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The weather was very nice on this day; Temps in the upper 70's very little cloud cover and there had been rain off and on the previous week so there was a very decent flow. We had pretty easy going for about 2 miles then we had to portage a small dam. No big deal, a little while later we see the first of many strainers. Had to portage again. Got going then the river really started to show its beauty.
We got quick glimpse of many turtles just before they splashed into the river from the lookouts on logs and their bankside perches mostly looked like Painted Turtles. There were several Blue Herons along the way, usually they would hear us before we reached them, but several times were able to approach them just as they were lifting off. Also, saw an Eastern Water Snake curled up and basking on a log in the middle of the river. Plenty of ducks of varying species and many Canada Geese.
Wildlife happened to be pretty abundant which was the way my son and I like it. He is 8 years old and has been canoeing with me for almost two years now. We saw one other gentlemen in a canoe kicked back with his feet up relaxing and waiting for the fish to bite in one of the many nice fishing holes we passed that day. Saw a few other anglers wading in the water. Also a few kids swimming.
This was the first time we have run the Little Miami, we have been on the Great Miami and Mad rivers many times, and the Stillwater a few. This trip was definitely the most scenic that we have been on thus far. Would highly recommended this trip to Nature/Wildlife lovers.
All this beauty isn't to be had without the river taking its pound of flesh, anything worth experiencing like this does not come cheap. Now we get to the strainers - I counted 8 total my son says 9 - You can come and count them if you like. Any way there must have been some heavy flooding sometime before our trip on one section there was a bend in the river that was totally washed out the bank had been undercut and all the trees had toppled into the river making a mega-strainer some 200-300 yards long. This we dubbed "the portage from hell" since while scouting where to carry around this obstacle we encountered knee high stinging nettles? don't know if this was what they really were but they were broad leaved plants that felt like hundreds of tiny knife blades pricking you as you went. They were so bad I had to have my son climb on my back to spare his young self of a potential reason to look back on canoeing with a not-to-fond memory. So I dropped next to the river where I had him wait while I mustered up the forewithal to portage around this behemoth of a stainer.
Portage successful, we carry on then we come upon the only technically challenging section. There were a few tree stumps mid stream that had to be slalomed around with fast current carrying you the opposite way that you want to go then a very short distance after you clear these you have to line up with a little chute that goes right between the ends of two trees that go completely from one bank to the other except for the gap in the middle of the river which is only as wide as the canoe. With nowhere to go because the banks are very steep and around 10 to fifteen feet high on both sides of the river. So needless to say we stopped and scouted this from as many perspectives as we could. Safety first!
When we were ready with all the courage and strength we could accommodate from the river gods we pushed off hit our marks and sailed right through. Whew... that was fun but a little stressful. Oh well, we all have our rights of passage and my son learned that all rivers were not created equal. Most of the waterways we travel have some rapids, nothing over class IIs with some technical turns, boulders, small rock gardens, some standing waves (at higher water levels) and usually a lot of flatwater paddling. On this particular day we had found ourselves in expedition mode with lots of scouting, not for rapids but the myriad of strainers we encountered some as simple as a solitary tree across the stream others like the mega-strainer mentioned before. We made all portages on river right, do not know if this was the easiest routes, we did not always scout from both banks.
We paddled 14 miles that day. It was an awesome trip if you are willing to put the work in. Our take out point was Mill Bridge Launch, river right just before Washington Mills Road Bridge.
About a mile before the take out I called my wife to let her know we were almost done and to leave the house to meet up with us. We pull out and literally four minutes later we encountered the "welcoming party" - two squad cars of Bellbrooks finest.
There were two trucks parked in the parking lot but no other people besides us around. So we walk up to them and they ask if we have seen anyone we say no. Then they ask a little about our trip we tell them. Then one of them walks away to search around while the other officer ask to see my ID I tell him it is in the boat and we walk to get it. I unscrew the dry compartment and fish it out for him he reads off the info into his radio. While we wait for dispatch, he asks if he can look in our cooler (only water and some leftover snacks), our live well in the center seat (only sweatshirts and a dry bag with some maps), our water tight compartment (keys,cell phone,knife, and the fore-mentioned wallet).
After looking through all our stuff he seems satisfied and leaves to continue with the other officer. While walking away he says "We have problems down here with people drinking and smoking weed." No harm no foul we understand they have a job to do. So, word to the wise, if you are not completely above board on these waters the authorities are waiting and watching, so be careful.
Anyway we had a blast and will do the Little Miami again someday, hopefully some of the strainers will have washed out by then.
GPS – N 39o 45.834 W 83o 54.12
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