OAK HARBOR — A Ribbon Cutting Ceremony will be held at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 15 to celebrate the opening of the Portage River Water Trail’s newest Kayak Launch at River Mile 7.8, the location of the Ottawa County Fairgrounds.
The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony will include representatives from the Park District of Ottawa County, Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments (TMACOG), the Portage River Basin Council and the Ottawa County Soil and Water Conservation District.
The Fairgrounds Kayak Launch was funded in part by the 2022 round of the Park District of Ottawa County Parks and Trails Improvement Grant Program. The grant total was $10,000 and the property is owned by the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners.
The Portage River Water Trail was designated in July 2022 through a collaboration of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, TMACOG and the Portage River Basin Council.
A water trail is a series of safe and convenient access points to a river, with a map, parking and educational signage. A trail makes access to the water easier and encourages kayaking and canoeing. The 36-mile trail winds through Wood, Ottawa and Sandusky Counties.
It is the 17th official water trail in the State of Ohio.
The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony on Aug. 15 will include representatives from the Park District of Ottawa County, TMACOG, the Portage River Basin Council and the Ottawa County Soil and Water Conservation District.
Learn more about the Portage River Water Trail by visiting Ohiodnr.gov. Portage River Water Trail maps are available at the Shores & Islands Ohio Visitors Center on Route 53 in Port Clinton and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources at ohiodnr.gov.
The new kayak launch site provides a critical access point for the Portage River Water Trail creating a stop for boaters about five miles downriver from the Village of Oak Harbor and five miles upriver to the Little Portage River State Wildlife Area. The City of Port Clinton at the mouth of the Portage River is an additional two miles from the Little Portage State Wildlife Area.
River access is on the southeast corner of the fairgrounds, adjacent to the race track.
The Ottawa County Fairgrounds is located at 7870 W. State Route 163 in Oak Harbor. Gravel parking is located next to the launch site. The site is in a natural cove on the river protecting it from the main channel and strong currents, giving users more control of their watercraft.
The extensive Portage River Water Trail begins at William Henry Harrison Park in Pemberville, and ends at the Lake Erie Beach in Port Clinton – approximately 36 river miles of paddling. Portage Water Trail signage helps paddlers determine safe areas to launch and circumvent river obstructions, such as dams.
The Portage River gets its name from a French military engineer who named it “R. du Portage” from having to “portage” or carry their boats around the shallow areas of the river frequently. The river is around 41.5 miles long. Most of the streams and ditches that flow into the Portage River are man-made.
Native American nations took advantage of the fertile wildlife of the Great Black Swamp by using this area as hunting and fishing grounds. Following Ohio’s Indian Removal in the early 19th century, settlers drained the swamp so that the land could be farmed productively.
In 1850, legislature was passed to support draining the Great Black Swamp with ditches emptying the Maumee and Portage Rivers into Lake Erie. The mouth of the river has changed locations at least two times in the past 300 years.
It first drained into Lake Erie near West Harbor. In 1754 maps show the mouth of the river near what is now the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge.
With the Portage River’s large width in areas, it is a popular location for community festivals and recreational activities, including kayaking, boating, canoeing and fishing. There are numerous parks and wildlife areas along the river including the Little Portage Wildlife Area, Darby Marsh and Meadowbrook Nature Preserve.