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Frank Gray

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Maumee canoe trip to map, tout river

Save Maumee Grassroots Organization, the group that has been sponsoring a cleanup of the Maumee River for several years now, has found something new to do with the river.

How about traveling its entire length by canoe?

On April 19, 20 members of the organization will pile into 10 canoes at the continental divide at Junk Ditch at the northwest corner of Smith and Engle Roads and travel down the Maumee for 141 miles to Toledo. The trip, which will take nine days, has three goals, according to Abigail King, founder of Save Maumee.

Canoeists hope to map the entire river and all the drain tiles that run into it using GPS. The river, King said, has all kinds of tiles draining into it, but there is no map of where they are – and no one knows which ones drain farm fields and which drain septic systems.

The boaters will use their eight overnight stops, some in parks along the way, to attract the public’s attention, affording them the chance to give people a pep talk about the importance of the river, which provides water to several million people.

Finally, the canoeists want to draw attention to an Army Corps of Engineers policy that calls for all vegetation to be removed from levies, which is the opposite of what Save Maumee has been doing for years now, planting native grasses and other plants on the banks of the river. King has been pushing federal legislation that would prohibit planting only if it can be shown that the vegetation threatens a levy.

Meanwhile, participants hope to make note of eroded banks and large debris in the river.

That’s the business end of the trip.

Now for the fun part. Other people can join the group.

“It’s their river,” King said, adding that she fully expects people to just show up and take part.

She reminds people, though, that a trip like this is for hard-core canoeists, not beginners.

Those who decide to join in must have their own canoe and carry their own equipment and supplies.

They have to be able to portage their own canoe along the way and have their own transportation to get their canoe back to where they started.

Finally, King advised, it’s spring; the river is high, there might be some dangerous rapids, and the water is cold – about 40 degrees on Friday – so people have to make sure they stay dry and warm. And if that’s not enough, the water in the river is bad enough that it can make you sick.

If that hasn’t scared you enough to decide to skip the idea of canoeing – on your own – 141 miles down a river full of cold water and camping out in near-freezing temperatures at night, the organization has prepared about 20 pages of safety precautions and other information on its website, savemaumee.org, and advised potential participants that they must attend a mandatory orientation April 18 at the starting point.

Or, you can visit the canoeists along the banks of the river. They’ll be spending the nights at:

•The North River Road Nature Area in New Haven on April 19

•Blue Cast Springs Acres Land Trust on April 20

•Riverside Park in Antwerp, Ohio, on April 21

•On private property in Napoleon, Ohio, on April 22

•Napoleon Municipal Park on April 23

•Mary Jane Thurston State Park on April 24

•April 25 stop to be determined

•International Park Pavilion on April 26

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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