My wife, dog, and I headed deep into the countryside of central Ohio to the Kokosing River yesterday. It was a very hot summer day (90 degrees) and hoped that river levels would be suitable for our 15' Old Town Canoe. I previously read in an article that the river is best paddled between 100cfs and 200cfs, that day it flowed at about 90cfs. Being below ideal flow, we were very surprised how our canoe skimmed right over most of the shallow spots. We did have to get out a couple of times to pull through some ankle deep riffles, but the water was clean, cool, and inviting. Overall the average depth of the river was about 2-3feet in most spots. I would agree that 100-200cfs would be perfect but the river most definitely can be paddled between 70-100cfs with little trouble and lots of good times.
We started our trip at the Kokosing Vally Campground and Canoe Livery. This is the only livery service on the 27 mile designated scenic watertrail. They were very nice and can accommodate shuttle service to any of the 9 access points on the trail for a great price ($15!!). We chose a downriver trip, from the campground to our car. This was a recommendation from the owner of the livery. He said that they put their rental canoes upstream and that we would only encounter private craft going downriver making it a more private and quiet trip. Very pleased with the suggestion (nobody likes a crowded river) off we went.
We put in about 3pm to avoid the hottest part of the day and planned on a 3 to 4 hour float covering about 7 miles of the watertrail. We never really paddled too hard and with lots of neat places to pull up and explore, we stopped three times. River traffic was low and we only encountered a couple of small groups of people. One of the groups was flyfishing from their Kayaks. They told me that they had been catching Rock Bass and Large Mouth Bass with much success. We personally saw countless numbers of fish along our whole trip, both very large and small. I wouldn't think twice to bring a pole and some tackle on the next trip here, the fishing looks uncanny.
Thoughout the whole trip lots of shade resting below the steep sandstone cliffs and thick forest offer a comfortable ride. It could have been considered a scorcher that day and my wife and I both agreed how nice it was, even the dog wasn't too hot. We saw several Kingfishers and tons of Flycatchers and Swallows. If you're a bird watcher make sure to bring those binoculars.
This paddle is by no means difficult, but it can get a little technical at times. Large sandstone boulders can be scattered in a few parts. With a little steering and a little patience the waters are easily maneuvered. One small section is considered class II. This is a spot called The Factory Rapids. It is the remnants of a dam that has since been washed out over many many years. I'm pretty sure that it was built by a stone quarry before the river was protected by the DNR. I will post a link to the official river maps that points this particular spot out. On these maps it says that it is impassable, THIS IS NOT TRUE. I was told that the maps were made before the dam washed out and are not current. You can portage very easily on the left bank (north) if you don't want to run it. Upon a quick look, we did it. I agree that the given ratings of class II are correct and in high water could be class III. This only stretches a whopping 30-40ft. or so. It offered a little thrill and I would even suggest a beginner to run though it for good practice, we are only intermediate paddlers ourselves.
Our take out had a great parking area with a port-a-potty. People have seemed to take care of this river. This was a fantastic trip and I highly recommend checking it out. The natural beauty of this rural area makes this paddle a gem and is no surprise that the river was Ohio's first scenic waterway. Enjoy !!!!!
All access points have parking and Port-A-Potty. Kokosing Vally Campground and Canoe Livery have full camping accommodations with showers, they even have a heated pool.
$15 livery fee at Kokosing Vally Campground and Canoe Livery
Mt. Vernon area in Knox County. Crossroads of rt.62 and rt. 36. Watch out for horse and buggies on the road, lots of Amish farms in the area.
Ohio DNR Map of Kokosing River Water Trail: www.dnr.state.oh.us/ (pdf file) it's a must for info on this area.