COLUMBUS, Ohio – It’s a safe haven for aquatic species, a nesting place for bald eagles, and one of the best views of fall colors that Ohio has to offer, which is why Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director Mary Mertz announced the state’s intent to designate portions of Paint Creek and its tributaries as Ohio’s 16th state scenic river.
“We are proud that Ohio has the first and oldest Scenic Rivers Program in the nation and the addition of the Paint Creek and some of its tributaries as the state’s 16th scenic river system only strengthens our commitment to that program,” Gov. Mike DeWine stated in a news release from the ODNR. “The Paint Creek system will provide excellent opportunities for people of all ages to enjoy one of Ohio’s most natural river corridors.”
“Ohio’s wild and scenic rivers provide people a chance to paddle through some of the state’s most beautiful landscapes,” Director Mertz said. “Paint Creek is not only a hotspot for kayakers and a place for families to enjoy a natural getaway, this designation also means protecting clean water for communities and wildlife habitat.”
The Paint Creek system qualifies for the Ohio’s Scenic Rivers Program because of its outstanding water quality, natural river corridor, unique geological features, and rich cultural history. The system supports approximately 118 fish species and at least 11 rare and endangered species of plants and animals including two federally endangered species of freshwater mussels: the snuffbox and rayed bean.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency classifies Paint Creek and many of its tributaries as Exceptional Warmwater Habitat (EWH) streams, which is the highest aquatic life use designation that can be assigned to a river or stream. The Paint Creek State Scenic River Designation Study was completed as part of the process.
The draw of the Paint Creek system spreads beyond the gorges and rapids boating enthusiasts encounter. The final miles of the main stem reveal the iconic Copperas Mountain cliff behind Paint Valley High School. The designation of this waterway will ensure more people can catch a glimpse of this immense shale exposure.
The river system also rolls through the city of Bainbridge which has been called “Leaf Country, U.S.A!” because of the vibrant color that emerges in the fall months. Paddlers can stop off in the third week of October for the three day Fall Festival of Leaves held every year to highlight the fall foliage.
ODNR will hold two public information sessions/open houses to receive public input regarding the proposed designations:
• Wednesday, August 4, 5:30-7:30 p.m., The Carlisle Community Building, 9 S. Paint St., Chillicothe
• Wednesday, August 11, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Rocky Fork State Park East End Overlook, 6451 Lucas Lane, Hillsboro
If approved, 81.7 miles of Paint Creek and its tributaries the North Fork, Rocky Fork, and Rattlesnake Creek would be designated as state scenic rivers in Highland and Ross counties. This would bring the total area designated to more than 911 miles of river in Ohio.