Parkersburg, WV, a historic town founded in 1810, is at the confluence of the Ohio and Little Kanawha rivers. Both the Ohio and Little Kanawha are big rivers, rich in industry and commercial traffic, but they (and their islands) are also a wildlife habitat. Both rivers have great paddling opportunities.
The 2 rivers are historically commercial waterways, so they give you plenty of wide-open space. But, because of the boat traffic, it’s easiest to hug the shoreline and explore the tucked-away small towns and historic cities along the way, like Parkersburg, WV.
What Makes It Great
Besides loving the wide-open space for paddling, most boaters who visit these rivers are also interested in the history of the area. The Ohio and Little Kanawha rivers pass through some of the most historic places in the contiguous United States.
You can paddle out to the Blennerhassett Island to check out the iconic Blennerhassett Mansion. Or go to Neal Island, or one of the 20+ islands along the Ohio that are part of the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge. There are also a number of historic little towns dotting the rivers.
As interest in the Appalachian foothills continues to grow, the shoreline towns are adding more festivals and events to the calendar. In the fall of 2016, the Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitors Bureau had its 3rd annual Parkersburg Paddlefest, which closes a section of the Ohio River to commercial traffic (overseen by the Coast Guard), so paddlers have the chance to boat without any restrictions. Paddlers can own the river from Point Park to Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park on Blennerhassett Island. The event is in conjunction with Parkersburg’s Downtown Throwdown, which features local craft beers and BBQ.
Who is Going to Love It
These big, commercial rivers give you wide open spaces, which is much different than paddling on creeks and lakes. Because of barge traffic, most paddlers prefer to hug the shoreline and explore the tucked-away towns along the way. It’s helpful to have some paddling experience here, since the commercial traffic can be intimidating. If you are comfortable paddling with other boats and barges, it’s a great spot to see wildlife. You may even have a bald eagle sighting
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
There are several boat ramps along the Ohio and Little Kanawha Rivers. Parkersburg’s Point Park is a popular put-in for paddlers. Because this is a commercial stretch of riverway, be mindful of commercial and motorized river traffic. There are not designated trails along the riverways, so pick your destination in advance, whether it’s an island or a river community.
Camping and campfires are prohibited on the uninhabited islands along the river.