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Mad River in Ohio

Trip Overview

from Route 36 in Urbana to Spangler Rd. near I-70

(26 miles, 11 hours)

This wonderful day-trip was 26 miles in length, starting at Route 36 putting in downstream of the low-head dam and ending at Spangler Rd. near I-70. This trip provides a nice collection of what most Ohio rivers have to offer. It started out as a beautiful, fast-flowing, clear-water, intimate river up north with just a few riffles, turning abruptly into a more urban river with several class I rapids and riffles as we neared Springfield and went below Springfield, changing back into a secluded river with a real Class II rapid that we decided to run after scouting where we partially dumped, and ending up with all kinds of strainers and islands to navigate as we got down below Enon Rd. The trip was run over the course of about 11 hours in an Old Town Tripper using bent shaft paddles.

First Stage of the River:
We put in at route 36 near Urbana (#10 on the Miami Conservancy map), where there was a nice area to put in just below the low head dam. The river was fairly straight, not too many strainers, the current was moving really fast, and you could see the bottom of the river bed for many miles. This type of paddling continued down to St. Paris Pike (#17 on the Miami Conservancy map) and this paddle from #10 to #17 is without a doubt the most beautiful section of the river with almost no housing along the river banks and nothing but trees and herons on and along the river.

Second Stage:
From St. Paris Pike (#17) on down, the river surroundings become industrial, there were several kayakers and canoeists on the river (most of whom were coming from the local liveries), the clear water turned more of a green color and somewhere on this section we met what we are calling the "Mad river rapids". We heard the roar, we scouted from the canoes above the drop near the bank in an eddy and decided that we probably shouldn't run it but what the heck, let�s see what we can get done. We just about made it through (lots and lots of large rocks poking well above water level with a really good gradient) when we caught the last and biggest rock broadside in the middle of the boat after the bow just missed it. The collision was pretty good so I knew I couldn't stay in the boat when we hit the hole below the rock so as the boat started to tip, I jumped out so that we could keep the gear dry and the boat upright � the boat never turned over and I was able to swim out of the hole and over to a gravel bar, but there was some pretty good suction in there trying to rip my pants off. The rest of this section, down to Enon Rd.( #26 on the map) was pretty uneventful with the exception of several tricky turns and a few more riffles or possibly a class I.

Third Stage:
Once you get below Aaron's canoe and kayak, the strainers haven�t been cleared and there are a lot of them � I mean a bunch. We were getting tired, and once we had to stop in mid stream so that we could jump out of the boat and pull it over to a gravel bar because we misjudged the strength of the current and it was trying to send us broadside into a strainer. No harm done, but if the water had been deep we might have been in trouble. We portaged several times and had to paddle like hell several times to stay out of strainers but we didn�t run into any real trouble.

Once you pass Snyder road, the river gets pretty again for a little while with the exception of road noise from Route 4. A mile or two after Snyder road, the river is full of deadfalls, tougher turns, and lots of islands and gravel bars that are great places for all of those strainers to pile up. We had to portage at least two turns because of deadfalls before we got to an island with several narrow channels around and through it. There isn't a good way to run the channels between the island there so we beached the boat on the island and lined the canoe through the channels.

After putting the canoe back in the main channel, we were off to Spangler Road where there were a couple more tough turns with trees in them but otherwise smooth paddling to the take-out. Finally, the take out isn't what I'd call "good" at Spangler. We had to pull in behind a couple of deadfalls before you get to Spangler and then pull up out of a fairly steep bank but it is doable and not all that bad. I parked my car at the blacktop pull-off at the intersection of Spangler and Union Roads and we didn't have any trouble with wanderers messing with the car, which sat there from 6:45AM to 5PM.

All in all, it was a great long distance daytrip providing a little bit of all that Ohio streams have to offer.




Take U.S 68 north to Route 36 in Urbana, going west on 36. After crossing the river there is a nice gravel parking area on the north side of 36.


Miami Conservancy District Map of the Mad River:

  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip