Great Miami River
May 18, 19, 20, 2012



Upper Great Miami

Indian Lake, a very popular resort lake since the early 1900's, sits close to the headwaters of the Great Miami River. The lake was created as a feeder lake for the Miami and Erie Canal. The 105 mile long Great Miami River which was the clubs river of choice for May, for all practical purposes, starts at the outlet of Indian Lake. That tiny stream at Russell's Point, grows dramatically as it flows through the towns of Sidney, Piqua, Troy, Dayton and Cincinnati and terminates into the Ohio River, draining an area of 2,513 square miles. 15 river miles downstream of the Indian Lake spillway lays the Oakdale Campground, a perfect camping destination for a weekend of canoeing. The goal was a paddle from the spillway back to camp, water levels permitting, then from camp downstream towards Sidney.

Tom and Tony both arrived Thursday evening with plans of canoe scouting the first 15 miles on Friday. It was still a dry spring and the weekend temperatures were in the 80's with no rain forecasted. Tony arrived first, checked in and sat up camp. He then went off geocaching for the afternoon. Tom spent the day on Indian Lake fishing and caught supper, an 18 to 20 inch catfish. He filleted it and added rice along with goose breast to create a gourmet meal. Tony stopped at the Pines Bar and Grill, "The Best Bar by Dam," for his meal. The Pines is along the Great Miami River at a low head dam, hence the slogan.

River at Camp

The Oakdale Campground sits on the river a mile upstream of that low head dam and the backwaters is what makes the campground appealing to boaters and jet skiers. Oakdale has more permanent campers than weekend guests and owners Gene and Sally Mae are wonderful people. They even have a soft serve ice cream machine which dispenses great ice cream cones. Thursday evening was cool and an Indian campfire helped ward off the chill as Tom and Tony talked the evening away.

Friday morning saw a low of 45 but once the sun cleared the tree tops it quickly warmed. Around daybreak some animal made a God awful noise of which neither of the party had ever heard before. Tom had to tell everyone about it and every time he tried to duplicate the sound, it was different with some tries not even close to an animal sound. The two paddlers headed to the Indian Lake spillway for a 15.3 mile paddle, carry and drag of a good time. The first mile was shallow with trees to pull over. The next 5 miles had numerous logjams to pull over and portage around, with the longest portage being close to 200 to 250 yards. Luckily the underbrush along the bank wasn't too thick. The last 9 miles, from the McColly Covered Bridge to camp was debris free and relaxing. The USGS stream gage at Sidney was at 1.53 feet but 6 more inches of water would have been great. A chain saw also would have helped the upper stretch of the river become more canoer friendly. The 15.3 miles took the two guys seven hours to complete.

Back at camp Tom and Tony relaxed until supper time. Around six Wil pulled in and sat up a canvas lean-to with a cot. He was roughing it voyageur style. At 7:30 Ted and Connie joined the three with Harold and Laurie setting up camp after dark. Rounding out the evening was member Paul Nusbaumn who hasn't been to an outing in years. Welcome back Paul. Sitting around a roaring fire everyone just socialized and laughed until bedtime.


The overnight was slightly warmer than the night before and Saturday morning promised to be a beautiful day. Harold didn't bring a canoe and Ted's back was acting up so they decided not to paddle. That left Paul, Tom, Tony and Wil to launch their canoes into the Great Miami River, at 8:45 am, to head downstream from camp to Sidney. Ted said he would pick them up saving an hour's long vehicle shuttle. The day was getting very warm and the Great Miami was getting wider with less shade. Once over the low head dam there weren't any other obstacles in the way for the rest of the trip. At the 13.5 mile mark there was Ted patiently waiting to load canoes on his trailer. Back at camp ice cream cones were in store with naps afterwards.

The potluck for the trip did not have a theme but there were still lots of great food. Tom had to depart for home before eating but that still left seven hungry campers to devour soup beans and cornbread, fried potatoes, chicken and rice, polish sausage, salad, brownies and cherry pie. After dinner activities included cornhole and hillbilly golf games then another wonderful evening campfire. Looking around at the many permanent campers, it seemed like Christmas with the different colored lights draped and shaped all over the campers.

Sunday dawned clear and warm, again promising a beautiful spring day. Harold got up and started cooking a community breakfast of potatoes O'Brian in the Big Daddy Skillet. With cheese and salsa, tortillas and left over brownies it was a filling meal. Paul and Wil decided on an eight mile paddle from county road 21 back to camp while the others leisurely lazed away the morning playing games and tearing down tents.

The upper Great Miami River is a nice place to paddle and with more water the flow would be swifter aiding the paddling experience. The log jams change from flood to flood so the locals say and next time there may not be any. There were many animals seen and heard on the trip such as the woodpecker alarm clock Friday morning, deer, squirrels, ducks and geese (both with young swimming behind), fish and birds of all sorts. Check the schedule in the coming years as this is one trip to be repeated. See everyone next time as we paddle "Around the Bend."

River by Sidney

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