Late October usually finds northern Ohio in full fall color and depending on Mother Nature; we also luck out with extended Indian summer days. The morning of Oct. 29 was one of those beautiful fall days; crisp out of the covers, but finds warm air blowing on your cheeks as the day progresses. On this autumn day, I found myself on the water with members of the Bradstreet Kayaking Club and the Keelhaulers Club out of Cleveland, OH.
As my paddling season winds down, I�m always looking for any opportunity to hit the water for some quality paddle time. Surfing the Web one night, I noticed that the Bradstreet club was hosting a group paddle for the Huron River. Having spent many quality hours driving the Ohio Turnpike between Toledo and Cleveland, I had spied the Huron River many times outside my car window. I emailed the trip leader to see if he would mind having a few Northwest Ohio paddlers join them on their daytrip. The trip leader was welcoming and open to having non-club members join them for their outing. It was great to have east meet west for an afternoon on the water.
The Huron is an easy drive and is only a little more than an hour trip from Toledo. Our outing began at 7:15 am when we loaded up our gear and pointed our vehicle east. We made it to the put-in by 8:40 a.m. Instructions were to work out shuttles and to be on the water by 10 a.m. Good directions from the trip leader and being familiar with the area near Sandusky, OH made it an easy trip.
The put-in was at The Coupling preserve just east of Route 250 and exit 118. I was surprised to see such a large number of cars at the put-in. I started taking a count and wound up with more than 20 boats. This number didn�t include a few paddlers that put-in at the Nickel Plate Beach take out and paddled up stream to meet us. We pulled in and were greeted with smiles and handshakes when I introduced myself to the trip leader. The usual hustle and bustle of a put-in location was evident as boats were being unloaded and carried to the river, all manner of apparel was being put-on and taken-off and gear was being stashed into hatches. The Coupling offered an easy launch location and flat area along the river edge. The Huron seemed to be running lower, from the evidence of a recent high water mark. The Coupling Reserve also offers picnic and hiking opportunities.
I was excited to run the Huron, since I�ve spent time on the Vermilion and the Black River, east of the Huron. Those rivers feature steep rocky embankments, great scenery, rocky shorelines, moving water and winding, twisting geography as they flow north into Lake Erie. As it turns out, flowing into Lake Erie is about the only characteristic that the Huron has with its two sister rivers to the east.
During my experience, The Huron was characterized by slack current, long straight runs, low muddy embankments, and various marsh flats and little in the way of wildlife or scenery, except for the many seagulls that were blown inland from Lake Erie. The shoreline was mostly bordered by golf courses and ramshackle cottages. The nine mile section of the river we paddled was mostly slack water that backed into the river, beginning at Lake Erie.
As it turns out the area near the put-in was the most scenic and wild section of the trip we paddled. The first six miles of the trip were very uneventful. The last three miles offered a few exploration opportunities in the marsh-like areas right before flowing through the marina section of the City of Huron. A few members of our party served as comedy relief as they became hopelessly stuck in a bog, trying to cut through a marshy area. Shortly after extracting the members of our party from the mud, we broke for lunch along the river and warmed our faces in the autumn sun. On this day it seemed like the difference between the sun and shade was 10 degrees. The trip ended at Lake Erie, near an industrial area and a strange Sputnik-looking lighthouse/harbor light. After some Web research I found that the 72-foot-tall art-deco style lighthouse is the Huron Harbor light, built in 1936. It has a sister lighthouse that stands in Conneaut, Ohio 120 miles to the northeast, east of Cleveland. The light was formerly operated by remote control from a brick station on shore, and it had a lantern at the top. Both lights were automated in 1972.
It was such a sunny and nice autumn afternoon and there were many onlookers walking the mile long break wall to the lighthouse. Looking for a photo opportunity, my traveling companion and I skirted around the north side of the lighthouse for a look. At this point there was nothing between USA and Canada, except 50 miles of water.
The take-out for our trip was just east of the mouth of the river at Nickel plate beach. If the wind is blowing from the northeast, you can expect a wild ride into the beach. We were told that if the conditions were right, we could do some surfing. Our trip provided table top-like conditions and there was barely a ripple when we reached the take-out. One could add any number of miles to this trip by paddling the coast line, east or west. A wide expanse of beach separated the water from the parking lot and it was nice to have some extra hands to make the carry to our cars. When we landed, we chuckled as one of our party tested his new dry suit. I can safely say he was the only swimmer at the beach that late October afternoon.
When we launched, I paddled up stream to peak at what was around the bend and was encouraged by what I saw. If I were to paddle the Huron again, I would like to find a location up river from The Coupling and paddle this portion of the river, possibly launching somewhere near Milan and taking out at The Coupling? From what I understand, the Huron is rain sensitive and an eager paddler would have to watch for signs from Mother Nature.
While the scenery and water conditions did not rate at the top of my scale, the people we paddled with did. I would replicate this experience, solely based on the people that showed up to paddle that morning. It was a unique cast of characters that paddled anything from canoes to self-built boats. There were tandem boats, male and female paddlers, a few gray hairs and a few paddlers that were wet behind the ears with regards to age. Spending time on the water with people of similar persuasion is always enjoyable for me and I can�t thank the trip organizer enough for allowing us to join. Sometimes a good paddle isn�t about the water, it�s about the people you share it with.
This report is strictly a day trip, but I've heard that the Bradstreet Kayakers have camped along the river. Huron is a small Lake Erie costal town that offers many amenities.
State of Ohio boater tags.
Directions to The Coupling: Take Ohio Turnpike to exit 118 (Route 250). Go north a short distance to the red light at Mason Rd. Turn right and go east to Rt. 13 (blinking yellow light). Turn right again and go south on Rt. 13. The Coupling is on your left and you will see a Red Caboose rail car and the park office. There is a gravel road between the office and caboose that goes down to the river. If you go over the turnpike on Rt. 13 you went too far.
Both the Bradstreet Kayaker and Keelhauler clubs maintain pretty active websites in the Cleveland Area, the Keel Haulers at (http://www.keelhauler.org/kh.htm) and the Bradstreet Kayaking Club at (http://www.seakayaker.org/). Both clubs� web offer many maps of Northern Ohio paddling.