Tag Archives: Little Miami River

The Ohio to Erie Trail: Biking Across Ohio

September was fast approaching. It’s my favorite month of the year for traveling and I was looking forward to backpacking around Lake Tahoe with my brother. Unfortunately, he was not feeling it in the same way and decided the trip wasn’t for him. After getting over the shock how anyone would not want to be in the Sierras in September I began thinking about other options. Without a long lead time, and a shortage of hiking friends, I was looking at a solo trip. After solo hiking several longer trails (Colorado Trail, Long Trail, JMT…) in the last few years I was ready for something different. How about a bike ride? That could be interesting.

Running from the Ohio River at downtown Cincinnati to Lake Erie near downtown Cleveland, the Ohio to Erie Trail runs 326 miles through the heart of Ohio. Most of the route is off road and there appeared to be enough camping or lodging available along the route to make a feasible ride for an older (read slower) cyclist. In addition, the trail runs near my house so logistics were straightforward. Looks like I had my September trip!

My first stop was at the local bike shop to see if my aging “hybrid” bike had what it takes to complete the journey. I was told it would be “like driving a Cadillac,” but apparently not in a good way. Slow, but comfortable was the way the other mechanic described how my trip would go. I was good with that. With significant mileage on packed gravel, my race bike with narrow tires seemed like a poor choice.
Using maps from the Ohio to Erie Trail (OTET) organization and their website, I put together a plan to travel the distance in six days, using a combination of camping and hotels. Averaging around 55 miles per day seemed doable even with the slow Caddy loaded down and powered by a nearly 60 year old engine.

Utilizing a borrowed pair of panniers and my lightweight backpacking equipment I was able to keep the load well under 20 pounds. That included a change of clothes, rain gear, camping gear, a couple spare tubes, a few tools, snacks and water. Looking at the route, it appeared I could get nearly all of my meals as I traveled.
The first stretch, from the Ohio River to my house near Morrow, looked like it had some of the worst on-road riding of the trip. While there had been some additional trail built in the last few years, the official trail still took riders down Rt 50 (Wooster Pike), a busy four lane road, for six miles. As I drove that road down to the start at the river, it became an easy decision for me to stay away from Wooster and take the new, nearby trail.
Parking near the Ohio River in downtown Cincinnati, it was easy to hop on the trail and pedal to the start near Great American Ballpark. It was a beautiful fall day and I got started heading east along the Ohio River a bit after 10 AM. This meant missing, as planned, the morning rush hour on the sections of city streets. Rolling through Sawyer Point Park and Friendship Park, the path was flat and scenic. A 2 ½ mile section on Riverside drive wasn’t bad as a separate bike lane was well marked. Some more park/trail and a shift to behind a septic treatment plant kept most of the route off road until I reached the popular bike trail around Lunken Airport. The wide, smooth path was sandwiched between Wilmer Road and a number of airplane hangers. Once past the airport, the OTET route continued onto Wooster Pike.

After looking at that route earlier that day, I made the decision to go rogue. By turning east onto Rt 125 (Beechmont Ave.) I pedaled less than a mile on a busy road, with a reasonably good shoulder, and crossed the Little Miami River. From there, taking the first exit onto north Rt 32 put me immediately onto a new section of the Little Miami Scenic Trail (LMST). It was a pleasant few miles through neighborhood parks until the official OTET route rejoined me by Avoca Park. Getting to this point took well under an hour. In checking with the OTET organization, neither the City of Cincinnati or Hamilton County will allow them to designate Beechmont as a bike route. The official route (and the one you should follow) will remain Wooster Pike for the time being. Either way, the rest of the day and beyond would be off road on the LMST.
Much of the LMST is constructed on an old railroad line. As such, there are no steep hills along its entire length. While the lack of elevation change can be boring for some, the trail is often within sight of the pretty Little Miami River, which in 1968, became Ohio’s first National Wild and Scenic River. In addition, there are numerous small towns with plenty of great places to stop for a break or to buy a snack or enjoy a meal. Not that I would notice, but there also seemed to be a plethora of bars alongside the path on this, and other, stretches.

As this is my “home” section of trail, I made pretty good time through the morning. Much of the trail is a green tunnel with possible stops after a few miles in Milford, a few more miles at Miamiville, or six more miles at Loveland. The trail is an integral part of Loveland and you pass right by a canoe/kayak livery, bike shop (where I had my ride checked out) and numerous restaurants. I could recommend several of them, but stopped for lunch at Bike Trail Junction, which is literally feet from the trail.
After a relaxing lunch, I stepped out of the place and right onto my bike. Loveland is quite possibly the busiest spot on the entire route, but on a weekday afternoon in September, I saw just a few other bikers as I continued north. The afternoon remained sunny and pleasant with ongoing views of the Little Miami. Several miles up the path is the interesting historical site of the Peters Cartridge Company, a major producer of munitions for the Allied forces in both World Wars. The remaining building is planned to be converted into retail and apartments in the not too distant future.
A short 14 miles after lunch I rolled into Morrow, my endpoint for the day. I traveled 39 miles up the OTET route and had 4 miles of country road yet to travel to get to my house. Without a convenient, comfortable spot to get dinner and my own bed, I would have traveled a few more miles to a riverside campground operated by Morgan’s Canoe Livery. As it was, I was home by midafternoon, plenty of time to get a ride to retrieve my truck that I’d left downtown.

The next stage of the trip is right here.

Little Miami River – Beginning to End

If you read about my Thru-Hike of the Colorado Trail (and I hope you have) you might have picked up that I was having some foot pain during the trip. After not getting any relief from a couple of Podiatrists, I thought I’d see a surgeon. Surprisingly enough, his answer to my pain was surgery. Anyhow, I went through with having nerves removed and bone shortened and for the last couple of months have been unable to attempt any adventures worth sharing on these pages. At best I was able to get out for a little spelunking; in the beer cave down the street.

