Paddle on, Dayton

S ummer is the perfect time to hit the water, and with more than 265 miles of water trails in the Dayton region there’s a lot to explore. Whether you are interested in kayaking, canoeing, or stand up paddleboarding, there are myriad resources that allow you to try the sport or build on existing paddling […]

Kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards

Safety is the important first lesson for kayaking or other water sports.

By Lauren Lemons

Summer is the perfect time to hit the water, and with more than 265 miles of water trails in the Dayton region there’s a lot to explore. Whether you are interested in kayaking, canoeing, or stand up paddleboarding, there are myriad resources that allow you to try the sport or build on existing paddling skills.

“Dayton is a great place to paddle because it offers a variety of options for a variety of skill levels. You can reach a natural river corridor within minutes of being in an urban environment and feel like you have escaped the fast paced world,” said Amy Dingle, MetroParks Director of Outdoor Connections and an avid paddler.

With the addition of RiverScape River Run in 2017, it’s now easier than ever to play on the Great Miami River, just minutes from the urban bustle of downtown Dayton. A dangerous low dam in the Great Miami River located near the Dayton Art Institute was removed and two structures that span the river were built, each with two passageways: one smooth-water passageway for novice paddlers and one whitewater play feature for more experienced paddlers. The project also allows people to fish, sunbathe, and enjoy the river in new ways.

“I am very excited about the RiverScape River Run because it provides a local place to get out and paddle whitewater after work that does not require a long drive. I can have my boat and gear in my car and just carry down to the river’s edge after work, put on the river, and get a whitewater workout to help keep my skills sharp or just have fun surfing,” said Erik Dahlstrom, MetroParks Outdoor Recreation Coordinator. “These two whitewater features, plus the Mad River Run at Eastwood MetroPark, provide three different styles of waves on which to practice and have fun.”

Also exciting to local paddlers is the Dayton Riverfront Plan, which proposes to enhance recreation opportunities along the rivers. Created with significant input provided by the community, the final Dayton Riverfront Plan focuses on the greater downtown’s four waterways and explores the potential the rivers have to enhance regional vibrancy, livability, and economic vitality over the next 20 years. Learn more about the Dayton Riverfront Plan at

With so many paddling opportunities in the Dayton region and in Five Rivers MetroParks, Dahlstrom has a variety of suggestions for families, newbie paddlers, and those seeking thrilling adventures:

Family-friendly paddle: Grab the kids and head to Eastwood MetroPark for an entire day of fun on the water—and on land. The picturesque lagoon allows families to enjoy a causal paddle, as does the Blue Lake. Both locations provide calmer waters and beautiful surroundings and are appropriate for all ages. After your paddle, head to the playground to finish the day zooming down
the slide.

In addition to Eastwood MetroPark, Possum Creek MetroPark offers families an opportunity for a family paddle on Argonne Lake. Enjoy a peaceful paddle and then head to the farm and meet the adorable turkeys, chickens, sheep, goats, and rabbits.

Backcountry feel: For a longer paddle, take the Great Miami River from Taylorsville MetroPark to Island MetroPark (9-mile paddle). For another paddle that allows you to stop and smell the roses, take the Stillwater River from Aullwood MetroPark to Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark. Admire the beautiful gardens in both locations (6.8-mile paddle).

Whitewater fun: More experienced paddlers will enjoy the whitewater action downtown by taking the Mad River, starting at Eastwood MetroPark on Harshman Road and traveling through RiverScape River Run’s second whitewater feature, which allows you to take out near the Dayton Art Institute (7 miles).

Workout on the water: For a relaxing workout, head to Eastwood MetroPark to do laps around Eastwood Lake at
Eastwood MetroPark.

Need-to-know tips and how to plan for a safe paddle

Do’s and Don’ts: Before you hit the water, be sure you have checked the weather forecast in addition to river levels. Dahlstrom also enthusiastically expresses the importance of wearing a lifejacket (and helmet if you plan on paddling in whitewater). Also, think about grabbing a throw rope and river knife in case of an emergency.

Know what you need: All paddlers are required to have a lifejacket for each person on/in the watercraft, sound signaling device, all-around white light for low-visibility situations, and boat registration.

Get some experience: According to Dahlstrom, the best way to feel confident and prepared for a paddling adventure is to get some experience on the water.

“MetroParks paddling programs allow people of all ages and skill levels to get experience on the water with help from MetroParks recreation professionals. In Dayton, there also are a lot of local businesses that offer both gear and guided programs,” said Dahlstrom. “I also suggest some level of river rescue class if you plan on paddling the rivers.”

MetroParks paddling programs in June include:
• Try Paddlesports at Eastwood MetroPark on Thursday, June 14 from 4 to 7 p.m.
• Kayak 2: River at Eastwood MetroPark on Sunday, June 24 from noon to 5 p.m. (prerequisite and registration required)

To view paddling programs throughout the summer, including new Downtown Dayton River Kayaking Trips, visit To learn more about paddling in Dayton, river navigation and additional resources, visit the following sites:,,, and


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Reach DCP freelance writer Lauren Lemons at

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