Roads Rivers and Trails

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Monthly Archives: June 2014

Water Safety Along the Little Miami (and Surrounding Rivers) – Part Three

As in all things educational, you had to begin somewhere, but in a world so full of information, where does one start? Look no further! We have compiled a list of books and local experts (the same ones we pester for our information) that will serve you well throughout life.




Books – All books are available at Roads, Rivers and Trails.

Kayak: A New Frontier

by William McNealy

ISBN: 0897325893

Sea Kayaking: Safety and Rescue

by John Lull

ISBN: 9780899974767

Boundary Waters Canoe Area: Eastern Region

by Robert Beymer and Louis Dzierzak

ISBN: 9780899974613

Canoeing and Kayaking Ohio’s Streams

by Rick Combs and Steve Gillen

ISBN: 0881502529

The Northern Forest Canoe Trail

by The Northern Forest Canoe Trail, Inc.

ISBN: 9781594850615

A Canoeing and Kayaking Guide to Kentucky: Fifth Edition

by Bob Sehlinger and Johnny Molloy

ISBN: 9780897325653


Local Liveries: Your (and our) source for the most up to date information and some pretty kick-ass river-fun-time! Liveries are listed north to south along the Little Miami.

Morgan’s Outdoor Adventure

Ft. Ancient Canoe Livery

5701 St. Rt. 350

Oregonia, OH 45054



Green Acres Canoe and Kayak

10465 Suspension Bridge Rd

Harrison, OH 45030



Little Miami Canoe

219 Mill (SR 123)

Morrow, OH 45152



Loveland Canoe and Kayak

200 Crutchfield Place

Loveland, OH 45140



Scenic River Excursions

4595 Roundbottom Rd

Cincinnati, OH 45244



Mariemont Livery

7625 Wooster Pike

Cincinnati, OH 45227



Water Safety Along the Little Miami (and Surrounding Rivers) – Part Two

Today’s topic will be water safety gear, but first a PSA…

Floodwater is NOT Whitewater

We’ve all heard the awesome stories (or even lived them ourselves) about the instant rock-star status involved in running whitewater. Just you, your boat of choice, a helmet, life jacket and a prayer against the awesome power of the river! Hoo-rah! We’ve taken trips out to the New River, the Gauley or any of the hundreds of other whitewater rivers in the U.S. and come back with some great memories. Now you’re working again, kids have games and recitals, in-laws are visiting, and you really need a time-out. It rained really hard a few days ago and the river is up but the sun’s out now and you want some action. It only stands to reason that fast-moving water is fast-moving water, no matter where you go, right?


In whitewater, it’s just you and the river (and rocks.) With a flooded river, even the featureless albeit quick calm of anything above seven feet, you have to contend with uprooted trees, vegetation and other miscellaneous out-wash come down the banks with the rain. Furthermore, while the river may not initially tear up a grove of trees, if you find yourself on the water, it will carry you into said grove of trees. Roots and debris act as “strainers,” a collection of fallen branches or other vegetation which will catch a kayaker up while the river keeps them pinned. Needless to say, this isn’t a position anyone wants to be in, seasoned or fledgling. In addition to this, the river never loses steam. One cubic foot of moving water is roughly 69 lbs of pressure. If we go back to our original 1,700 CFS, that equates to 106,080 lbs of force per second that never stops pushing. As in almost every case, common sense will help you throughout the decision-making process. If it is beyond your comfort zone, either don’t do it or find someone who is better versed than you are in these matters to guide you.


PFDs – What Floats your Boat?

One of the key components to water safety is the Personal Floatation Device (PFD), growing up, these were simply called life jackets. They came in bright orange, sandwiched their wearer between a huge layer of foam and made it short of impossible to move either your arms or torso. Luckily for the world of water sports, the PFD has seen a redesign and revitalization in the realms of mobility while still maintaining their safety. The U.S. Coast Guard provides the following table to showcase the classes of PFDs:

Type PFDs

Minimum Adult Buoyancy

in Pounds (Newtons)

I – Inflatable

33.0 (150)

I – Buoyant Foam or Kapok

22.0 (100)

II – Inflatable

33.0 (150)

II – Buoyant Foam or Kapok

15.5 (70)

III – Inflatable

22.0 (100)

III – Buoyant Foam

15.5 (70)

IV – Ring Buoys

16.5 (75)

IV – Boat Cushions

18.0 (82)

V – Hybrid Inflatables

22.0 (Fully inflated) (100)
7.5 (Deflated) (34)

V – Special Use Device – Inflatable

22.0 to 34.0 (100 to 155)

V – Special Use Device – Buoyant Foam

15.5 to 22.0 (70 to 100)


The human body is naturally buoyant, considering we are 65 to 75% water, and our bodyweight doesn’t apply in the water as much as you may believe. In the above chart, the weights are in addition to the buoyancy of our bodies. For instance, in the Little Miami, PFDs up to a Class III rating are sufficient.  According to the chart above, that is only an additional 15.5 to 20 lbs of buoyancy, how can that be? Think back to the days of summer when you were a kid. No matter how deep you tried to dive in the pool, it was harder and harder to reach the bottom. When you fill your lungs with air, you are literally turning yourself into a flotation device! We are designed to float from birth, the PFD just gives us a little more pick-up.

