Venture: Paddling the Alum Creek reservoir

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Since roughly the age of five, I've wanted my own boat.

First, it was the kind of cigarette speedster people photograph for calendars. Then, tooling around Lake Chautauqua with my uncle, I longed for a proud and sturdy white sailboat. Over the years my dream was deferred, scaled down and deferred again.

On Thursday afternoon, it finally came true with the purchase of a Wilderness Systems Pamlico 100, a 10-foot starter kayak on hefty discount at Gander Mountain.

A kayak was not what I originally had in mind - simply a fantasy tempered by the cruel realities of finance and Campus living. Still, I had to register this watercraft with the state, so it counts. I am officially a boat owner.

Less than 24 hours after fulfilling my lifelong dream, Ol' Red and I waded gently into the headwaters of Alum Creek reservoir, the giant manmade lake about 20 miles outside of town.

Water levels were high enough to launch from a small parking lot near Hogback Road and State Rte. 521. (If mudflats are exposed, head to a launch just south of the Howard Road bridge.)

Around State Rte. 521, the reservoir is nothing more than a small stream running slowly through scrub forests, quiet marshes and tree-lined cliffs. A half-mile or so into a trip south, the channel unfolds into the wide, broad waterway that draws thousands to the Alum Creek State Park each year.

Speed boats and bigger craft usually hit the southern section, which allows paddlers to take advantage of the smaller spaces and lack of traffic at the northern end.

This is prime territory for the giddy, random exploration that reminds people why they own boats. Wooded inlets, secret bays and rising shale cliffs line much of the shore, and a series of pillared hack nests awaits the return of osprey next spring.

For now, a day on Alum Creek Reservoir is the perfect way to catch that last glimpse of Ohio's fading fall color.

Even when fall color fades, Ohio's still sweet. Find out more about the state's awesome outdoor resources at the Ohio Adventure Map at

Hogback Road and State Rte. 521, Kilbourne