A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

17th Ohio River Paddlefest, largest paddling event in U.S. is Aug. 4, benefits Outdoor Adventure Clubs

For the 17th year, the Ohio River Paddlefest will attract over 2,000 people to participate in the 9-mile paddle down the Ohio through Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. 

Presented by St. Elizabeth Healthcare, Paddlefest is recognized by the American Canoe Association as the largest paddling event in the nation. 

Paddlers from 20+ states will take to the water Saturday morning, August 4th, in 1,600 canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards to embark on one of the most unique and fun events the region has to offer. 
Proceeds from Paddlefest support the Outdoor Adventure Clubs of Greater Cincinnati, which works with inner-city high schools to provide outdoor activities to urban youth.

Photos by Bryn Weller Photography from 2017 Paddlefest

“Paddlefest is one of the most amazing events in the country and we are again proud to be its presenting sponsor,” said Cary Graham, manager of Community Relations at St. Elizabeth Healthcare.  “Paddling is such a great activity for both the mind and body and can play a big role in helping to make our region one of the healthiest in the nation.”
“Paddlefest speaks to the heart of our mission by promoting such a healthy and fun outdoor activity for the urban teens we serve. It is our main annual fundraiser and we are so appreciative of the financial support it provides our organization and area youth,” said Kirsten MacDougal, new Executive Director of Outdoor Adventure Clubs of Greater Cincinnati. 
“And it’s more than just a paddling event,” according to Paddlefest founder, Brewster Rhoads. “It’s a pep rally to celebrate the beauty and recreational benefits of the Ohio River while raising funds to get urban teens outside into nature year round.”
Paddlefest weekend starts on Friday, August 3 with a Paddler’s Party at the Schmidt Recreation Complex with music, food trucks and craft beer as well as paddling classes, demonstrations and outdoor gear vendors.  Overnight camping will also be available on-site.
On Saturday, August 4, paddlers will depart the Schmidt Recreation Complex starting at 7:00 am for the 9 mile trip to Gilday/Riverside Park. Along the route, they will enjoy “Rhythm on the River,” as bands play from anchored houseboats in the Ohio. 

Paddlers can make a “Pit Stop” at Cincinnati’s Public Landing just upstream of the Suspension Bridge, then continue downstream to explore the Mill Creek Mile before reaching the Finish Line Festival featuring live music, food trucks, craft beer and shuttles to take them back to their vehicles at Schmidt Field.


Competitive races, including the 9-mile “SUP 4 the Cup” stand-up paddleboard race, the “NatiNKY Nine Mile” race for canoes and kayaks and the 4.2-mile “Race to the Roebling” for canoes, kayaks and stand up paddleboard also will take place Saturday.    
Featured again this year is the Digital Guide to the Ohio Riverside, which is an interactive website that identifies some of the more unique history and features of the Ohio River and riverside developments, including information about the Manhattan Bathing beach at Bellevue bar, the Fulton Boatworks and the bridge across the Licking that only lasted 25 days before it fell down!  It also tracks paddler’s progress downstream to the finish line!
Registration for all Ohio River Paddlefest events is available at this website.
Schedule of Events

Friday, August 3 – Paddler’s Party at Schmidt Recreation Complex
4:00-8:00 pm – On-site registration, packet pickup, camping check-in and boat drop-off.
4:00-9:00 pm – Paddler’s Party for a Cause: live music, food trucks & craft beer plus exhibitors, canoe/kayak/SUP training and demonstrations, & raffle.
Saturday, August 4 – Paddle the Ohio River! 

6:00-7:30 a.m. – FREE Parking and optional free early shuttle from take-out at Gilday Riverside Park to launch at Schmidt Recreation Complex put-in
6:00-8:30 a.m. – On-site registration, packet pick-up, and boat drop off at Schmidt
6:30 a.m. – US Coast Guard closes Ohio River to all motorized boat traffic
6:45 a.m. – Racer’s Meeting
7:00 a.m. – Races Start
7:00-8:30 a.m. – Paddlers put-in and depart
8:30 a.m. – Put-in closes
8:30-10:45 a.m. – Mill Creek Tour (30 min. round trip paddle, including the Barrier Dam and the MSD plant).
9:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m. – Finish Line Festival at Gilday Riverside Park (music, food trucks, vendors/exhibitors, & craft beer)
9:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m. – Shuttle buses run between Schmidt and Gilday
9:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m. – Boat pick-up at Gilday Riverside Park
10:30 – 11:00 a.m. – Presentation of race awards at Gilday Riverside Park
12:00 p.m. – Deadline for all boats to take-out at Gilday Riverside Park
12:00 p.m. – Ohio River reopens to motorized boat traffic
2:00 p.m. – Last shuttle bus leaves Gilday Riverside Park for Schmidt put-in
2:00 p.m. – Deadline to pick up boats at Gilday Riverside Park take-out

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