Rather than continuing to leave these pages blank though, I decided to share some past adventures that fit more within the parameters of this website. I hope you enjoy them.

Some 2,000 years ago, when the prehistoric Hopewell Indian of the Midwest constructed 3 ½ miles of earthworks to use for their religious ceremonies, they picked a bluff overlooking a small river in southwestern Ohio. Eighteen hundred years later, when a young Shawnee Indian by the name of Tecumseh was to start on the path to manhood, he dove to the bottom of a deep pool on the same stream and picked up a stone that was to become his Pawawka token. That rock was carried by the Shawnee’s most famous war chief for the rest of his life and was used to help communicate with both Moneto (ruler of the universe) and the Great Spirit (ruler of destinies). For centuries, this small river was both a physical and spiritual cornerstone of life in the area. Today, when you need the serenity that only a quiet paddle in beautiful surroundings can provide; the same water is still available; The Little Miami River.

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Flowing nearly 105 miles from Clifton Gorge, near Xenia, Ohio, to its confluence with the Ohio River east of downtown Cincinnati, the Little Miami is a great example of an urban stream which has been saved from the fate of most rivers flowing near populated areas. A local non-profit, Little Miami Inc., has been in existence nearly 40 years working to clean the water and protect the scenic beauty of the stream. In 1969, the Little Miami was the first river named to Ohio’s fledgling Scenic Rivers Program. In 1973 it became the first in Ohio and one of the first rivers in the country to be named a National Scenic River. Despite the proximity to a large urban center, the Little Miami is considered “Exceptional Warmwater Habitat” supporting 83 species of fish. Wildlife is abundant along the shore as well. Because nearly 60 miles of railroad bed running through the valley have been paved as a multipurpose trail and linear state park, the area receives strong support as a local treasure from not only canoeists, anglers and nature lovers, but also hikers, bikers and rollerbladers.

While my brother Bob and I had paddled portions of the river countless times, neither of us had seen the entire length. So when our schedules matched up for a few days, we decided to take the opportunity despite a forecast for some rain. Dropped off and camping at John Bryan State Park, we spent much of the night listening to a tremendous “toad choking” thunderstorm as it moved through. The downpour didn’t let up until first light as we slogged the short distance from the campsite down into a steep valley and to the swollen creek. The rain eased to a mist as gear and food were arranged into our two homemade cedar strip solo canoes. We pushed off just below the outflow of Clifton Gorge, a state scenic nature preserve. Visibility was minimal as we started downstream and both craft were soon swallowed by the fog.

The first five miles were a collection of strainers, log jams and old mill dams that had to be portaged. The going was slow and I was beginning to think that perhaps, we had begun the trip a bit too far upstream. When I rolled my boat while attempting to maneuver under a driveway, I became convinced of the error. The dry bags did their job however and the only damage was to my ego. By late morning, things were looking up. The fog had lifted and we had reached the U.S. 68 bridge, considered by many to be the beginning of navigable water.

With the sun breaking out and the currant much stronger than usual, we started making good time downriver. The class I rapids were more exciting than normal, but the morning’s misadventure was not repeated. Throughout the day, tributaries joined in, keeping the flow fast while the river grew. The normal array of waterfowl typically on the water was absent, apparently in hiding from the current. Two deer tempted fate however, successfully swimming across the stream in front of us. At 6 PM we stpped at the Fort Ancient canoe ramp and walked the short distance to Morgan’s Canoe Livery to arrange for a campsite for the evening. Total distance traveled was about 50 miles. Gary Morgan, operator of the oldest and largest canoe rental on the river asked, “Where did you start this morning, U.S. 35?”

When Bob mentioned John Bryan State Park he replied, “Oh, U.S. 68?”

When I assured him that we had indeed begun at the park, his reply was, “Wow, you guys really ran the gauntlet!”

There was no argument with that statement. After dinner at the riverside camp, the soothing, ancient sounds of the nearby current and tired muscles conspired to make it an early night.

Morning seemed to arrive about ten minutes later. There had barely been enough time to dream of traveling the river with Daniel Boone, who had spent substantial time in the Little Miami area. The river, though still flowing well, was down somewhat from the day before. The day promised to be a good one. Once again there was fog in the air, but it quickly lifted to reveal a solid blue sky and beautiful, forested shorelines. The wildlife put into hiding by the high water upstream began to reemerge. Mallard and wood ducks were spotted along the shore. On a stretch of shallow water, a great blue heron had resumed fishing. As the sun climbed higher in the sky, painted and snapping turtles began to climb onto logs and  bask away the day.

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By noon, we were inside Cincinnati’s I-275 beltway and lunch was at Lake Isabella Park. One of many parks along the stream, the facility is a great stop with restrooms, picnic tables, and of course, canoe access.

While the river flowed ever closer and eventually through the metropolitan area, it was hard to tell from the seat of a canoe as much of the shoreline is in public hands and protected. The lack of current was the best clue that we were near the finish and by mid-afternoon we paddled into the Ohio River, over 100 miles from our start.

Paddling during the week, we saw only one other pair of canoes during the entire trip. The solitude and natural surroundings made it easy to forget we were in a digital age, in a major urban area. Other than an occasional bridge, very little of the surroundings disputed my persistent daydream that we were traveling in an earlier time, in a much more remote place. It was easy to feel a kinship with those who traveled and lived along the river long ago. And it felt good.

More information about canoeing or kayaking on the river can be found on the websites of the rivers outfitters including, morganscanoe.com, littlemiamicanoe.com, scenicrivercanoe.com and lovelandcanoe.com