By D’Arcy Egan
The scenic Portage River that connects the Village of Oak Harbor with the City of Port Clinton, and flows on to Lake Erie, has been getting rave reviews as a premier paddling destination.
Bryan and Amanda Floro, who created the Portage River Paddling Company four years ago with 10 boats and a pop-up tent camper, have made the river a destination for paddlers from around the region and the state.
“We got the idea for this business back then, as sort of a college fund for the kids, and 10 days later we were in business,” said Amanda, with a laugh. While Amanda grew up in Oak Harbor, she and the kids run the Port Clinton livery.
Bryan, a Port Clinton native, keeps the Oak Harbor livery hopping, renting boats out of a colorful pink and lime green building on the banks of the river.
“We have always believed that if we build the boat liveries and hiking and biking trails, people will be eager to enjoy them, making Oak Harbor a destination,” said Mike Shadoan, of Radiant Windows in Oak Harbor. The Portage River Paddling Company has proven him right, expanding to more than 100 boats this year and adding to its camping and nature experiences.
“We have 94 acres and an airbnb in Port Clinton, as well as three primitive campsites,” said Amanda. “We host a lot of Girl Scout and church groups, and have a nice sand beach for launching the kayaks, canoes and paddle boards.”
On Kid’s Night, Floro offers a nature walk, identifying the abundant fauna and flora. That includes an active bald eagle nest on a small island on their property. Paddlers are warned to give the nest plenty of clearance.
The Floros have also created the second largest gem mine in Ohio, which is 105 feet long.
Paddlers have 18 miles of the free-flowing Portage River that is perfect for a day trip, starting at Riverbend Park in Elmore and cruising nine miles to the Oak Harbor Livery and another nine miles to the Port Clinton Livery. That gives paddlers the chance to visit the Evolve Riverfront Cafe in Oak Harbor for breakfast or lunch, or the Overboard Bar & Grill in Port Clinton.
“This has been a labor of love for us and the kids, and they’re growing up as a big part of our operation,” said Amanda. “We’re lucky to have the best 20 miles of the Portage River for kayaking and canoeing. Our mission is to get families outdoors to spend quality time together and help them to create memories that will last a lifetime!”
The liveries are open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Kayaks ($40), double kayaks ($66) and paddle boards ($44) are usually rented for half a day. Boat owners can launch at both the Oak Harbor and Port Clinton liveries. For more information visit PortageRiverPaddlingCo.com or check them out on Facebook.