PORTSMOUTH, Ohio — When 14 paddlers set out on their nine-day journey, waving goodbye to dozens of onlookers, they hoped they were starting something bigger than their planned 250-mile journey.
With the first ribbon cutting and wayfinding sign delivered, the Ohio River Way Coalition has taken its first steps to help build its vision for an interconnected water trail along the river, highlighting each town along the along the way from Portsmouth to Louisville.
For Rhoads Brewster, president of the Ohio River Way Coalition, the group’s goals are simple: to promote, protect and celebrate the river and all the communities that border it.
“The goal is to invite and encourage people, especially those with an interest in adventure tourism, to come and have an adventure on the Ohio River Way,” he said. “Explore towns, recreation opportunities, etc.”
As part of the project, Brewster said the coalition is working with 18 riverside communities to help them highlight and develop what their towns can offer to take advantage of all the recreational opportunities the Ohio River has to offer.
“It’s a way to get civic leaders out and get them excited about this project about the potential to bring more tourists to their community,” he said. “We encourage them to develop these projects, and then we will market them fully.”
Now that the communities are connected, Brewster said the most obvious way to show off their work is to bring a group into the river and make the trip themselves.
The journey began in Portsmouth, with a ribbon cutting for their Ohio River Way trail leg, a pattern they hope to repeat at least once a day in every town they stop in. Then the paddlers set off, Portsmouth Mayor Sean Dunne joining them on their journey to Cincinnati.
“He’s really embraced what we’re trying to do,” Brewster said.
Bill Swanson was another paddler on the first half of the trip.
Having hiked the river from Cincinnati to Louisville before, he said he wanted to see what the other side of the trail offered.
“There are stretches of this river that, other than being 15 feet higher and the rapids gone, look very much like they did 200 years ago,” he said. -he declares.
Now retired, he said exploring nature and the river and encouraging others to try their own adventures has become a passion of his, which is why he now spends much of his time volunteering with the Cincinnati Adventure Crew.
“We take the kids outside throughout the school year and go boating, hiking, rock climbing,” Swanson said. “A lot of kids have never had this experience before.”
It’s all free thanks to the nonprofit to make adventure sports and outdoor activities more accessible to everyone in Cincinnati. To keep it that way, Swanson wanted to turn his trip into a fundraiser for next year’s Adventure Crew lineup.
“We call it paddling for a purpose,” he said.
The group plans to arrive in Louisville on June 9, with a celebratory ceremony marking the trip and all the places that made the trip worthwhile.
“You really can’t get it anywhere else in America. It’s like a 275-mile national park with all these cultural amenities as well,” Brewster said.