Navigating the Little Miami River is an experience as much as it is a lesson in the importance of healthy waterways. Since 1967, one family has helped people make that connection. Article originally published in Ohio Magazine.
Normally mellow, mild and relatively shallow, the Little Miami River can spirit you away from your day-to-day grind during a relaxing, natural detox, and Morgan’s Canoe & Outdoor Adventures is just the livery to facilitate your float. Bob and June Morgan started renting canoes from their Warren County farm in 1967, and, by doing so, became the first livery on the Little Miami River. Now, their children continue the family business and host up to 30,000 people per year for either 3-mile trips, which take an hour to 90 minutes, or 6-mile trips, which are two-to-three hours long.
As you alternate between paddling and just letting the current pull you downriver, you’ll take in the lush scenery, relish the din of riffling waters, watch the clouds pass overhead and generally feel your stresses, well, float away. It’s a great day activity for virtually anyone, including families. Morgan’s Canoe & Outdoor Adventures also regularly facilitates scout troops, alumni associations and other groups. Eldest son Gary Morgan notes that paddle sports in general have exploded over the last 10 years, especially kayaking.
“It’s not all about whitewater these days,” he says. “You can get out there on an estuary and have a quiet, wildlife-oriented event on a gentle body of water, which is just a much more accessible experience.”
The Fort Ancient location in Oregonia is the family’s original livery, but the Morgans now also have one in Brookville, Indiana, on the Whitewater River; a campground with cabin rentals in Morrow, Ohio; and Morgan’s Jungle Lodge on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica. The Oregonia and Brookville liveries rent canoes, kayaks and rafts, while Brookville has tube rentals as well as a campground and cabins.
The company has a long tradition of river conservation, which started with its founders. Bob and June helped found what is now Little Miami Conservancy, which, in turn, helped the river achieve National Wild and Scenic River status in 1973 — the first river in Ohio to be granted the designation. That passion for river conservation has now passed on to the couple’s five children.
“It’s a labor of love to protect the river while sharing it with others, explaining to them the uniqueness of the entire ecosystem,” Gary says. “We leverage the business to enlighten people on river conservation, and we do that regularly through educational programs.”
The livery routinely works with schools and nonprofit partners to escort hundreds of southern Ohio youth onto the river each year, teaching them about stream quality monitoring and helping them identify the organisms that live there.
With the recent rush to get outdoors, business has been booming. Morgan Canoe & Outdoor Adventures now has a reservation system for its growing list of paddlers and is often at capacity on weekends. During those times, the livery’s put-in area can be a little frenetic, but that’s quickly replaced by a quieter, more introspective experience as individuals and groups find their own pace and spread out from one other on the water.
It’s easy to even have a bit of solitude among the river’s bows, meanders and eddies. Or you can absorb the energy of passing families, groups and troops as they enjoy the river together, with the little ones curiously asking questions about everything they see.
Not only will a paddling adventure on the Little Miami River allow you to break up your routine, get outside, convene with nature and prompt your workday stresses to slip away, you just might learn something in the process. Perhaps you’ll even fall in love with rivers — whether for the first time or all over again.
5701 St. Rte. 350, Oregonia 45054, 513/932-7658, morganscanoe.com