There are only a few times during the year when the run between Grand Rapids, OH and Perrysburg, OH can be completed without portaging. This 18-mile run makes a great day trip at high water for kayakers or canoer's alike.
We were lucky to have had some rain during the past couple of weeks, so the water is up. The gauge on the pier of the I-475 bridge was reading about 520.
We put in right at the damn at Mary Jane Thurston State Park. From here we headed down river through some fun class I rapids and ripples. If the river was higher, I could see these ripples kicking up pretty good. Just past the quaint shop filled downtown of Grand Rapids there is a little known tributary called Beaver Creek. My partner and I ducked our noses back into this really rugged part of northwest Ohio. For about the first 300 yards we had to pick our way through some eddy's ripples and fast moving water. For this entire trip it would help to have some decent Ferrying skills. We probably could have spent most of the day back in Beaver Creek, but we headed back out to the mighty Maumee for the rest of our trip.
The Maumee is filled with Islands, most are protected, privately and publicly owned. Please respect the posted signs. Most of the islands have cut throughs that can make this trip different every time. One could probably head down river right or left and get a different trip.
On this day the water was moving pretty fast and it didn't take us long to pass Providence Metro Park with it's Mill and Canal Boat, Otsego and Orleans park. The next major obstacle we encountered were the Weir Rapids. On this day they were navigable and at higher water they can be tricky. I've approached these rapids coming up stream before and haven't been able to pick my way up river because the water was to shallow and the current was too strong. We shot the Weir Rapids in our kayaks and decided to pass the large island just past the Weir Rapids on river right. If we would have gone to the left at islands we could have taken a break at the Roche de Boeuf Metropark. This metro park follows the old canal towpath and there is a trail that follows the river almost to Waterville OH.
Just before Waterville OH, there is a the monolithic ruins of the Waterville Electric Bridge and a large, long set of rapids. The river is 700-800 yards wide and the rapids are 400 yards long. At low water you would have to portage around these rapids, at marginal height there is a chute at River left under the bridge and too the left of Turkey foot Rock. River Left can get kicked up pretty good during high water and can approach class III. Make sure you wave to the onlookers at river left. There are high cliffs at this point on the river and there are usually onlookers parked for the view at this part of the river.
There are some islands just past the old train bridge at Waterville; at high water there are some fun ripples on either side of the island. The best surfing rapids of the trip was at this point in the trip. The surf was really sticky and I felt like I could have sat there all day.
From Waterville to Perrysburg the river becomes a bit narrower and faster. There are shoals all along this part of the trip and plenty of places to play in the small surf.
The next biggest obstacles are the Turkeyfoot Rapids just above Side Cut Metropark. These rapids are about 3/4 of a mile long and can be the largest on the river. There are probably three "keeper" rapids that can cause problems if not careful. This section of the river can be fun and I have floated it and blasted through it all full force. The biggest point of interest for this section of the river are the fishermen. This is the sight for the famous Maumee river walleye spawn. At the height of the spring spawn season there will be thousands of fishermen wading both sides of the river. Biggest problem is that when this section of the river is the most runable, it is filled with fishermen. The river is 300 yards wide at this point so if you stay to the middle of the river, you won't become a fishing lure pincushion.
As the river moves past Side Cut Metropark you'll pass Blue Tick Island. The unusual feature of this part of the trip is all the worn river rock. You'd think you were in a different river at this part of the trip. Most of the Maumee is muddy and the sudden change in river bottom is unusual. Stick to river right and you'll find the chute to run this section.
From Blue Tick Island you'll pass Historic Fort Meggs and the bridge that vehicles use to cross from Maumee, OH to Perrysburg, OH. This is another section of the trip that has to be run at high water, it's usually too shallow and when it is moderately high, you still have to pick your way through. The river opens back up at Perrysburg and there are a couple of islands that can be explored near downtown.
On this trip we pulled out at the Maple Street public boat launch just past downtown Perrysburg. We took our time, explored, lunched, floated, paddled and enjoyed the day over he 18 miles and during the 7.5 hr trip. At high water and being on a mission I've finished this trip in 3 hrs.
The Maumee really opens up at Perryburg and is open to larger boat traffic all the way past downtown Toledo, and into Maumee Bay. I'll write about this trip at another time.
This is a great Spring trip and it is best run in March, April, May and selected times throughout the summer after a big rain. Just be wary of the fishermen during the spring. Lastly, if you aren't careful the Weir and Turkeyfoot rapids can be tricky for beginners. Both can be scouted from the shore at put in points along the river. Turkeyfoot along River Road out of Maumee, OH and at the Weir Rapids river access on route 65. Another place to be careful is the Old bridge above Waterville the current is strong the bridge piers can make the current tricky.
There are restroom facilities at Mary Jane Thurston State Park and all along the way at Orleans Metro Park, Roche de Boeuf, Waterville, Otsego and Side Cut Metro Parks.
Mary Jane Thurstone State Park is open till 11 pm. So you don't have to beat it back to get your vehicle on the shuttle
The put-in at Mary Jane Thurston State Park can be tricky. You have to carry the boats down a set of stairs to the water, it helps to have an extra hand. There is another sandy put-in down river in Grand Rapids but you miss a whole section of rapids and ripples.
No. Just your State of Ohio tags. I have been checked by friendly rangers several times on the Maumee, so they are out there watching for you.
Coming North or South, I-75 to I-475 West Towards Waterville and Maumee. Exit onto I-24 to Waterville. You can cross the bridge in Waterville and take route 65 all the way to Grand Rapids or you can stay on I-24 and cross the river just past Providence Metro Park. The put-in is at Mary Jane Thurston State Park
Canoeing and Kayaking Ohio's Streams by Rick Combs and Steve Gillen. Publisher, Backcountry Publications, Woodstock Vermont. www.countrymanpress.com