Four Mile Creek Run – June 2, 2014

As I’ve been spending more and more time in my kayak, I’m really starting to get the urge to paddle more of our area streams.  In particular Four Mile Creek has caught my eye especially since it’s more or less runnable from Acton Lake in Oxford all the way down to the Great Miami River depending on the water levels.

Unfortunately, Four Mile Creek doesn’t have it’s own stream gauge, so it’s a bit harder to judge when the time is right to run.  Some veterans say that it’s good for a couple of days after a significant rain, or several days of rain.  Others say it’s a relative thing and can be run at any time, assuming you don’t mind some drag if the water is low.  Personally, I’m wondering if there’s enough of a correlation to the water flow on Seven Mile Creek, since it’s a lot of the same watershed, and Seven Mile Creek drains into Four Mile in St. Clair Township two miles or so upstream from Four Mile’s confluence with the Great Miami.

The Seven Mile Creek stream gauge is here.  At the time we ran Four Mile, the Seven Mile Creek gauge was reporting 100 CFM.   First data point.  I guess we’ll see how it goes.

If you’re feeling particularly geeky you can download the Seven Mile Creek gauge data in a tab-delimited format.  If you’re a GPX kinda geek, you can have the track and waypoints too: 20140602 FMC Run GPX Data

In any case, on Monday evening, I joined up with Jeff, a fellow paddler from Cincy Paddlers that lives in Oxford and runs Four Mile multiple times per year.  This was to be his first outing on FMC this year.  We discovered later that first scouting runs on a creek should probably not be started at 6pm, but I shouldn’t get ahead of myself 🙂

We met up at Jeff’s house and headed into Oxford.  The plan of the evening was to run from Miami to the Eaton Road bridge, and rather than shuttle, we would leave vehicles at the start, and call on Jeff’s Dad to pick us up.  We placed boats at the launch area and then moved my vehicle to a public park on the other side of the creek since I didn’t have a Miami parking pass.

The launch was uneventful from river right and we were soon making our way down the scenic creek.  Having to get out and drag our boats at the first rapid turned out to be a preview of what was to come, but it was a short pull and we were back on our way in short order.

As we progressed, there was a nice mix of rapids and stretches of flat water.  Due to the water level, almost all of the rapids had some scrape and some required extra paddle work.  A few actually required getting out and dragging the boat.

As we reached the upstream dam, Jeff decided to run it.  There’s a break in the dam at extreme river right which requires an immediate left turn to avoid a bank.   He didn’t appear to have any issues, but I wasn’t confident in my ability and knowledge of the feature, so I opted to portage river left.  This gave me the opportunity to scout the break from shore and next time, I’ll probably run it too.

The second dam was more fun.  It’s lower and has a gentle slope on the downstream side.  Running it is like sliding down a slide. 🙂  It’s maybe a 3ft drop max and there’s a large pool at the bottom.

From there it was a short run to the SR73 bridge and a call to check in on the weather report since showers were threatening.  We made the decision to end at Lanes Mill rather than go all the way to Eaton Rd because with the low water, our progress was slower than expected.

As we continued on, I made note of approaching 10 locations that I’d like to come back to for photoshoot purposes and I was amazed at how secluded the creek was, especially downstream of SR73.   I recall encountering one building in that 4-ish mile stretch.  Looking at the map after the fact, I can see that there are very few easy access areas to the creek there.   I also identified one and possibly two places for the next couple geocaches in the Doc’s Adventure series!  No easy access from land for those!

Our slow progress became more concerning as we started loosing light and this hampered us the many places were we had to drag our boats, slowing us down further.  It’s hard enough to walk in a flowing creek when you can actually see where you’re placing your feet.

By the time we reached landing at Lanes Mill, it was easily 9:30 pm and there was no light remaining.  Fortunately, Jeff’s Dad, who had been waiting now for an hour, thought to turn his truck around and use his headlights so we could see him and the landing.

Shortly after, we had boats loaded and were back on the way to pick up our vehicles.  It was an epic trip and I was exhausted.  I’d do that run again with more water, or I’d do a shorter version even at these water levels, but this trip at these water levels kicked my butt.  Toward the end, it was more of a fall-out-of-the-boat maneuver when we had to drag 🙂   To start as late as we did though for that length of run, the water level is going to have to be better.

Can’t wait for more!


This was a gorgeously scenic run of 5.2 miles from Hanon Park (behind Miami’s Stadium) to the Lanes Mill Bridge.  The run took about 3.5 hours and covered about 100ft of elevation change.  Of the numerous rapids, all but one narrow chute had some scrape at this water level.  Probably 50% of them overall had enough drag that it required unusual paddle effort to pass and probably half of those (25% total) were severe enough that it required getting out of the boat to portage.  I noted 4 significant strainers which required portage.  The final one, is a massive blockage of the entire creek and required lifting boats over the downed tree.


(Coming Soon!)


As always, I took pictures all along the run.  Enjoy:

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