It was sunny and cool on June 15 when George, David and I headed to a put in point just south of the town of Prospect. We sited a Red Headed Woodpecker on the road that parallels the Scioto. River mile 170.93 is just below an old dam. A pipe that runs under the road carries run off from farm fields into the river. The high levels of algae growth indicate that nutrients, like fertilizer, are in the water that the pipe carries.
A pair of Belted Kingfishers was working the river and Grackles were hunting for something along the banks. I spotted a brilliant blue Indigo bunting while waiting for the guys to reposition the vehicles. Big fat tadpoles were hanging out at the stream edges and Swallows were swooping through the air after insects. It is a very pretty place only occasionally spoiled by Homo sapiens who leave cigarette butts, toilet paper and candy wrappers behind.
Two fishermen were set up on the dam trying for Smallmouth bass. They were practicing catch and release fishing. George mentioned that you can bend back the barbs on the fish hooks so that they are easier to remove and do less damage to the fish.
The water was 70 degrees on this delightful June day. In contrast to our last trip, the lack of rain made the river just barely deep enough to float a canoe - most of the time. We had to get out and walk our canoes through several riffles where the rocks just stopped us cold. Another few inches of water would have made this an easier paddle.
Every stick, leaf and rock that provided a place to contact the water was covered in damselflies. They were mating and laying eggs in the water. Like dragonflies and many other insects, damselflies spend the first part of their lives as aquatic macroinvertebrates. They only emerge from the water flying insects for their adult phase.
We were paddling along in David’s canoe with me in the front and him in the back on a particularly idyllic stretch of river when David suddenly yelped. I turned around to see him scrambling to capture a fish that had jumped right into the canoe! This happened several times during our trip, although the fish – which happened to be Smallmouth bass – usually jumped alongside the canoe and occasionally sailed right over it. Did our passing stirred up insects on which they were feeding or just annoy them? We were not sure. But surprised yelps punctuated our travels that day.
We also disturbed Carp, who do not jump at all, but steam away from the boat creating a v-shaped wake. It reminded me of the horror film Anaconda – a ripple of water being the only indication of an invisible menace in the water. But this species of Carp does not jump and certainly doesn’t attack people. One did ram the side of the canoe and slither under it. I imagine the Carp were far more alarmed of us than we were of them.
We passed the site of the new aboveground reservoir for the City of Columbus that is under construction. During high water events water will be pumped from the Scioto into this new reservoir. When more water is needed, this reservoir will pump water back into the river which will feed the O’Shaunessey Reservoir providing additional water resources for the ever growing Columbus Metropolitan area.
We seemed to be following a Great Blue Heron all day as we drifted along. Or perhaps we encountered several herons. At one point we saw a pair of large birds take off. The dark body and white tail identified them as Bald eagles, who every likely are nesting along the river. Later we spotted an Osprey, another bird that likes to be close to water. When you consider these birds of prey, along with the Belted kingfishers and the human fishermen, it is obvious that the river is populated with fish.
We stopped for lunch on a gravelly beach that was loaded with mussel shells. Identifying mussel species is beyond me but these were certainly plentiful. Water willow and Lizards’ tail thrive along the banks. They like wet feet and stands of these native plants provide great hiding places for small fish, as well as landing places for flying insects.
The banks of the Scioto along this stretch are private residences that back on the river. People set up fishing spots, fire pits, and a variety of seating where they gather to enjoy the river. Boats are tied up in places and wooden docks – most of them much higher than the river – are common.
The shallow conditions in places made for a long day but deeper stretches allowed us to enjoy the wind in the trees, swarms of damselflies, and flying fish. We arrived 15 ½ miles downstream, tired and muscle sore, at Bellepoint. This village is at the northern end of O’Shaunessey reservoir. A boat launch ramp and parking lot make this a good spot for accessing the river where it widens and becomes more like a lake.
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