The Olentangy River Water Trail goes through the heart of Columbus, and it is a worthwhile outing—running nearly 9 miles through historic neighborhoods, numerous parks and The Ohio State University campus, south to its downton confluence with the Scioto River. But new infrastructure makes paddling the Olentangy north of Columbus just as easy and certainly more scenic. On a spring or early summer day, enjoy a chill kayak or canoe tour on this state-designated scenic river.
Recommended Route: Sycamore Run to Highbanks
Try the 4.4-mile section of river between Sycamore Run Park in Delaware and Highbanks Metro Park. Though parts of this stretch parallel state Route 315 where you can hear traffic, much of this float feels remote. Put in at the 22-acre Sycamore Run Park in Delaware—pretty much the only thing you can do in this sliver of a park is launch onto the Olentangy or birdwatch. Keep your eyes peeled for sparrows and finches. It’s just a few steps to the river from the gravel parking lot, and Sycamore Run is the right name for the section that begins beneath towering, white-barked sycamore trees.
The river soon narrows, creating a stronger flow. The Olentangy is usually Class I, but when water levels rise, it can quickly turn into a more technical, intermediate Class II or III river. Check the USGS gauge and call the parks on either end to find out if it’s a good and safe day to go out, then plan accordingly and paddle prepared. This is a narrow river, so while you’re at it, ask if there are any downed trees or other blockages.