Grab a canoe or kayak: ‘Good outdoor activity that can be done safely’

With hot summer days and a continued need for social distancing, local canoe and kayak rental businesses are seeing a lot of customers. CONTRIBUTED
With hot summer days and a continued need for social distancing, local canoe and kayak rental businesses are seeing a lot of customers. CONTRIBUTED

With hot summer days and a continued need for social distancing, business is booming on the water.

“You’re outside on a beautiful river with wildlife all around you and you can control how much contact you have with other people,” said Rhett Rohrer, owner of RiversEdge Outfitters in Waynesville. “And it’s just such a fun experience — very few kids get finished without wanting to do it again.”

Most local canoe and kayak rental businesses are having a banner summer despite getting a late start on the season as a result of statewide COVID-19 related closures.

“So many recreational options have been taken away, this is one good outdoor activity that can be done safely,” Rohrer said.

That’s not to say it’s business as usual on the river. From increased sanitizing to reduced capacity, paddlers might notice some changes this season. It’s unlikely, however, that the changes will diminish the fun.

“The most rewarding part of my work is when I see a family come out of the creek with big smiles on their faces,” said Mark Ketzel, owner of Twin Creek Kayak & Canoe Livery. “It’s like they’ve been lifted up.”

New procedures

Many local liveries are now utilizing online reservation and payment systems as a more convenient and reduced-contact option. Waivers are also available online.

“It helps control the number of people coming out and reduces wait times,” Rohrer said.

Groups are limited to no more than 10 people. Transportation has also been impacted by new statewide guidelines with fewer people being transported on each shuttle — typically just the group you are paddling with.

“We are departing almost continuously now,” Rohrer said.

All of the boats, paddles and other equipment are disinfected after each use. And, in accordance with the new Ohio Department of Health guidelines, outfitters are not currently permitted to transport private kayaks. Pets are also not permitted.

Same old fun

While social distancing can be a challenging new component of some activities, it’s easy to do on the water.

“When you’re on the river, you can easily steer clear of people and bypass a beach area if it’s too crowded,” Rohrer said.

RiversEdge has about 15 small beach areas along the Little Miami River that paddlers can enjoy.

And the cool refreshing water and peaceful surroundings are an ideal place to shake of the stress of the past few months. Studies have shown that time spent in nature can reduce anxiety and depression and lead to an increased overall sense of well-being.

“It’s been a tough year for a lot of people and this is a great way to forget your troubles,” Ketzel said.