PLACES TO GO ON LAND HOME PLACES TO GO ON WATER
Athalia, Ohio (Mile 296.5) to Guyan Creek – or Little Guyandotte River (Mile 287.5)
Thursday, August 2, 2012
(Navigation Charts 150 – 151)
There are a couple ramps you can use for this section of river. One of them is in Athalia, Ohio and the other is in the midst of the Green Bottom Wildlife Management Area, a West Virginia Division of Natural Resources facility http://www.wvdnr.gov/wildlife/magazine/archive/03Spring/field_trip_Green_Bottom.shtm). Today I used the latter. This ramp is located just downstream of the Guyan Creek (a.k.a. the Little Guyandotte River) at mile 187.5.
Be prepared that this particular put in is out there but it is situated in a great location along a nice long stretch of beach. In fact, this entire stretch of the Ohio is just about one continuous beach on the West Virginia side and this, combined with the rural nature of the area and the diverse array flora and fauna, make this one of the most beautiful sections of the river I have thus far travelled. It’s pretty impressive.
For example, take a look at some of the little ecosystems that exist out here! You’ll find various kinds of seaweed in deep patches all up and down the shoreline and this provides a perfect habitat for spawning fish. The resulting minnows (probably millions of them) then provide sustenance for other varieties of fish and many kinds of fowl. In fact, I think I could spend a couple hours in one spot just watching what unfolds at one little seaweed patch…
At any rate, once I got on the water I headed straight down to Athalia to start but please be aware that this is a long stretch. I left at 9am and didn’t return until 8pm. You could do part of this section from here and then part of it from the ramp in Athalia if you want and that would allow you to do it more leisurely. In fact, I might recommend this.
Anyway, by the time I got down to Athalia (at mile 296.5) I found that the ramp was positioned just beside the Two Mile Creek, a stream in which I was only able to get into about 100 yards, but the ramp itself looks like a pretty solid option for a paddler. It also appears to have some lighting and its own little beach as well. As for the town in general I can’t find much info on it as they don’t seem to have much of a web presence but the same could be said of the other little villages I’d soon pass today in rapid succession – Miller, OH, Lesage, WV, and Millersport Station, WV.
The first of these – Miller, Ohio - follows almost directly after Athalia on the Ohio side, almost blending into it. It comes right after you pass a light and day marker at mile 296. Meanwhile on the West Virginia side you’ve got two other villages – Lesage and Millersport Station and all of these towns (if you look at them on a map) seem to be playing a game of “hopscotch” across the water: Athalia, Lesage, Miller and Millersport Station – all in a 1 1/2 mile stretch of river. From a water perspective, though, I wasn’t able to see much of them besides the lines of houses onshore and the little hills in the background.
What I did see today, however, were a great many geese and I startled some away from shore at the light and day marker. In fact, I believe this could have been the same flock of geese that I’d scared away at 3 separate points on the way down to Athalia. I kind of “pushed” them downriver, they crossed over around Athalia and then I ended up “pushing” them back upriver!
Here’s another photo where they fled from me and right into the path of a towboat, the Michael Grainger of Ingram Barge (http://www.ingrambarge.com/default.aspx?v=barge/home). The result was interesting. Geese usually fly very close to the surface of the water to evade me but because of the boat they had to soar a little higher than usual and, this being the case, I was able to get a better shot of them. More incredible though (at least to me) was that after they passed the boat you could still see them in formation winding around a curve in the river far into the distance. I found this to be a breathtaking scene! The picture below didn’t turn out as well as I hoped, but you can just see them above the vessel…
Another word on the towboats here, as I encountered a lot more than the usual 3 to 4 per trip today - today I actually saw 5 from 4 different companies: 2 from Ingram Barge and one each for ACL (American Commerical Lines), Superior Marine and Campbell Transportation. I didn’t think this section of the river would be that busy, but it certainly didn’t detract from the experience. These boats are so well kept and so graceful despite their obvious power that they seem to add (and in no small amount) to the beauty of your surroundings.
