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Everybody loves the gym. You love the gym. We love the gym. The guy that always steals your row machine when you’re not looking loves the gym. But sometimes you need to step away from the gym (blasphemy, you cry!) and get creative with your workout routine.
If you’re looking for your next fitness adventure, kayaking offers the best of both worlds — a workout where you control the intensity and a chance to get up close and personal with nature. Grab a paddle and check out these kayaking spots waiting in your own backyard!
Just when you think you know all your city’s nooks and crannies, Griggs Reservoir steps in and drops some serious secret riverside hotspots. Griggs is formed by Griggs Dam (No, adrenaline junkies, you can’t ’yak over the dam.) and sits along Riverside Drive in Upper Arlington. Hidden coves and dense forest line the river’s edge, making for some great birdwatching and exploring. Plus, both Clintonville Outfitters and Olentangy Paddle would be happy to outfit landlubbers for a local trip like this. Top-secret Fitt tip: Kayaking pairs well with spelunking. You didn’t hear it from us, but there are some pretty cool caves at the Indian Village Camp (open to the public) near Griggs Reservoir Boathouse.
Winding through Groveport, Big Darby Creek gives nature-seekers a rustic trip close to home. Cruising along the banks of this scenic waterway, you’ll forget all about the urban sprawl 15 minutes away. With abundant tranquility, a few questionable rope swings, and no shortage of sunbathing turtles, you’re guaranteed to make memories on this river. And if you need a rental, Trapper John’s Canoe Livery is a local hotspot for boaters who just wanna get their float on. This outfitter is as accessible as it is affordable, and can hook you up with shuttled kayak trips through some of the most beautiful waterways in Ohio.
You’ve seen it from your car and you’ve run alongside it every weekend. But have you experienced it from the intimate cockpit of a personal watercraft? No? Well. quit dreaming and start doing because the Scioto River is waiting for you to hop in and enjoy post card-esque views of downtown Columbus. Olentangy Paddle outfits trips at four unique locations along the Scioto and Olentangy Rivers, meeting you at each location with all the gear you need. Fitt tip: Get with Olentangy Paddle next July and ask how you can watch Red, White, and Boom from your very own kayak — your friends will be jealous.
Date ideas (or treat-yo’-self solo adventures) abound at O’Shaughnessy Reservoir, a dammed up portion of the Scioto River. Skipping distance to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, you can spend part of your day on the water and part of it looking at giraffes and petting goats. And you’re going to want to keep up to date with what’s going on at Water’s Edge Event Park, the zoo’s on-the-water performance center. Hosting outdoor concerts periodically throughout the summer, paddlers can get their groove on and enjoy live music without leaving their kayaks. Paddling, giraffes, and smooth jazz on the water. Does it get better than that? No. No, it does not.
Alum Creek’s countless secluded inlets and impressive shale cliffs make this a popular spot for cliff jumpers and skinny dippers. Like you, they’re just trying to get their nature fix. To each their own. But if you prefer a more legal way to experience the great outdoors, Alum Creek is a massive reservoir that appeals to fishermen, powerboaters, and kayakers alike. Need a ride? Alum Creek Marina rents kayaks, canoes, and more at an affordable hourly rate. And this weekend getaway in Delaware, OH is just a quick drive up State Route 71. Get paddlin’!
This river is so popular with boaters that it actually has a floating concession stand — like, in the river. If buying a cold one from inside your kayak isn’t worth an hour drive to Loudonville, we don’t know what is. The Mohican River is large enough to attract a variety of paddlers — those looking for a weekend party, and those who need some peace and quiet. Our friends at Mohican Adventures can assist the former group with boat rentals and shuttled (though sometimes crowded) kayak trips. The ‘nature-lover’ group may benefit more from a BYOK approach; the Mohican has plenty of put-in spots along more secluded stretches of river, with endless opportunities for wildlife viewing and quiet meditation.
Lying just 20 minutes north Columbus on Sunbury Road, Hoover Reservoir is another great paddling spot if you’re looking for a rustic adventure close to home. And by rustic, we mean, well, really rustic. Hoover Reservoir lacks amenities like indoor restrooms and concession stands, but makes up it with pristine wooded shorelines and sparkling clean water. Bird nerds, rejoice — this place is a hot spot for Ohio birders, and you’re almost guaranteed to see some unique Ohio species out on the water. Really, if you need to answer the call of the wild but don’t have six months to go off the grid, a day trip to Hoover is the perfect way to get in touch with your inner wild(wo)man.
If you’ve had enough of civilized society and decide that this whole “existing with other people” thing isn’t for you, think Clear Creek. Clear Creek is Ohio’s largest state nature preserve, boasting miles of gorgeous, untouched river, and well worth the 40 minute drive. Grab your ’yak, hit Route 33, and head south. No kayak? No problem! Clintonville Outfitters back in Columbus offers rentals by the day, and will even show you how to tie that bad boy to the roof of your car so you can safely hit the road.
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