat I espied a river boat coming toward me as well!
This vision of beauty turned out to be the Belle of Cincinnati (http://www.bbriverboats.com/belle_of_cincinnati.html) and as it went by me the realization dawned that I’d seen it docked in downtown Huntington on my way home from work the previous night.
“What was is doing?” I wondered… Could it be that it was on a river tour from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh?!? That would be AWESOME!!!
Well, in looking at the website above that wasn’t to be the case although the boat was on a tour of cities that included Huntington and my current home town of Gallipolis, Ohio. The latter was as far as it was going. Apparently the B.B. Riverboat Company which owns this vessel runs the boat to different cities where it stays for a night or so and offers the residents tours of the river. You can come aboard and take a lunch or a dinner cruise or just take the tour itself without a meal. What a fantastic sight this boat is on the river!
Anyway, Sixteen Mile Creek comes up next at mile 282.5 and I got in 1/3 mile, originally following the aforementioned deer. This was a really mellow animal – it didn’t run, it just strolled along. The stream looked really nice in the back with water clear enough to be able to see to the bottom in the shallow areas…
…and check out this poor creature that’s barely able to keep its’ head above water!
Upon emerging from this stream you’ll clearly be able to see the dam up ahead along with some mooring cells…
Hold on. I’ve got to include a picture of this. These flowering shrubs (I don’t know their proper name) would show up at regular intervals over the course of the day. Their flowers seemed to alternate pleasant hues of pink and while…
At any rate, the mooring cells apparently belong to M& G Polymers of West Virginia (http://www.gruppomg.com/location.php?mi=6&mod=&pi=) and they seem to double as “Arrival Points” for the dam. M & G stands for Gruppo Mossi and Ghisolfi and the website mentions that the company was started by Vittorio Ghisolfi in 1953. Headquartered in Italy, this is apparently one of their PET producing facilities. PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is supposedly a safe plastic packaging material which is used in containers.
At any rate, I now took a break along a nice stretch of beach to wait for a couple towboats to pass – one in either direction. I especially wanted to have a good vantage point to watch the one coming upstream enter the dam which now loomed right in front of me. It’s funny, but the walls of the lock chambers on these – as large and lengthy as they are – can still sneak up on you. This is especially so if there’s any bit of contour to the shoreline.
The M.K. McNally was the first vessel to pass me coming downstream. It belongs to the Campbell Transportation Company (http://www.barges.us/) which seems to be fairly prominent on this section of the river. Campbell is located just upriver near Pittsburgh and they specialize in two areas which form separate parts of their company – Campbell Transportation and C & C Marine Maintenance. They look to have you covered in both areas.
The AEP Future was the second boat. I’d have a front row seat to watch it pass through the lock chamber so I decided to stay a while, taking quite a few shots in the process…
…and this last one I
have to include with the geese serving as “greeters”.Thanks geese!
…and this last one I have to include with the geese serving as “greeters”.Thanks geese!
I was, of course, EXTEMELY careful paddling across but as the summer has been extremely hot and arid this year the water flow wasn’t too much of a problem – hence not much current even up at the dam. Nevertheless, I still didn’t quite have the nerve to paddle right up to the corner. I know there’s a nice fishing area there, though, so the last picture will be of it to give you a perspective.
On the way back you’ll have some more awesome beach scenes, some more algae and maybe a heron or two. It’s quite enjoyable…
Finally, here’s a picture of the corner of the dam that I took on the way back home. As mentioned, there’s a nice park here with a good amount of parking, some picnic areas and a plenty of room to fish…
The K. H. Butler Ramp is easily accessible right off Ohio Route 7 a little downriver from the Robert Byrd Lock and Dam. If you follow 7 south from Gallipolis it’ll be on your left just after 15 miles from the town center and if you travel north from Huntington, West Virginia it lies on the right just past 20 miles from where you cross the “