This past summer, my neighbor and I paddled the entire length of the Little Miami River from John Bryan State Park to the Ohio River. We broke the trip up into 6 sections ranging from 11 miles to 20 miles for a total of approx. 86 miles.
We have run parts of this river numerous times from liveries, so we have purchased kayaks and decided to explore the river properly. I have a Perception Sport 9.5', and my neighbor has a Perception Sound 10'. We live in Beavercreek, so the upper parts of this river are very close. We averaged 2.5 to 3.5 miles per hour and for the most parts I would consider this river easy with a few obstacles and rapids that required more technique.
The Little Miami is all-in-all a pretty nice little river. It seemed fairly clean, but there were a few areas where I did not want to fall in. There are some towns and homes along the way, ranging from shacks to mansions, even a castle. The water is fairly muddy, but we were able to see quite a few fish including bass, trout and pike. There are typically lots of soft-shell and painted turtles along the banks, and always lots of blue heron to guide you. They always seem to fly ahead a few hundred yards and when you come upon them they fly ahead again, all day long. We saw a few deer along the way.
John Bryan State Park to Glenn Thompson Reserve
This is the uppermost part or the river that can be paddled as far as I know. Above this is Clifton Gorge which is off limits. Access at John Bryan is from the lower Picnic area, to the left of the pavilion, about 50 yards down to the river.
The river in this section is rather narrow, and water level is key. The Oldtown gauge was at 2.3 feet and made for a great ride with very little bumping. The current produced some nice waves coming out of John Bryan and flowed nicely, but not dangerously. There were several trees all the way across the river, which we were able to climb over. This section is not run by any liveries.
There are two small dams along this section, the first was the Grinnell Mill dam, which has been recently half removed. We had no trouble going down this 18" drop. The second dam is past US 68. There is a spot in the middle that has a bit more water going over it. We were able to make this 2 foot drop but took water over the front of the kayaks. Further downriver were some obstacles and dead trees to avoid, including one strainer that capsized my partner.
All in all, this was one of the most enjoyable parts of the river. Very quiet, almost no development and plenty of wildlife. We saw only one other group of kayakers all day. Glen Thompson is just off US 35 and the launch is about 50 yards from the parking lot.
Glenn Thompson Reserve to Constitution Park
This section of the river started very slow and flooded. After about a half mile we discovered why, a large log jam that was hundreds of feet thick. This was the only significant portage we had for the length of the river. It was easy terrain, but loaded with stinging nettles for added fun. After this slow start, we had a nice run. Water level was decent but not very fast, there is very little in the way of rapids along this section, so it is quite leisurely. The Oldtown gauge was about 2ft, and we had few bumps along the way.
Just past the Narrows we found a very nice, well constructed rope swing which was quite fun. Water is not that deep, so land carefully. There is some development along the way and this section begins to see some traffic from the Bellbrook livery.
The take out at SR-725, aka Constitution Park is near the intersection with US-42. Parking is limited and this is used by River's Edge Livery as well. The Spring Valley gauge was at 3.3 feet and we had few clearance problems.
SR-725 to Caesar's Creek Access (Covered Bridge)
The first few miles of this section we have done many times, since it is the short trip for River's Edge. It's a bit different every time, but not too exciting for us. Once we passed their takeout, we were again in a section that has no commercial traffic, and saw no one all day. A few miles downriver is the Corwin Dam, which is about a 4 foot drop. We were able to go over this after scouting it. This concrete dam has a several foot lip at the bottom, so there is no danger of hydraulics. The only danger would be getting sideways and tumbling over, and there are some rocks at the end of the lip.
We did see some additional wildlife, including a giant heron with at least an 8 foot wingspan, along with a great horned owl, a very large deer and a few ducks. The Spring Valley gauge was at 2.7 feet and we had few clearance problems.
Toward the end of this trip, we got hit hard my a severe thunderstorm with downpour and strong winds. Right as the rain started, I hit an unseen log and got dumped. We stood on the bank for about a half hour under the smallest trees around and waited it out. Not much else we could do. Thankfully is was 90 degrees, so we didn't get too cold.
