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Ohio River


Twelve Pole Creek (Mile 313.5) to Symmes Creek/Huntington, WV (Mile 308.5)


Tuesday, September 11, 2012


(Navigation Charts 146 and 147)



Yes, this is an Ohio River Navigation story but the Twelve Pole Creek nearly stole the show today! 


For this section I put in at the David Harris Riverfront Park ( in downtown Huntington, West Virginia (  This park lies on the river side of a break wall which protects the city from high water, so when you look at the city from the water you see the park, then the break wall, and then the downtown area which lies just behind it.  It’s a nice put-in is with plenty of parking, a restroom and even a marina.  More on Huntington later, but today I got on the water and went on down to Twelve Pole.


Twelve Pole at mile 313.5 enters the river right across from the community of Burlington, Ohio, a town which doesn’t seem to have much of a web presence but it’s got to be plenty busy here because if you look downstream from the mouth of Twelve Pole you’ll notice what looks like a real logjam of barge traffic down there. I haven’t paddled down there yet but I do hope to eventually and I’m wondering just how challenging it’ll be. I’d wondered why I wasn’t seeing more river congestion as I covered the Huntington area and the area above - seems that things are more concentrated down here instead.



Anyway, as I paddled into Twelve Pole I was thinking:  “Ok. I’ll check this one out.  It probably goes back a mile or two.”  Wrong!  Twelve Pole kept going and going and before I was through I was to travel 4 ½ miles back! This stream actually has its own Wiki entry which states that the name is apparently a reference to how wide the stream is.  Poles were once used as a term of measurement.


If you look at this stream on a map you’ll see what is essentially a large and wavy “C” and for me this letter amounted to the extent of its navigability.  You’ll first be heading east and back toward the town of Ceredo, West Virginia and at one point here the creek meanders so close the Ohio that I’ve got to believe there will soon be a new island here!  There’s also what looks like a stone and gravel company up on the eastern bank and it was in here that the minnows were really prevalent although they did seem to be a little sluggish for some reason.  I wondered if it was because the year was progressing and they were getting bigger or was it something else?  Usually these little fish will dart away from you immediately but these were just kind of moseying along.  They certainly weren’t getting complacent for lack of predators!  I noticed plenty of birds fishing around here.



Next you’ll pass under some bridges – first there’s one for US60, then you’ll see a railroad bridge (which from a satellite map looks so old that you can’t even see the track lines anymore), then an old bridge span, another railroad bridge, a road bridge for High Street and finally two bridges for Interstate 64.  After these last ones you’ll even see a McDonald’s billboard sign way above you.  I found it interesting today to see the changes in scenery as I went from being in the city to being in the suburbs to being in the midst of farmland.


Anyway, after the bridges the stream begins to head in a southerly direction (for the most part) in this large “C” and at the 2 ½ mile mark I met a nice gentleman who was fishing on the bank with his little dog.  “I’m trying to see how far back this one goes…”  I said.


“Pretty far...” Was the response. 


I got the idea that I was going to be paddling for a while! 


Walkers Branch Road (or County Highway 3) will come close to the water here on your right as you’re paddling upstream and it’ll stay with you as will a railroad track that lies just beyond it.  At one point there’s even an airport back there – the Milton J. Ferguson Field - and I did see a little plane flying around as I paddled. 


Next you’ll make a little “S” curve in the midst of the larger “C” and pass under yet another bridge.  This one is for Walkers Branch Road and perhaps the most pleasant views in this stream were to come next in the midst of a sharp left turn.  The wildflowers really seemed to like it back here but from this point the water started to get really shallow and I knew I didn’t have far to go. When you get a scene like the one below you know you’re about to be heading back…



I hit one deadfall and got past it, then another and finally a third and I was done.  Where was I at the end?  I was in the midst of a left curve (from an upriver perspective) and from looking at a map I was fairly close to the area around Wall Park and the Huntington VA Medical Center if you’re familiar with those.  3600 paddle strokes, or about 4 ½ miles (and yes, I actually counted all of those.  This is the method I use to determine how far back streams go.  GPS is not for me).


I paused here for a while to appreciate how much this creek had revealed to me today and as I did I also noticed how the water cleared to reveal some fantastic patterns in the sand! 



There were other things too on the way back that I hadn’t noticed on the way up (probably because of all the counting I was doing!).  More wildflowers for example…




…and more great rural river scenes…



Along with one very friendly looking old bearded tree!



Interestingly, as I was paddling back out the man who had been fishing on the bank was still there and in the course of our conversation he shocked me by informing me of the fact that my kayak is bulletproof!  I sure hope I never have to put that feature to the test!  How in the world did we come upon this topic?  Well, he asked me what my kayak was made out of and I told him “Kevlar”.


I’m not too familiar with this substance but apparently the man was as he had a coat made out of it. Apparently the stuff is so solid that it’ll deflect bullets and now that I look it up something that made little sense before now does.  Why would anyone want a coat so strong that it’s made out of a plastic-like substance strong enough to repel bullets?  You wouldn’t think that such a garment would be comfortable in the least!  Well, if you’re a biker it would make total sense. You’re not out for comfort necessarily but for protection in case of an accident.  You learn something new every day, I guess!


Back to the Ohio! As I was coming out of Twelve Pole I first caught sight of a towboat up at the mouth of the stream.  He was heading downriver.  OK.  That’s a pretty cool looking picture…  Then what do I see but the prow of another barge heading in the opposite direction!  Things seemed to be heating up!  Let me mention again how careful you’ve got to be out here.  You might not expect a second load of barges coming right after a first, but if you aren’t you may just get plowed over by one!  Imagine yourself paddling away – “La, la, la” – then, WHAM!  Check this out!



