By Paul Fuzinski
On Tuesday, May 7th four friends, Paul Fuzinski (Host of the show Take it Outside on the Buckeye Community Arts Network (BCAN) / Appalachian Trail Thru Hiker 2015) and wife Christina Seiler (Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker 2015) both Swanton Residents and, Bill Hoefflin (Wood County Park District) and Amanda Domalski (Metroparks Toledo), set out to kayak the entire 137 miles of the Maumee River to put our paddling skills to the test, to scout the waterway for potential overnight programs through the parks and most importantly, to have a good time.
After extensive scouting and planning we felt that even though the water was high, cold and moving faster than usual we would be able to do this safely and prepared accordingly with the proper equipment including wetsuits, neoprene kayak skirts and kayaking jackets as well as thermal wear. Along with this, Bill and Amanda are both America Canoe Association (ACA) certified instructors so safety was of utmost concern for us as we set out.
We put in at the St Mary’s river at 10:45 am in downtown Fort Wayne just across from the Fort itself, right before the confluence where the St Mary’s and St Joseph’s come together to form the Maumee. From there we paddled just over 38 miles to Antwerp, Ohio and stayed for the evening. The next day we paddled 41.5 miles to Independence Dam and camped there. On day three we paddle around 34 miles to Farnsworth Metropark, camping at the group campsite just above the boat launch.
On day four we made our way through the rapids starting just before Waterville, meandered through Maumee and Perrysburg, made our way through downtown Toledo and finally arrived at the finish line by paddling to the tip of Grassy Island at 5:55 pm in Lake Erie and pulling our boats out at Cullen Park at mile 0.00. This roughly adds up to around 39:25 of time on the water, not including time camping. We carried all of out own gear including water, food, camping and safety gear. We had water brought to us at Independence Dam as there was no potable water available.
I can honestly say that having spent an extensive amount of time along the Maumee in the last five years after getting into paddling and conservation, Ohio should be incredibly proud of how clean the Maumee is compared to the Indiana stretch. Immediately upon putting in at Fort Wayne everyone in the group noticed how much debris was strewn along the banks of the river, even in some of the most scenic and rural areas. This is not to say that the banks of the river are completely trash free, but Ohio was noticeably cleaner than Indiana.
I think the entire group is in agreement that the stretch from Antwerp to Napoleon is one of the most scenic on the entire river give or take a few miles here and there. Along the way we saw an abundance of wildlife including a mink, an osprey, multiple kingfishers, king birds, Bald Eagles, Great Blue Herons, orioles, raccoons as well as a plethora of shore birds and various other creatures.
As you know, the Maumee has been given a bad reputation for as long as most people can remember, and even after considerable conservation efforts from many organizations over the last few decades the river still suffers from this stigma and we set out to paddle the river to change that perception. With significant effort from Metroparks Toledo and Wood County Park District, there have been awesome opportunities to get out on the water and to explore via Kayaks, Canoes and paddle boards for low costs to the general public.
We set out to show people that the Maumee is fun, safe and that everyone should get out there and explore this amazing and beautiful resource that is right in their back yards and to ditch the antiquated image of the river as being unsafe.
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