Salt Creek in Ohio

by  guest-paddler

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

We began our trip at the intersection of Ohio Rt. 56 and Narrows Rd. Salt Creek is one of three streams in southeast Ohio where the glacier reversed the streamflow about 10-12 thousand years ago. This created small gorges on Clear Creek, the Hocking River, and Salt Creek. Salt Creek has what I feel is the most impressive gorge of the three, since the hills come pretty much right down to the creek for about 7 miles.

The hilltops are around 1000 ft. elevation, and the creek is below 700 ft., so there's about a 300 foot difference. Fairly impressive for mostly-flat Ohio. Most of the east side of the creek is nearly all forested. This helps to improve the water quality in the creek, and reduce silt deposition on the stream bottom. The water was very clear, only when it got to more than 4 or 5 feet deep did it obscure the creek bed. The creek bed was a mix of bedrock (with downstream grooves, possibly caused by the glacier?), clean gravel, or fine sand. Fish were evident throughout the trip, mostly suckers (carp?) and smallmouth. Some of the suckers were about 2 feet long.

There isn't any gauge that I'm aware of, but it hadn't rained more than 1/2" in the previous week, and we only came upon a couple of places where we had to get out of the boat and drag it over rocks.

The trip from Narrows Rd. at Rt. 56 to the Route 50 bridge east of Londonderry was about 17 miles according to one of the participant's GPS receiver. We got on the creek at about 10:45 AM, and reached the take out around 5:00 PM. This included a half-hour stop for lunch near Eagle Mills, just downstream of the Pretty Run Rd. bridge, on river left just past where Pretty Run dumps into the creek. We did have to carry our boats (a mix of canoes and kayaks) over a logjam at the Pretty Run Rd. bridge. This could also be a takeout if you just wanted to run The Narrows, as the valley opens up somewhat from here downstream.

Downstream of Pretty Run, the valley averages about 1/2 mile wide, with the stream meandering. Some of the farmers evidently don't subscribe to the concept of maintaining riparian corridors, and bank erosion (and meager attempts at stopping bank erosion) is evident in this area. Despite all this, the water continues to be fairly clear all the way down to Rt. 50.

About 5 miles downstream of Pretty Run, where Ohio Route 671 crosses the stream, is another potential takeout. Just below the bridge is a nice little waterfall on river right. The US Rt. 50 bridge is another 5 miles.

The only drawback to the scenic value of this river are the many tires embedded in the creek bed. Those underwater are ugly, but mostly benign. Those on the bank provide a breeding area for mosquitoes, which in these parts carry encephalitis and west nile virus. Evidently, some folks in the Salt Creek valley haven't got the message about dumping things in the creek.

I've paddled quite a few of the rivers and streams in central Ohio, and Salt Creek ranks near the top for water quality, scenic value (despite the tires), and ease of paddling.


Motels and hotels in Lancaster, Circleville, Columbus, Logan, Chillicothe.

Put in and takeout facilities are nonexistent, but there is parking available off the road at the Rt. 56/Levels Rd. put in, and at the Route 50 bridge in Londonderry.


From Columbus take US Rt. 23 south to Circleville, Ohio Rt. 56 through Laurelville. Narrows Road is about 7 miles east of the traffic circle in Laurelville.

From Lancaster, take US 22 west to State Route 159 south. Follow 159 to Tarlton. In Tarlton, go straight at the stopsign where 159 turns to the west. Take Tarlton-Adelphi road south to the junction with State Route 56. Take 56 east through Laurelville, Narrows Road is about 7 miles east of Laurelville.


USGS 1:24000 topo maps of South Bloomingville, Laurelville, Ratcliffsburg, Londonderry.

Trip Details

  • Trip Duration: Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)

Trip Location