With over 90 miles of Ohio River frontage and another 18 miles of Kanawha River frontage (or roughly 217 miles of Ohio River and Kanawha River shoreline) in Gallia, Mason and Meigs counties combined, the Ohio and Kanawha river systems are our lake, and usually busy this time of year with barge traffic, anglers, recreational boaters, personal watercraft and kayaks.
That “lake” is scattered among four different dam pools (Greenup, Byrd, Racine and Belleville), and in some places it is difficult for boaters to find access. In Mason County there are ramps at Point Pleasant and Mason, and in Gallia County there are ramps located in Cheshire, Gallipolis and downstream of Eureka. Meigs Countians have a few more options with ramps in Middleport, Pomeroy, Syracuse, Racine and Forked Run. In addition, there is a ramp in Ravenswood, W.Va.
Public Ohio River access in Gallia, Mason and Jackson (W.Va.) counties is pretty few and far between, especially downstream of the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam. That means boaters will be jockeying for boat ramps during busy weekends.
With all of this being said, unless you want to look like a total rookie or a jerk, you need to know a few simple rules for using the ramps. Full disclosure here: I am not an experienced boater, but I have enjoyed the river on numerous occasions and have been more than puzzled by the conduct I have observed at launch ramps.
First, carefully inspect your boat and your trailer, make sure both are in good working order, and practice backing up with a trailer before you go to the ramp. Zigzagging down the ramp, having to repeatedly pull forward to straighten up, and taking up two lanes just marks you as a newbie and just is not a fun way to start your excursion.
Prepare your boat (drain plug!) before you start down the ramp; the ramp isn’t the place to load your coolers, take pictures, stand around and talk and such while other people are waiting. Move your boat down to the far end of the courtesy dock (if provided) to let other people use the ramp, while your assistant parks the truck and trailer.
Don’t block the ramp with your boat to save a spot, the “right of way” goes to vehicles not boats – or stated another way, the line forms on land.
It should go without saying that after launching your boat, you should park your rig in the appropriately designated area.
If you leave your truck and trailer parked unattended on the ramp while you are out boating, just face it, you’re probably a jerk. Seriously, this happens. Unless your truck is broke down on the ramp, or you’re in the helicopter on the way to a trauma center, there is really no excuse to act like you are the only one in the world who wants to use the ramp.
Incidentally I recall reading recently about a kayaker’s vehicle winding up in the Penobscot River in Maine. Said kayaker left his vehicle on the ramp where the tide came in and submerged it. I can’t help but wonder if it had a little assistance – those wacky northeasterners! I couldn’t condone pushing someone’s truck into the river, but I could understand it.
Actual boating rules and regulations are a completely different subject, that is why I limited this column to the boat ramp experience.
Finally, if you brought it, take it back with you. Littering is a big no-no; nobody wants to see other peoples’ garbage.
Everyone is in a hurry to hit the water, but it is important to remember that you are there to have a good time. So when things don’t go smoothly just relax and go with the flow; this is not the time to get loud or obnoxious. Not everyone has the same experience level, so don’t let your frustration ruin everyone else’s day.
Have a safe and fun boating experience!
Jim Freeman is the wildlife specialist for the Meigs Soil and Water Conservation Area. He can be contacted weekdays at 740-992-4282 or at firstname.lastname@example.org