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Ohio is typically not the area I think of for destination whitewater kayaking. However with the right weather and river flows, Ohio can deliver.
With a new baby, a toddler, and a cold winter, we’d been having trouble getting out to many rivers this year. But with spring and warmer weather, we decided it was time to leave our homestead bubble. My husband Daniel had been contemplating visiting Ohio for the Cuyahoga River Race last year, but the timing didn’t end up working out for us. This year, we decided to try again.

Ohio Whitewater
Unfortunately, our timing still wasn’t perfect and the weekend we requested off from work ended up being the weekend before the festival, but we decided to go ahead with our plans anyways. With a baby and toddler in tow, and no child care, we were hoping for a day or 2 of kayaking mixed in with visiting the Cuyahoga National Park.

After a long 10 hour day for a 7 hour drive (baby and toddler induced), we finally arrived at our destination. It had rained for a few days prior to our arrival, so the main Sheraton section of the Cuyahoga River was a little high. However, Tinkers Creek had come in. Tinkers Creek has a very small drainage and we didn’t think it would still be in for us the next day. We decided to load up the kids and go scout it out anyways. Daniel had gotten a lot of beta from a helpful local paddler, and when we arrived, the water level was magically at a boat-able minimum. We shore scouted and it looked straight forward from our point of view, so we took turns running the very short but very fun section, while the other of us stayed with the kids. The highlight of this section was boating through a dark tunnel and emerging into daylight and a steep slide.

cool whitewater spots
We spent the next two days of our trip hiking with our kids at the National Park, and hoping the Cuyahoga River would drop in. Technically, it was runnable at the water level that it was at. But the main rapid has a dangerous right sieve in the outflow that is very much in play with higher water and without locals to run it with for safety, we thought it unwise for us to go in alone.

Finally, on the last day of our trip, the stars aligned. Two local paddlers were going to run the Falls and offered to let us join. We had planned to again take turns so one person could stay with the kids. However, another local, who did not want to paddle that day, offered to watch our kids so we could boat together. Above and beyond kindness and thoughtfulness!

hiking trails

This section is the Cuyahoga River and is called the Sheraton section because you can view the entire run from the balcony of the Sheraton Hotel. We had scouted from here the day before while eating ice cream from a local shop. The first drop is called Rookie drop, and at least at the flow we had, is a nice and straight forward slide down the right. The second drop, has two lines, a boof on the right or a slide on the left. The boof looked more fun, but goes directly over a meaty hole and made the sieve in the runout more in play. The exit has three slots, the sieve in the right slot, a middle slot, and a left slot. As long as you aren’t in the right slot, the other two are both fine. It appeared to me that as long as you weren’t getting worked in the hole and swam, it would be pretty easy to avoid the right slot in the runout.

Ohio Whitewater

I decided to run the boof line first. I was nervous about the boof because I haven’t been boating as much as I would like lately and feel out of shape still from the baby. The lead in was going well, I took a few hard strokes and a big boof. It worked great! Too well in fact. I flew over the hole in my Zen 3, and actually had to aggressively redirect my line and ferry away from the right in order to avoid the sieve because I’d ended up so far down stream. I couldn’t believe how easy the boof was in my Zen 3. Even feeling out of shape it was such an easy move. Next, I walked back up and ran the left line. This was a straight forward slide that ended in a hole. We decided to prolong our river time since we had a baby sitter, and paddled the flat water to the park. We saw several turtles along the way and had seen a river otter earlier up above the main rapid.

Child yelling hooray

After a successful weekend of two new personal first descents as well as a new state I had never previously kayaked in, I am feeling re-charged and ready for more paddling. I’m more motivated to get back in shape this spring but also happy to know that even without proper training, my Zen 3 has my back. Until next time. ~Diane Brasuell (Gaydos)