OAK HARBOR — A new water trail offers ways for kayakers, boaters and recreation enthusiasts to access and enjoy the outdoors along the Portage River.
State and local officials on Tuesday designated the Portage River Water Trail, a joint effort by the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments, its Portage River Basin Council, waterfront communities, and a long list of partners who helped bring the project to reality.
The Portage River is a popular location for recreational activities like kayaking, boating and fishing.
The new water trail offers signage showing 12 access locations and facilities available along the river between Pemberville and Port Clinton, as well as hazards that people on the river may encounter.
“Wood County Park District is super excited to be the beginning of the Portage River Water Trail,” said Jamie Sands, volunteer services and communications specialist with the park district.
The new part of the trail starts at William Henry Harrison Park in Pemberville.
“It’s a great place to launch and enjoy the river,” Sands said.
A guidebook for the 36-mile water trail includes access points with mile markers and information about parking, restrooms, and distance to shore, as well as safety tips and markers for hazards such as dams or where motorized boats and ferries may be traveling.
“It gives you a good idea about how to can get on the water safely and have a good time,” said Mary Mertz, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Mertz said the trail program has been around since 2006.
“The number of registered, non-motorized watercraft — which are primarily kayaks and canoes — has quadrupled. So that tells you what’s happened in just a few years here,” she said. “There are over 300,000 registered.”
The Portage River Water Trail adds to a list of 16 existing water trails statewide, including another that was previously designated along the Maumee River.
“We’re thrilled to be able to offer this new resource for people in our region,” said Ottawa County Commissioner Mark Coppeler, chair of TMACOG’s Portage River Basin Council. “The new water trail creates so many opportunities to experience everything the Portage River and the communities along its banks have to offer.”
The goal of Ohio’s water trail program is to promote the awareness of public paddling access while increasing safety by partnering with local communities to develop designated water trails on Ohio’s waterways. The trails are planned on the local level: communities, user groups, park districts, and more recommend existing access sites for a proposed trail.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources helps guide the process, encouraging communities to work across political boundaries and providing reimbursement for brochures, maps and signage.
“These aren’t projects that are run by the state or one group. There are a lot of partners who helped this to happen,” Mertz said.
The Portage River Water Trail project involved support from partners including:
• Village of Pemberville
• Wood County Park District
• City of Port Clinton
• Friends of the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge
• Oak Harbor Development Group
• Ohio Department of Natural Resources
• Ohio Sea Grant
• Ottawa County Commissioners
• Park District of Ottawa County
• Shores & Islands Ohio
• U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
• Village of Elmore
• Village of Oak Harbor
• Village of Woodville
For more information about Ohio’s water trails program, go to https://ohiodnr.gov/discover-and-learn/land-water/rivers-streams-wetlands/ohio-water-trails
TMACOG is a non-partisan regional planning partnership made up of voluntary members in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. Together, TMACOG members work on transportation, water quality, and other economic development endeavors that affect quality of life for everyone in our region. For more information, go to www.tmacog.org.
(Sentinel-Tribune multi-media journalist J.D. Pooley contributed to this story.)