Was looking for a weekend trip or a several day trip and the State of Ohio hit a home run with the Muskingum River "Park" and lock system! I was a bit hesitant to make this trip blind, but, after reading the other trip reports here, I decided to go for it!
Our trip began in Philo, after stopping at Philo Lock & Dam #9 to purchase our Lock passes ($15 per kayak, per year) which are required to lock-through each dam (park on the west side of the bridge and walk down to the lock-tender's hut). (Something needs to be said here of the staff Lock Tenders. The attitudes and personalities of EVERYONE we encountered were pleasant, informative, FUNNY, and very hospitable! It was obvious that each person cared about their job and the kayakers that were through-boating! Each tender knew we were coming from the phone calls from the previous (up-river) Lock Tenders.
We put-in about ˝ mile south of the Philo Dam at a lunch ramp. The area is listed as public... But, it sure looked private. Anyway.. no issues here and the launch ramp was easy to access and not overly steep. We packed our kayaks for the next 3-days, into our 3-yakaks. and set out.
The paddle was easy. However, if you are used to smaller, swifter moving rivers and creeks, you will feel like this is more of an open-water paddle. The Muskingum River was not running very high... and for that matter all the rivers / creeks in the Muskingum River Conservancy District are very low for this time of the year (mid-June), but there are no worries of dragging bottom, at all. We typically paddle for 1 to 1.5 hours and make stops along the routes and this trip was no different. There are numerous small river-side, rocky, "beaches" that offer easy places to stop at the low pool level we were at. We made several short stops for snacks and stretching before the next point.
We We reached the Rokeby Lock and Dam; the approach is easy and is located on river-left. We blew our whistle to summon the tender (1 long followed by one short). However, the tender was mowing and didn't hear us. I "screenshotted" the phone numbers from the website on my iPhone, so, I had their phone numbers available. After calling the Lock house the phone was answered and the lock door quickly was opened. After entering the lock we looked for the cables hanging on each side of the lock wall (there are 10-20 on each side) to hold onto while in the locking process. Once the doors close and the water drops, about 10 minutes, the outlet doors open and we were on our way. Side Note: Next time I do this, I will fashion and 3-4 foot piece of cordage or line with a 2" carabiner to attach to the cable to help hold in place during the locking. This would just keep your hand off the cable that is covered with river slime.
We paddled to the McConnelsville Lock and Dam #7 and this is were we spent our first evening. (From Philo to McConnelsville it is a 19 mile trip.) You will enter a channel on river-left and paddle a short distance, less then 200 yards, where we took-out. At each lock, before you go through the Lock, there is a floating dock and gangway. Using the correct technique of paddle over gunwale / paddle over dock, there is a step up (crawl over) of about 2 feet onto the floating dock. Once we got all the yaks out, we carried them about 35' to the camping area, and set up camp for the evening. Once set up we walk a short distance(1-mile) to Malta, just on the other side of the river, and ate at the River Queen Restaurant. Three are several other places to eat that are a closer walk. The night was quiet. The campsite did have water available in the for of a spigot, where we freshened up from a day on the water paddling. We also topped off our Platypus water for the next day. The camping area is flat and well taken care of. There was a grill and a small picnic table at each of the lock areas/camp areas. But, we chose to eat at restaurants on this trip for ease and sanity of everyone involved. The next morning we met the lock keep and again was pleasantly surprised how warm and friendly he was and how much knowledge of the river system and locks he had. (I am from a small town and expect friendly people.. But, these people were over-the-top nice!!) After re-packing the kayaks with our gear, we set off again by locking through the lock. (9:45 am)
Next stop was Stockport Lock & Dam #6. The lock keeper was waiting for us! He explained that he knew we were coming from the phone call he received from the up-river lock keeper. It was a hot and humid day, at 87 and felt like 85% humidity. At lockport, we took-out and walked around the corner to a small grocery/deli/grocery/gas station where we got ice cream, drinks and sat in the air-condition eating area (and used the very nice bathrooms). Climbing back into the kayaks from the low angle launch ramp was easy and provided a really cool view of the Stockport Inn, which is located across the river and attached to the Dam.
The next lock was Luke Chute Lock and Dam #5. This lock is on river right. (6:00 pm) Just after the lock we saw several other kayakers that had set up camp on the island.
We continued the paddle the 9 miles into Beverly where we had scheduled our take-out. We arrived at 9:15 pm. The navigation lights and headlamps were a welcomed item here. While we typically enjoy nighttime kayak trips, we had not planned this one. A few too many longer stops kept us from arriving at our intended 8:30, in Beverly.
Entering the Beverly Lock Canal is on river left and is about a ź mile paddle through. Another small floating dock was there with a gangway down to the dock. We managed (climbed) the dock and carried our gear to where we set up camp. we carried the yaks about 100 feet and set up the tents just in front of the lock keepers house. It was a shock to literally walk off the river into the back of a gas station. (Which was an excellent place to get that all-so-needed cup of hot coffee to help shake of the night in a tent). There was a lot of traffic from a Saturday night. But, it quickly died down. The local Beverly PD police officer stopped to chat and welcomed us to the town and again... was extremely welcoming, polite and hospitable. He explained that the would watch over our gear and tent while we walked to eat at Jukebox pizza (another � mile short walk into Waterford, just across the river. Again, there are other places to eat, but most of them were closed as we got in so lat e. The pizza was really good! This paddle was 24 miles. In the morning we walked about a mile to the Chatterbox II restaurant for breakfast with HUGE portions. There is a McDonald's within 300 yards from the Lock.
Each of the campsites were well lit, well maintained, clean and welcoming. The paddle was exceptionally nice and river traffic was very low. This is a trip that I would recommend to anyone that has any paddling experience with the Lock to Lock trips being a perfect day trip(s).
By the distance shown on our GPS, we traveled 48 miles, averaged 2.8 mph, and paddled for 24:22:56. I rated this trip as "Moderate" as we paddled approx. 24 miles each day. If we were to have paddled from Lock-to-Lock, it would have been labeled as "Easy." We will be planning another trip next month and will post on it as well!
Camping areas are clean, well kept. Not large open areas. But, well suited for families and small groups. The bathrooms are typical Ohio DNR Parks vault toilets, but are kept clean by the Lock Tenders.
Lock fees are $15 a year for kayaks and can be purchased at any lock. There is a small sticker that will be issued for each boat.
Here is what I used: