First week of April offered a spring break from teaching the high school students and taking care of juveniles for the two of us. We decided weeks in advance to make this trip and 2 excursion down a wide meandering river through the flats of northwestern Ohio between farmlands and farmlands. However, as plans go we were forced to change.
For whatever reason we were unable to make this a 2 day trip so we narrowed it down. This turned out to be a good idea because the island that we scouted via Google Earth turned out to be some sort of high banked sand bar across from the Campbell Soup plant in Napoleon. So, our stealth camping gear does not smell like tomato soup...thank God.
We decided to put in at the public ramp in downtown Napoleon in a 35 degree wind blown downpour. We were hoping to be able to find a current in the river as you often can in the spring months but due to the 20 mph cold wind from the east we were more or less paddling on a lake battling chopping seas. Our GPS coordinates stated that we managed about 4mph against heavy winds and chop. The 6 hour paddle with one stop for eats and relief on the bank translated into about 16 miles. We exited at Mary Jane Thurston State Park just east of route 65...loaded the Daggers and headed back to pick up the other car. The drive between loads and drops if you do not get turned around is about 15 minutes.
On the trip we commented several times about how dirty the shores were. River clean up was yet to occur as snow had only been off the banks for about a week. A pretty crazy wind storm a few weeks earlier apparently cleaned all the river property of lawn chairs, coolers, trash cans, and plastic yard ornaments. Regardless, we saw many cranes and waterfowl that were arriving from their winter break. A nice sized river otter traveled along with us for a few minutes, and when my paddle hit a large fish of some sort and it tail whipped my kayak I about had a coronary. We gawked at some big houses and counted down the miles until our shoulders, triceps, and legs could focus on rest.
We usually like to start our springs off with easy paddles as we are couch bound for much of the winter. However, this was a hell of an eye opener once we realized how hard we were actually paddling.
Overall it was a great time and good paddle for the two of us. It was quite strenuous to paddle this distance against the wind. Without our outfitting of wetsuits, river shoes, skirts, gloves, hats, and what not we would not have even tried it. Remember...safety is important when you are doing something stupid.
Additional Comment: Boat traffic is often pretty heavy between June and September. Fishing is popular on this stretch of river but much more popular during the spring the closer you get to Toledo
After the 1st week of April restrooms are open at both destinations...river banks offer good cover for quick relief though.
From I-80/90: go south on SR 108 to Napoleon.
From Ft. Wayne, IN go east on US 24.
From Toledo/Maumee area go west on US 24.
If it is as windy as it was on this day you may need a compass to make sure that you know which way the river is going unless you have common sense and a recollection of direction.