Foam vs. Inflatable

Reading the chart, one would be inclined to grab an inflatable. Inflatables are effective, but their one Achilles heel is leaking. In the Little Miami area, the river is full of jagged corners, sticks, rocks and other miscellaneous hazards that would present an issue to inflatables. Foam may break down over time but we’re talking decades, and it can take a beating the likes of which an inflatable would never survive. Choose which PFD you will, so long as you choose one and keep it on during your trek. We’ve seen, too often, the jacket strapped into the boat and that boat go floating away down a wave-train sans paddler. You don’t want to end up in this situation (again.)


For the love of all things wet, if we haven’t made the power of the river apparent by now, I’m not sure we can. It’s really simple; you wear a helmet for everything from rollerblading to cross-country motorcycle touring, why would you not do the same for kayaking/canoeing? Your skull can take anywhere from 15 to 170 lbs of force before it cracks, depending on where and how you are hit. How many pounds of force are in the river? Get the picture? Put a helmet on.

Part three: at the feet of the masters, click here

Water Safety Along the Little Miami (and Surrounding Rivers) – Part One

Charlie Foxtrot Sierra

When is it safe to paddle? It’s not that simple.

Most of us are used to seeing the river gauges or hearing on the news that the river is cresting at X feet. What you rarely ever hear, and what all professional liveries go by, is the river’s CFS measurement. CFS stands for Cubic Feet per Second. You can think of CFS as the velocity of the river flow. For anyone who has ever been out on a kayak or canoe trip with the assumption that you will have two solid hours of fun, only to end up at your take-out point 40 minutes later, you have CFS to thank for that.

On the Little Miami and many of our other local rivers, a CFS of 1,700 or higher is a red flag. 1,700 CFS means the water is moving at 1,700 cubic feet per second. I know what you’re thinking; that last sentence may well have been in Greek for all the sense it makes. So let’s break this down into manageable terms, something we can all relate to: garden hoses. “A typical garden hose provides about 3 gallons per minute…one cfs is equivalent to 150 garden hoses being sprayed at the same time.” 150 garden hoses spraying full blast multiplied by 1,700 is…255,000 garden hoses. Understand now why our local river guides close above that?

Well Dam, Sam

“Okay, so 255,000 garden hoses at once is a lot of force, but I just saw the river gauge read in well below that, and I called to find out if we can go out this evening after dinner, but they still told me no. What’s up?”

On top of CFS, let’s bring in another factor we must acknowledge, the release of dams in the area. I spoke with a representative for the USACE at Caesars Creek regarding the protocol for damn release, and this is what he had to say: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers control the waters of both East Fork and Caesar’s Creek dams; using the “Guide Curve,” USACE determines water release from their lakes via dams based on several constantly changing factors (how high the lake is, stream gauges from Spring Valley in the north and Milford in the south, how much rain is in the forecast, what the temperature of the river is, etc.) Readings go to NOAA and USGS to issue various announcements, many are familiar with the flood advisories in our area. When the water level is becoming dangerous to the surrounding environment and/or the area is expecting a large quantity of rain that will endanger the surrounding environment, they release into the Little Miami to counteract what will inevitably be a large surplus of groundwater into the lakes. Caesar Creek is usually sitting around 2,830 acres of water, but in a potential flood threat, it can hold up to 6,110 acres of water.

Depending on the location, it will take anywhere from four to eleven hours to raise the river levels/increase the CFS. If, for instance, you are leaving out of the Morgan’s livery area (Northern Cincinnati) and the USACE releases Caesar Creek, it will take four hours to reach you, then up to another four to seven hours to reach the lower liveries. East Fork is further south, and it will be effect the liveries nearby in a similar time frame. As such, it will depend on the livery or put-in point, time frame and forecast to determine whether you should hit the water or not.

Part two: we discuss various safety protocol on the river, click here

RRT Underground: Mammoth Cave

Howdy internet folks. Goatman here, checking in from Roads, Rivers and Trails. The sun  is gearing up for a hot one this summer and you know what that means: time to hide under the earth where the light can’t get to me! Actually, I was in the area visiting fellow AT hiker and we decided to check out one of the country’s most unique National Parks, Mammoth Cave. Located in the Green River valley of western Kentucky, Mammoth Cave is the longest cave system on Earth. That’s right, longest in the world and only 3 hours from Cincinnati. There are about 80 miles of hiking and horseback riding trails, back country camping permits are free, and the beautiful Green River meanders through the park, offering visitors a chance to beat the heat with a nice paddle through wooded hills. Still too hot for you? Well, cave tours are the big thing down at Mammoth and for as little as 12 bucks you can take a 2+ hour tour underground where it’s always ~55 degrees. The rangers we met were great: knowledgeable, experienced, and hilarious. But enough of my blabbing. Below are some photos of the wild beauty of Mammoth Cave, just a taste of the wild beauty that the park has to offer. So get out there.