CincyPaddlers GMR Outing – July 18, 2013

I recently joined an internet based kayaking group here in the area called Cincy Paddlers.  It’s a very active bunch and among other frequent outings, they have a Thursday evening paddle on the Great Miami River.

I was even more excited to learn that they put in at Heritage Park, which is just below Ross and paddle to Dravo Park, about five miles down river.

Anxious to join them, since I’d never paddled that stretch of the GMR before, I loaded up the boat and headed out.   About 14 others joined me, several of us new to this area of the river.  Another group of paddlers prepared to launch behind us.  Apparently this is a popular stretch of water!

Henry, one of the veterans, was leading the paddle today and briefed us all on what the plan was and what river features we’d be encountering.   Water level was a bit low, which made it a good day for beginners.  With many years of canoeing on the Little Miami and the Whitewater rivers, as well as kayaking experience on the LMR, I didn’t really consider myself a newbie, but I kept my mouth shut and my ears open nonetheless.

Since the water level was low, we had to not only portage to the launch, but also across the small island in the river before launching in the deeper water on the far side of the river.

As we launched, we made our way slightly down stream before gathering in a slight eddy and waiting for everyone to catch up.   Henry designated himself as the lead and another boater as the sweep, and we headed off down river.

This section of the river is at least as beautiful as any of the other sections of the GMR I’ve been on, and there were herons a-plenty.  We encountered several sets of interesting rapids as we progressed before we got to the first of the rapids that got my attention.   The plan was to navigate the rapids and then make an eddy turn to the left below the rapids and wait for everyone to catch up.   Yeah.  That didn’t happen 🙂   I navigated the rapids successfully but blew the eddy turn and found myself in the water with my upside down boat near by.  I was surprised that the eddy pool was too deep to stand in.

Fortunately it was a good day for a swim!  Henry offered the advice that I needed to lean into the transition with the slower water.  With the help of a couple of the paddlers, we got my boat to shore and found an area where I could actually get my footing and get my boat emptied.  A short time later, we were headed back downriver.

I made the rapids successfully at the Blue Rock Bridge, although my eddy turn there was, ahem, less than precise.  With a 12 ft boat that turns like a battleship, I think eddy turns are going to be a challenge on a good day.  Henry of course, put his two cents in on the turn.  I promise Henry, I’m really not ignoring you!

After a short break and a briefing on the next rapid we headed off again.  This rapid was the biggest and most interesting of the bunch.   It was a sweeping S and the plan was to eddy out on the right and hit the beach for a chance to get out of the boats for a break.  Again, I made the rapids and the eddy turn although not to Henry’s satisfaction.  I’m pretty sure he said “Yeah, I wouldn’t listen to me either”.  Sorry Henry, with such a low freeboard there’s not much difference between a “lean” and a “swamp”.  I’m just going to have to work on that!   We took a break here, and I managed to get some video of the others playing in the rapids.

The next set of rapids was another swimmer for me.  This time, as I approached the end of the run I got into a string of waves that was impressive in height, at least to me, and it bounced me around enough that the boat got away from me and I was swimming again.  After recovering from that, the rest of the paddle was uneventful and before long, the old bridge piers near Dravo were in sight.

It turned out to be an awesome run and I had a great time.  I’m looking forward to paddling with the group again.  I was excited to learn about this stretch of the GMR.  Even with the low level of the water, these are more intense rapids than anywhere else I’ve paddled so far.  It was certainly a bit humbling, and I’ll definitely be working on my skills more!

Here’s my collection of images from the outing:

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