I had been salivating at the idea of doing this creek since I met my current fiance (who is from Akron) back in January 2011, but the water had been low every time I had the chance to go. When I was planning to be in Akron and noticed the water level had risen over 400cfs on waterwatch.gov, I knew it was perhaps my one chance this year since it usually only runs during cooler seasons and I don't do cold water paddling currently.
I wanted to do the longer section from Lusk Lock to Frederickstown, but time constraints prevented it and we put in at the State park on Echo Dell and took out at Frederickstown.
We put in around 3:00 just as a fat raindrop shower hit that actually felt nice despite the mid 60s mostly overcast day and only lasted about the first half mile before it cleared up perfectly. The put in at the state park is one of the easiest and most gentle put-ins I've ever seen. There are plenty of options and there was plenty of parking and campgrounds for a relatively nice Saturday afternoon.
We slid in just above some minor ripples and I almost immediately was scraping bottom to a halt. However, once I got past the initial chop and bones, the water smoothed out to a comfortable float with only a slight need for paddling. There were quite a lot of bony lower class 1 ripples and I would've preferred the water a bit higher than the approximately 458 cfs we had at put in, but overall, it wasn't too bad despite losing a lot of bottom skin from my boat and some frustrating boat scooting. I never had to walk my boat but my fiance did twice briefly.
There are no rapids that are likely to give you too much trouble at the level we paddled, but there is plenty of opportunity to read the water so that you don't end up walking your boat through the rocks. Any experienced paddler will feel no fear and inexperienced paddlers might get a fun thrill. There are lots of small rapids to go through and the flatter sections were moving well with minimal effort. No rapids stand out in my mind as memorable though even though at least two of them were closer to class 2 even if they weren't quite there.
We stopped three times just to snack and hang out and there were some generous rocky beaches, but not an excessive amount of them. At one point, a group on horseback passed by where we were stopped and they crossed the creek. There is also a trail that runs along the creek that had a couple of fisherman and hikers, but there weren't any other paddlers all day and very few other people around.
The most memorable thing about the creek other than its welcome feeling of seclusion and peace, was the excellent birding. We saw a bald eagle in the first 10 minutes of the trip and then later saw two more eagles that were brown and speckled that I hope I post-trip identified correctly as juvenile bald eagles. One of the juveniles even hung out with us curiously perched above on a sycamore tree for 5 minutes or more, but they followed us for at least a mile of the river. There were also lots of kingfishers, some ducks I couldn't identify, herons, and many other colorful small birds.
We finished the paddle at about 6:00, so it was only about 3 hours with a few stops. This section is about 6-7 miles. The take out isn't very steep, has a nice little rocky beach, and the climb is only about 8-10 feet up at that water level. At higher levels, the take out might be drowned, but there is a pristine little feeder stream just after it that had the coolest freshest feeling water that would make a decent takeout in a pinch.
Overall, a great trip, I would do it again, but I would want the water level at 550cfs or more before I did it to avoid the bottom damage to my boat. Lighter paddlers and shallower vessels might be fine and if all you can get is 450cfs, it is worth it still though. Below that you will be walking some parts, but it might still be a good paddle. Feel free to email me if you want more details. Remember to leave it cleaner than you found it; pick up at least 2 pieces of trash as well as your own.
We passed some motels in nearby towns and there is plentiful camping opportunity in the state park.
There were no fees for parking at the state park that I am aware of and the take out was a slim roadside pull off
We left from Akron to drive straight to the take out and traveled south through Canton on I-77 to state highway 30 going east. We turned off of 30 onto 172 and took it all the way to 11. We took 11 south to 170 going North/NE. Just before 170 crosses the little beaver creek turn left onto a small road (1044). This road had a "road closed" sign up, but the take out is about 1/4 mile or less down the road and is only a small area to pull off on the right. There are lots of no trespassing signs across the road and there is what looks like a private parking lot with 4-5 spaces just as you turn onto 1044; these seem to be private owned land spots so we didn't use it.
To get to the state park put in from here, go north on 170 (left off 1044), cross the creek, then turn left on Frederickstown-Clarkson Road (the sign is a tiny brown stake so look for the big sign Simmons Equestrian I think it was). Follow F-C Road until Pancake-Clarkson Rd and turn left. Follow pancake to Sprucevale Rd and go left. At the church on the right turn off of Sprucevale onto Echo Dell. Take the left fork and follow echo dell into the park campground area across a single lane bridge. There was ample parking on the left immediately as we crossed the bridge, but there were other putins further downstream it looked like too.
We came back to Akron by state hwy 7 to 479 to 11 North to I-80 to I-76 west after picking up our put-in car. The drive was comparable in time and distance to the 30 - 172 - 11 route, but you trade country road for highway.
I used Americanwhitewater.com, google maps, and the dnr.gov state park map for most of the necessary orientation for planning. There probably is a nice map of the river out there though.