August /
September 2011

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Maumee River Canoe Tour Teaches Lessons

TMACOG Maumee River coordinator Matt Horvat and Blade Outdoor Editor Steve Pollick put a canoe in the water at Kreager Park in Fort Wayne, Indiana on Tuesday morning, June 28, and ended a marathon canoe trip at International Park in downtown Toledo on July 1. For Steve Pollick, the trip was a rerun of one he made in 1984. For Matt Horvat, it was an opportunity to survey from end to end the watershed that he works for every day. As Horvat explained in a Blade interview, “My reason [for the trip] is to gain an appreciation for the resource I work daily to improve and protect.”

Following the trip Horvat said that the 130-mile journey brought home to him the fact that the part of the Maumee that he sees most often – between Perrysburg and Lake Erie – is just a little downstream piece of a very big watershed. “It’s easy to get preoccupied with individual projects,” he noted, “and this trip brought home the fact that the watershed is a big interconnected network of waterways. We need to be reminded that the water going by farmfields in Indiana turns into drinking water in Bowling Green.” The Maumee River begins where the St. Joseph and St. Mary rivers come together near Fort Wayne. Many other rivers and streams join the Maumee including the Tiffin, Auglaize, and Blanchard rivers.

While they did not carry facilities to do water testing on their canoe, Horvat and Pollick said that their personal evaluation of water quality was good. They saw no industrial outfalls, smelled very little evidence of sewage runoff, and saw almost no dumping. Bird and animal life was diverse and abundant. They saw scores of wood ducks, several owls and bald eagles, lots of herons, as well as a river otter, mink, mollusks, and frogs. They were reminded of the power of the river when they saw miles of trees on the shore with scars showing damage from winter’s ice. The tree trunks were above the heads of the canoeists, showing how high the water is when the ice breaks up and tears at the trees on its way downstream.

The pair also experienced the affect that man has had on the river. For the 27 miles between the Independence Dam in Defiance and the dam at Grand Rapids, “It was a long, long paddle,” said Horvat, “through almost still water with no current. The river is so wide that there was almost no shade.” Arriving at Grand Rapids was a treat he said, as the canoe bypassed the dam using the lock of the old Erie Canal, a cool tree-sheltered relief.

“One thing that I noticed is that the river is under-utilized,” said Horvat. “The Maumee is a great resource for recreation - boating, swimming, and fishing or just messing around – but we saw very few people out on the water. I hope more people take the opportunity to explore the river. In fact, I hope to take this trip again myself.”

The journey was well documented. Toledo journalist Lou Hebert took video and still photographs from the shore and from the water. He plans to create a documentary about the river. Horvat recorded GPS data and took extensive video and photography. To see Horvat’s records of each day’s journey, see the YouTube videos here.

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