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How To: Solo Kayaking the Cuyahoga River

A Brief Description of How I Plan and Setup River Paddles by Myself

Devin's face photo
Written by: Devin Pennypacker
General Manager and Marketing Manager of Appalachian Outdoors

 

              Like many of you I like to take my kayaks out and feel the water as much as possible. Unfortunately, this typically means either working with someone else, a shuttle service, or just sticking to lake and pond paddling. But it does not have to. In this blog post I’m going to tell you the simple steps I too in planning and executing a solo river paddle on the Cuyahoga River from Peninsula, Ohio to Brecksville, Ohio. Now immediately you may be thinking “Ok, I don’t want to paddle there. I want to paddle such and such river near me.” Awesome! Do it! The steps I went through are the same steps you can take to do your trip. The only difference is that you will have to do your own scouting rather than have me do it for you. At the bottom of this post, I will have a simplified step by step and gear list typed up for those of you who down want to read my storytelling. But, for those of you who do, here we go.

              First things first, I need to load up THE cube. I strapped my bike onto my roof. Then I stuffed my PFD, paddle, sponge, and dry bag all into my kayak and loaded that up too. I threw an extra tie down strap on my car, for reasons that will soon become clear, as well as my headphones and quite a bit of water. Growing up in this area I have really gotten to know the parks especially well. Therefore, I knew that down in Brecksville there was a take-out before the dam (now removed) and that by the parking lot there was a metal signpost. That would be one of the most important pieces of this whole trip. Doing it this way requires something hard mounted for you to tie up your bike then boat. Otherwise, you are forced to have a lot of faith in that community and humanity which may be tough. 

My car with a boat and bike on the roof

              I first up to the Brecksville reservation. There I took my bike down, removed the front tire, and locked my bike up to the signpost. I threw the tire in my car and then drove back upriver to Peninsula. There, at lock 29, is a pretty good put-in spot for kayakers without any hassle. I got the boat off the roof, loaded it up with my gear, and then proceeded to tie down my front bike tire to the back of the boat using the aforementioned tie down strap. Obviously, you want it snug, so you don’t loose it in the river, but be careful not to overtighten it and risk damaging the rim or spokes.

bike tire strapped to the boat

              All tied down and saddled up I shoved off into the river. I made my initially seat adjustments, tested out the balance with the tire in the back, and turned towards the fist small rapid. For the next peaceful 7 miles of paddling I soaked up the sun, stopped to see the wildlife, ran into some friend, listened to an audio book, got splashed a lot more than expected, and just enjoyed every second of it. Every time I am on the river, I seem to have a different experience. I get a chance to see new things and unlike flat water paddling, you only see them once. After taking the lazy river approach with my feet up and hands in the water for the bulk of the trip, I began keeping an eye out for my take-out point. A large sand bar on the left marked by a "Danger Dam Ahead" sign. I crashed into the beach, dragged my gear to the dirt bank, then hauled it all up to the parking lot where the sign post is.

                                   floating on the river  taking a break on the river bank  taking a moment to lay down

              Taking my time to stretch my legs out and drink plenty of water, I re-attached my front wheel and swapped the lock over to the boat. This is where having a larger day backpack comes in handy. I packed all my gear including my PFD and broken-down paddle into my daypack. After testing the lock one last time and laying in the grass while snacking for a bit, I jumped on my bike and started peddling back. The nice thing about that stretch of the Cuyahoga is that the tow path runs parallel to it the whole way. You just simply cross the bridge that spans the river gap and begin peddling southbound. Keep your eyes open because regularly on this stretch I will see snakes crossing the path, turtle basking on logs in the overflow to the left, bald eagles and blue herons flying overhead, and the occasional child stepping out in front of you before their parent pulls them back.

riding my bike on the tow path

              After a nice fairly flat ride back to the lock 29 parking lot, its time to load your bike up. I would recommend parking in the overflow lot as to ovoid the massive of people that tent to congregate in the late afternoon for a walk or dinner at the Winking Lizard. Once your strapped down tight you can now make the drive back up to Brecksville. There you will find your hopefully now dry boat, from sitting in the sun, waiting to be picked up. After you are finally loaded up I highly recommend wither heading back down into peninsula for a bite to eat or up to Brecksville where there are more options.

              There are other ways of course of completing this trip, this is just the one I chose. One other amazing service our park offers is the CVNP train. You can take part in something they call bike-a-board and boat-a-board. This is where you and either ride/paddle one way, load up in the cargo box of the train, and then ride it back to your car or do it all in reverse. Currently, due to COVID-19, the train and subsequently this service are out of commission for the foreseeable future. However, when things return to normal and start to get running again, this is a great option to consider in the future.

 

Step-by-step:

  1. Load up bike and boat, don’t forget your lock and backpack
  2. Drop off either your bike or boat at one end locked up to a permanent feature
  3. Drive back to your starting point and begin your adventure
  4. Reach the endpoint and swap your lock to either your boat or bike
  5. Start you adventure back towards your car
  6. Hit the endpoint and load up your gear
  7. Drive back to the halfway point where you switched and pick up your remaining gear
  8. Grab some food and reflect on how awesome a solo trip can be

 

Gear List:

              -Dagger Zydeco 9.0

              -Aquabound Sting Ray Carbon Paddle

              -NRS Ninja PFD

              -Sea to Summit Dry bags

              -Astral Lowyak Shoes

              -Yeti 40oz Rambler Bottle

              -HydroFlask 40 oz Insulated Bottle

              -NRS Tie Down Straps    

              -Trusted Nemo Trucker Hat!

              -Task Carrollton Long Sleeve Fitness T-Shirt

              -Columbia Board Shorts