Portsmouth launches Ohio River Way for third year


Dozens of locals and tourists gathered on the riverfront last Friday to wish a group of paddlers well who were starting a journey that would take two 30-foot canoes on a 250-mile journey downstream from Portsmouth to Louisville.

The paddling event, known as the Ohio River Challenge, launched with an entourage of local paddlers that is in its third year of spreading the word of the Ohio River Way.

The launch is after extensive planning and investment in eco-toursim and adventure-tourism of the region, which has been equally embraced by the City of Portsmouth, Scioto County Commissioners and many regional non-profits.

Eco-Tourism is having a boom, with more families taking to the wilderness and outdoors to explore and spend time with loved ones post pandemic. Scioto County, and the region as a whole, has been embracing these practices and moving to develop future opportunities. Some of these endeavors have included advancements made to Shawnee State Park, Brush Creek, the pump track, splashpad, SOMBA mountain bike paths, Connex events, multi-use paths, kayak launches, and more.

The launch featured two key components, including a major launch by Ohio River Way and a side launch by Portsmouth’s Connex group that will go alongside the group for seven miles to the Shawnee Marina.

The paddle is in its third trip and will take journeyers to ten different Ohio River communities to learn and network. Those towns include Portsmouth, Vanceburg, Maysville, Augusta, Thomas More, Cincinnati, Rising Sun, Vevay, Madison, Westport, and Louisville. The journey will have paddlers on the water between June 2 and June 11.

Chairman Brewster Rhoads for Ohio River Way explained that they expect an average of 19 people to be participating in the paddle in any given segment of the trip.

“We paddle early in the morning to get ahead of the wind that comes later in the day and do an average of about 25 to 28 miles a day and stop several places along the route before ending in a different community each night with a catered dinner or restaurant with public officials to highlight the amenities in each town. It is a great way to promote what these towns are doing. It is a way, really, to highlight the access these Ohio River towns have.”

Rhoades is passionate about the group’s mission and says he isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

“The Ohio River Way’s goal is to promote recreational opportunities in towns and celebrate the Ohio River way of life,” Rhoades said. “We do that with partner organizations that include most of the towns along the route. We’re designed to help the folks working to promote outdoor recreation along these 250 miles, because we’re a really great regional, and national, really, destination.”

Rhoades says he believes the launch was a success for the group and for Portsmouth.

Portsmouth Councilman and Mayor Sean Dunne will be participating in the endeavor after a partial paddle last year. Last year’s launch had Dunne traveling from Portsmouth to Cincinnati. This year, he is making the second half of the trip, launching in Cincinnati and ending in Louisville.

Additionally, Dunne has been working with community partners to host paddling events on the river leading up to the launch, in hopes of easing hesitations about safety on the river water.

Dunne was present at the launch after hosting the paddlers at his home for his monthly bourbon tasting club, Spirit of the Blithe, the night before. Many of the paddlers camped out in his home and he served them breakfast before launch.

“Connex did a great job in organizing a wonderful sendoff,” Dunne said. “There was a kayak floatilla and a great sendoff and I was able to watch it all from one canoe until Shawnee Marina. Overall, it was great with a great sendoff. I was in other cities last year and I feel like Portsmouth, as always, punched above its weight.”

Dunne says he is looking forward to joining them in Cincinnati.

“I am really looking forward to it,” Dunne said. “It really was a highlight to my summer. I had never really done it before, and it was just a really great group of people. It is fun and really gives a greater appreciation of the river and the cities along it. I liked it so much that I am joining them to take part in the second half.”

Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

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