Want to start paddling? Dayton is the perfect place for it

From a leisurely journey to an adrenaline-inducing adventure, paddlesports fit the bill whether you prefer to chill or want a thrill.

“It’s so peaceful, and all of the wildlife we see along the river is just so amazing,” said Erik Dahlstrom, Five River MetroParks outdoor recreation coordinator. “I just love getting people out on the water for the first time.”

Great blue heron, muskrats, deer, wood ducks and osprey are just a few of the many creatures that call the local river banks home. A peaceful paddle affords the opportunity to slow things down a bit and get up close with nature.

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Then there is the heart-pumping excitement that paddling has to offer – especially whitewater kayaking.

“When I’m at RiverScape, by the Dayton Art Institute, and I’m paddling into a perfect big wave, it’s just like flying,” Dahlstrom said. “It’s like everything else just disappears.”

Dahlstrom – whose love of paddling began with a Boy Scout canoe trip to Canada close to three decades ago – is not alone. The popularity of paddlesports has been on the rise for the past decade according to The Outdoor Foundation. Stand up paddling saw participation increase by 26 percent per year from 2012 to 2015. Other activities, like white water kayaking and kayak fishing, also saw substantial increases. The 2015 Special Report on Paddlesports indicated participation numbers of more than 21 million Americans and more than 215 million annual paddling outings.

From miles of natural waterways that are part of the expansive Great Miami River Watershed Water Trail to man-made whitewater features in Springfield and Dayton, there are many opportunities to get your paddle on in the Miami Valley.

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Where to paddle in Dayton

There are close to 300 miles to paddle along three state-designated water trails – the Mad, Stillwater and Great Miami rivers – in the Dayton region. Not to mention many other rivers, creeks and lakes.

“We have tons of paddle-able water,” Dahlstrom said. “I think that’s what makes the area so great for paddlers.”

From calm lakes, ideal for beginners, to whitewater features for those who want a challenge, there are a variety of locations to choose from.

If you’re looking for some like-minded adventure seekers, the Dayton Ohio Paddlers is a group of dedicated paddlers who regularly navigate the local lakes, rivers and streams. Interested paddlers can check out the group’s Facebook page.

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How to get started

“I highly encourage taking a class,” Dahlstrom said. “Learn the basics, the laws, how to paddle in traffic and basic rescue technique.”

The MetroParks offer a variety of learning opportunities including Kayak 1 – which is lake based – and river-based Kayak 2 as well as Stand Up Paddleboarding 1

Local outfitters, such as Whitewater Warehouse and Great Miami Outfitters, also offer a multitude of opportunities to get on the water. Whitewater Warehouse, in Dayton, offers classes, sponsors demos and kayaking trips and has kayak and stand up paddleboard rentals at Eastwood Lake throughout the summer. Great Miami Outfitters, in Centerville, also offers a variety of classes and excursions as part of their Adventure Base Camp educational programs.

Classes, special events

A few of the many upcoming paddling opportunities

Whitewater Warehouse Kayak and SUP Rentals (Sundays)

What: A variety of kayaks and stand up paddleboards will be available to try. Family fun and an ideal way to try out equipment before purchasing.

Where: Eastwood Lake

When: June 17, July 15, Aug. 5, 19, noon-4 p.m. (rentals are available on other days, visit www.kayakdayton.com for details)

Who: Adults and children, discounts for groups

Info: 937-222-7020 or email at wwwh@erinet.com

Try Paddlesports

What: Equipment provided at this free MetroParks event, which includes kayaks, canoes and stand up paddleboards.

Where: Eastwood MetroPark Lagoon

When: July 5, Aug. 1

Downtown Dayton River Kayaking Trips

What: Kayak down the Mad River and Great Miami River through two whitewater features at RiverScape River Run.

Where: Mad River Recreation Trail

When: July 24, Aug. 21, Sept. 18

Who: Paddlers 14 years and older, registration required

Info: Call 937-275-7275 or visit www.metroparks.org/paddling

Paddling resources

Five Rivers MetroParks

Contact: Call 937-275-7275 or visit www.metroparks.org/paddling

Whitewater Warehouse

Where: 104 Valley St., Dayton

Contact: Call 937-222-7020 or visit www.kayakdayton.com

Great Miami Outfitters

Where: 101 E. Alex-Bell Road #140, Centerville

Contact: Call 937-938-5009 or visit www.greatmiamioutfitters.com

Ohio Paddlers

Contact: Visit http://www.ohiopaddlers.net

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