At any rate, after you’ve passed Millersport Station you’ll find yourself in the midst of a 3 mile straight stretch from mile 295 to mile 292 and this was where I really began to see all kinds of wildlife on the beautiful beaches. There were also no less than 7 tiny streamlets in here as well. They weren’t navigable but they did add to the allure.
Heron, geese, ducks of different varieties, an osprey, an egret, kingfishers, loons, turkey buzzards and sandpipers – you’re apt to see all of them today as I did along with many varieties of fish and plants at one point I stopped to take it all in. I mentioned it above, but of all the sections of the river I’ve thus far paddled this is the one I’d probably most like to return to in terms of scenery, wildlife and tranquility. It’s no wonder that the light and daymark at mile 292.5 is named “Green Bottom”! (You’ll note that this is the same name as the wilderness area I put in from to start.)
Next up you’ll encounter a right curve in the river that will encompass the area between miles 292 and 289 and within this stretch you’ll pass from Lawrence County, Ohio (http://www.lawrencecountyohio.org/) into Gallia County (http://www.galliacounty.org/) at mile 291.5. Later you’ll reach Crown City, Ohio and its light and day marker. Crown City is another town that I can’t find much information on but I know form driving by that they’ve got one of the few gas stations along this section of Route 7 to go with an adjoining ice cream shop they call Dairy Boy. All of it looks like the kind of family run business that I like to patronize.
Meanwhile, it was in here that I also encountered the C. J. Queenan of Campbell Transportation (http://www.barges.us/). This boat amazed me by the ferocity of its wake as it neared me! It was the liveliest I’d ever seen. Surfs up! A water skier would have had a great time! The picture below doesn’t represent this very well as I believe the captain probably slowed down for me (I’ve found these boat captains to be courteous without exception on the river)…
Just after mile 290 you’ll encounter interesting things on both sides of the river. In Ohio there are quite a few old mooring cells that look like they haven’t been used in decades (and I’m curious as to what business might have been here) but I’ve driven by this spot before on Route 7 and I’ve noticed that they’ve made the area into a tiny little recreation spot. From a land perspective it’s right where Double Creek Road dead-ends at Route 7 just east of Crown City. This spot could conceivably work as a paddler put-in as they do have a little turnaround to park in and a beach to use as a “ramp” but the spot is so small that I think it would serve better as a fishing spot.
At this same point on the West Virginia side you’ve got an unnamed island. I wasn’t able to paddle all the way around it due to deadfall debris exactly in the middle of the channel, but in terms of length it’s not quite a mile long from an Ohio River mileage perspective. (By the way, just in case you’re wondering the remainder of the incoming streams in this section: Big Double Creek at mile 289.5, Sugar Creek at mile 289 and Stillhouse Branch at mile 288.5 were not navigable to me.)
You’ll straighten up now at mile 289 (where lies the other end of the channel around the island) and the DNR ramp I used will soon be visible up ahead on your right just after a beached barge and a long stretch of beach. What great spot!
I’ll describe the Little Guyandotte River and the area upriver from it in the next journal, but here’s a preview of the next section. The picture below was taken across from the mouth of the stream looking upriver.
You can check out the link to the Green Bottom Wildlife Management Area above for more info, but to get here you can follow West Virginia Route 2 south from Point Pleasant or north from Huntington. I came from Point Pleasant, driving past the Robert Byrd Dam, a large RV park, and then the little village of Glenwood before finally going over the Guyan Creek. You’ll want to slow down after the RV Park and village as you start looking for the sign but you’ll go over this stream and then the entrance to the preserve will be immediately after this. Turn right onto the gravel road (single lane) and take it to the ramp.
Be sure to park well to one side though! I got chastised. Even though I was out for more than 10 hours and parked WELL to one side all that time, I took maybe 2 minutes – just to load my boat onto my car at a level spot at the ramp – and sure enough: a truck with a boat pulled in! The guy was all upset at me. It’s a little hard to tell but there is a turnaround here for the trucks with boats. What I’d do is drive down the beach a little way – something that I saw others doing too – and