At any rate, in this section of the river you’re essentially in a straightaway all the way down to Huntington and this is as linear a section as you’re likely to see on the Ohio.  At one point you can even see all 3 of the city’s bridges looking upstream. Huntington and its’ outskirts comprise the southern bank for pretty much this entire stretch with what looks like the suburb of Westmoreland coming up first although you can’t really see many signs of civilization as there looks to be a mound of earth that serves as flood function.  This levee seems to be an extension of the wall that protects downtown Huntington although I did see someone walking up there.  It might be permissible to use all this for recreation.


Meanwhile Burlington, Ohio (as mentioned) will be on your northern side to be closely followed by the community of Chesepeake.  These two communities seem to blend together so you’ll have line of houses on this side which stretches all the way down to the Huntington area.  Burlington also appears to have a little park up there. 



Now as you can see from the picture above, I found there to be yet more barge-toting towboats in this area on the way down here.  These included the Stephen T. of Superior Marine ( and the “Jincy” of Crounse Corporation (  Crounse is pretty prominent on the Ohio and I’ve seen and written about them a few times before.  You’ll see them all over the river.  They have offices in both Paducah, Kentucky and Maysville, Kentucky – a fairly wide stretch of river to cover!  They’ve been in the marine transportation industry since 1948. 


Superior Marine was a new one on me.  In fact, I really had to look for the name on this boat.  It wasn’t where I expected.  It was indicated toward the bottom of the prow of the vessel.  Superior, founded in 1977, is apparently headquartered just downriver from here in South Point, Ohio yet they seem to have 3 branch locations, all in this general area. South Point at mile 317, Burlington at mile 312, and Proctorville at mile 305.  The company looks to offer a wide array of marine services, almost everything you can imagine from transport to repair to construction to cleaning.





Anyway, things start to get really interesting once you get down to mile 312 - about the point where I took the picture below… 



First, what’s with that viaduct for Four Pole Creek?  I don’t know what that machinery is at the mouth but it looks pretty foreboding. I decided to pass it up!  What are those pipes?!?  They look like they could suck me right up out of the water, boat and all!  Seriously, I suppose this structure is part of the break wall system to regulate the water flow but I’d love to get more background on it.



On the other side you’ve got what looks like a large apartment or condominium complex which is pretty much laid bare to the river and following that there’s a very old structure with a set of steps coming down to the water.  Guess what this is?  It’s the former location of old lock and dam #28!  These old dam locations fascinate me.   For the most part you wouldn’t ever know there was such a significant structure at these spots but for the fact that you can usually still see the remnants of steps and/or structures up on the bank.  At this particular spot it looks like one of the old lock houses is still intact, but it looks different than most I’ve seen.  Perhaps it was added on to…



Next comes a ramp which looks to be part of the old lock and dam grounds and then you’ve got Sandusky Creek (into which I could paddle only a very short distance).  Meanwhile on the other side there were several barges docked in West Virginia with the Matthew T. of Superior Marine acting as guardian today.  Notice that this is the Matthew T. and not the Stephen T. which I mentioned earlier.  This confused to me at first and I had to do a double take on my pictures as I wondered:  “How could this vessel possibly be docked here and then pass me further upstream heading down to where I saw it docked not an hour ago!  To make things more confusing the Matthew T. also passed me at the end of the day on what I’m assuming was his way home.




Next you’ll pass under the first Huntington Bridge just upriver from mile 311.  This is the US Route 52 span which is considered the West Huntington Bridge.  It was completed in 1970 but it was here that I spotted a couple interesting birds. One I’m almost certain was an egret but the other?  Merganser?  Loon? I’m not sure, but the water sure was clear here.  I dipped my paddle in all the way down and I could still see the tip of it.  This isn’t what you’d expect in an area where there’s quite a bit of industry.  I was impressed.



The area between this bridge and the next one was pretty quiet.  You still can’t see much in West Virginia besides the line of trees by the water and in Ohio there’s still a line of dwellings, yet these are sometimes incredibly intriguing - not only in the design of the homes themselves but also in the grounds around them and in how they might have dressed them up in nautical motifs.  One of them even had what looked like a rather elaborate playhouse which overlooked the river.  Either that, or it was a very small guest house.  There was another community park on this side too as I heard the sounds of a football game being played.


As you near the second bridge, the Robert Byrd Bridge, you’ll find that downtown Huntington is starting to emerge.  First a few words on the bridge…  This one was completed in 1991 and it replaced another, older bridge that was the first.  That “technically” makes this the first of the 3 spans connecting the city to Ohio.


As for the city itself, among the first things you’ll note (besides the taller buildings) are the Big Sandy Superstore Arena ( which is right down near the water and the Huntington Riverfront Marina (aka Holderby’s Landing - which lies just downstream from the ramp where you might have put in if you’re travelling as I am. The arena looks to be the entertainment hub for the city.



In Ohio the mouth of the Symmes Creek lies just past the bridge at mile at about mile 308.5 and I’ll be describing this stream in the next journal along with more on Huntington. 



Today I headed back to the ramp and took out.  There are likely to be a number of people out strolling around so it’s pretty safe if you’re not out too late.  As per the Facebook page for the park (, they’re usually open until 10 to 11 except in Tuesday when they’re only open until 8 and Sundays only until 9.






This is an easy one. The ramp is right in the center of downtown Huntington in the midst of the David Harris Riverfront Park but there are 2 distinct entrances which deposit you in different sections of the park and these sections are not connected so that you can drive between one and the other.  One of these is at the end of 10th Street, but I’d use the other which is just to the east of it.  This is the one I used.


If you’re coming from the east on US60 you’ll take a left into the entrance which is on your left just past 11th Street. 


If you’re coming from the west on US60 you’ll find this entrance on your right just past the post office.