Just as the American Indians would gather on the banks of the Little Miami River in ancient days, the OHCRA tribe gathered on the banks of the Little Miami to share paddling, food, fellowship, knowledge, opinions, and a beautiful fall weekend. The gathering took place September 16, 17, and 18, with some arriving a day early and some staying late into the day on the 18th. While many of the tribe were traveling to the river on the 16th, Ruth, Mary, and Eric arrived the day prior so they did some sight seeing and took a very pleasant 3 mile paddle from Fort Ancient back down to the campground. It was a beautiful sunny day, great for doing just about anything.
Lance arrived at Morgans campground early afternoon on Friday. After a short but significant confusion regarding reserved campsites (wayyyy to complex to explain here), the campsites were squared away just as Tom arrived. Tom and Lance got their camps set up, had a couple of beers, chatted with other OHCRA tribe members. Potential new member Joanne had arrived a few hours earlier. A little at a time, others arrived at the campground......Steve, Coleen, Liz, Chuck. Ted and Connie, Harold and Laurie. Tony and Alice arrived either Thursday evening or early Friday.
Lance made a point to check out the river on the way to the campground and found that the put in used often by OHCRA was not as good as it had been in the past. The river was about 10 feet below the level of the bank and it was muddy with a muddy river bottom. Lance then went to the next put in down river located at a beautiful covered bridge over the Little Miami. The walk to the river was a little further but the put in was much nicer. An easy gravel bank river bottom and a very gradual slope down to the water. The covered bridge put in was clearly the superior one, but Lance gave the group an opportunity to vote, and smartly they chose the gravel bank. We had a fire friday night, some cussin' and discussing' and telling hopeless lies and we were all in bed at a decent hour looking forward to Saturdays paddle. Eric had notice on Thursday night that there was such a heavy dew that night, it sounded like it was raining. Turned out that Friday night and Saturday night were the same. The days were hot and humid, the nights were cool as soon as the sun set, just the right conditions for heavy dews.
The tribe was getting up and around by 8:00 Saturday morning. It was sunny and starting to get nicely warm as the paddlers got their gear loaded up into one of the canoe trailers. A wild and crazy shuttle up to the put in got us up to the covered bridge. The sky was free of clouds, the sun was warm but not too warm, wind was very gentle, with low humidity. It was shaping up to be a great paddle back to the campground. The river was definitely nice. Clear, greenish tinted water, but I think the weather was the icing on the cake. Soon after starting out, Lance spotted a large growth of Chicken-of-the-Woods mushrooms. Ruth and Lance got out and gathered a bunch to cook and serve the tribe as part of the evening buffet. We saw many many painted and leatherback turtles, some ducks, an osprey, kingfishers, a very interesting dead tree that had been riddled with woodpecker holes. Chucks dog Cookie had no interest in the turtles even though Chuck tried numerous time to get him interested. We also saw a prop plane pulling a glider up to thermals, and a little later saw the glider soaring. They take off from the Caesar Creek Soaring Club Gliderport nearby.
The river was low, so there was some scraping,or scootching over underwater gravel bars, and some getting stuck on rocks just under the water, but it was mostly free of obstructions. Liz and Coleen got stuck on a particularly shallow gravel bar, so Coleen got out and floated down to where there was deeper water. She said the water was truly refreshing. Lance was surprised by the coolness of the water and the amount of water in Caesar Creek, given that the river was low. It was not until later that he discovered that the draw down of Caesar Creek Lake had started earlier in the month. So that draw down gave them a couple of inches of water and accounted for the coolness of the water. The Little Miami River is typical of midwest rivers, with chutes and pools. The water was just fast enough to make the chutes fun and the pools were moving slowly, not just dead water. In a particularly interesting part of the river where the river makes a 90 degree right hand turn, then about 15 feet later a 90 degree left hand turn, with an eddy above the turns and an eddy to the left and right, Cookie got bumped out of the boat, and when Chuck tried to help him, Chuck got bumped out of the boat. We all decided to eat lunch on a large gravel bar there.
After a great lunch we headed on down stream toward "The High Bridge". Some of the tribe that had never paddled the Little Miami previously asked what was The High Bridge. Lance said, "you will know it when you see it". When we could finally see "The High Bridge", they were impressed at the engineering marvel that it is. The bridge is Interstate 71 that goes over the river gorge. We cruised on down the river, past Fort Ancient, and on to the campground. We had considered taking a break and heading the 3 miles to Morrow, but the tribe decided we had enough for the day. It was a great paddle and a great day.
The evening buffet was fantastic as always. We started the meal by saying thanks to The Great Spirit for providing us such a great day. There were fantastic meatballs, Buffalo pulled chicken, cucumber with dill and feta salad, beer/cheese soup, zucchini fritters with gravy, apples with a creamcheese dip, cookies, a fantastic pie that Tom's wife made. There were a few other items, but in any case everything was terrific. Except for the mushrooms that Lance had harvested. He thought they were too dry to serve. Gathered around the fire, got cleaned up, etc.
Sunday morning came after another night of very heavy dew. Lance offered a 3 mile trip down to the town of Morrow. A quick shuttle was run and Lance, Tom, Coleen, Liz and Joanne got on the river to take a quick jaunt down to Morrow from our campsites. The day was at least as nice as Saturday, maybe even a little better. Not a cloud in the sky, light wind, low humidity, clear water. There were a few nice chutes to negotiate, followed by a cool, clear pools. As we neared Morrow and our take out, the river took a long sweeping curve to the right. We saw a few people on the shore and as we slowly paddled down river, we saw more and more people gathered together on the shore and they were occasionally clapping and cheering.. Lance thought it was probably a scout troop, but then noticed that there were men, women, children. He then noticed that there was 1 person standing waist deep in the water and he realized that it was a church with a pastor baptizing people in the river. We slowly drifted up to the shore, trying not to draw attention to ourselves, pulling up about 50 feet from the church group. Well they got done about the same time we were pulling in and getting our gear together and they asked if they could help up get out gear and canoes up to the road. We all said we were fine, but they wouldn't take no for an answer. The pastor and assistant pastor and a couple of people from the congregation helped us with our boats and gear. They were a very happy and helpful bunch of folks.
After the gear and boats were loaded, Lance offered to take the group on a little sightseeing tour of Morrow. He mentioned that there was an ice cream shop in town if anyone was interested. You would have thought he said "There is a place giving away free gold in town". Yes we were going to stop for ice cream or there was going to be a mutiny. It was goood stuff!! While we were at the ice cream shop Lance said he knew where there was a secret waterfall that only the locals know about, and if they wanted to go look at it, all would have to pinky swear on a stack of paddles that they would not reveal the location. The pinky swear was done. We drove up to the waterfall, and everyone was impressed. The waterfall had grown as well as the pool below the fall since Lance had last seen it. Lance noticed while there that a 50 or 60 foot cliff a short way up stream had eroded significantly and would be worth walking up the creek to check out. Turns out almost that entire cliff was made up of fossils of many many kinds. It was really amazing. At the time the Caesar Creek Dam (just a few miles away as the crow flies) was dug, they found the largest trilobite in the country. Larger ones have since been found, but I have no doubt there were some good sized trilobites in that cliff, or maybe laying in the creek. Massive, massive numbers of fossils there.
By now it was early afternoon. We still had to break camp and head home. Reluctantly we headed back to the car and back to camp. We decided that if Saturday was a crown, Sunday was a jewel in that crown. Thank you for a fantastic weekend Little Miami River!!