The takeout was just short of the covered bridge, South of Corwin. Its quite a nice sight, although it is modern.
Caeser's Creek Access to Halls Creek Access
We had the bright idea to put in at the base of Caesar's Creek dam and do an additional 2.8 miles down Caesar's Creek to start this section. Big Mistake. I had not seen the other listing about how this is a great run at 7.5 ft. The water gauge at the base of the dam was at 5.6ft, which basically means no water. The first part looked ok, so we set off. Once out of site of the parking lot, we fought our way over very slippery razor sharp rocks with only occasional pools big enough to paddle, but even these were full of rocks. The sound of the rocks gouging the plastic was like nails on a chalkboard. We walked about 3/4 or this and our feet and kayaks took a beating. On the bright side, we did see a number of bass and even a mink.
Once we reached the Little Miami, we had a nice run. The water was high and fast with lots of small rapids, the Spring Valley gauge was at 4.75 feet, Milford gauge was at 5.5 feet. This water level was about perfect with some decent waves and several channels to check out along the way. Usually if the river goes in two directions we each try one way. This section of the river was also loaded with livery traffic, I would guess we saw several hundred boats, especially once we passed the I-71 bridge. Very little wildlife since there were so many people.
We have done parts of this area on several occasions, and the area around Fort Ancient is quite nice, and typically is pretty decent even in lower water.
The Halls Creek Access was very hard to find, there is only a gravel road that is always gated and a small sign in the tree. There is space for about 2 trucks to park outside the gate and you haul your kayak about 100 yards. I would find another takeout next time.
Halls Creek to Lake Isabella Park
Starting again at the Hall's Creek access, we set out downstream. This section was by far the least enjoyable of the entire river. The river was very wide, up to 100 yards and very slow. Much of it felt like a series of lakes with small rapids between. The rapids were not deep enough and we did a lot of bumping and scraping. We also had a headwind, so it was an all day paddle. Water level was 5.5 feet at the Milford gauge. If it had been higher, the rapids might have been more enjoyable, but the flat water would not have been much better.
There were lots of ducks, a goose and as always, lots of heron. There is some development along the way, including a castle. We stopped for a beer and some food at the Train Stop restaurant. It's a complete dive and smelled like an ashtray, but the beer was cold and the food was hot, and served as a nice break from a long day of paddling.
Lake Isabella is right off SR-275 and is a very nice park with a fishing pond and tackle shop. There is a $3 fee each to enter but we arrived before they were charging and later they let us in to get our truck.
Lake Isabella Park to Magrish Recreation Access
Water as at 5.7 feet at the Milford gauge, nearly the same as our previous section. After the last run, we were debating even completing the trek, but I am glad we did. This was the final leg of the trip and by far the most exciting. The first 14 miles we had great rapids and some big waves. There were a number of islands along the way which created some nice fast channels with many waves that were 18", and a few that were at least 2 foot. These were quite exhilarating and the largest we have encountered, really throwing the kayaks around. We took on water over the fronts of our kayaks and had to stop a few times to bail out. There are a number of large rocks, both above and below the water, so be sure to pay attention.
I was really surprised by this section, there is very little development along much of it. I thought it would be urban, since it is within the Cincinnati bypass. We saw an osprey, a spectacular 2.5 ft tall bird of prey that I had to look up. We will certainly do this part of the trip again.
The last six miles or so started to get flatter and slower as it got near the Ohio, and required paddle power. We took out at Magrish, the last take out before the Ohio River, less than a mile further. We considered shooting past our stop into the Ohio, but after a long day, and the large sewage plant ahead, we called it done.
A Summer well spent...
Perception Sport 9.5'
Perception Sound 10
Possible fee to enter Lake Isabella
We utilized some excellent information provided by Thomas Martin at Wittenberg that details just about every access point and GPS coordinate along the way:
I also utilized water level data from: