This summer, Lorain County (Ohio) Metro Parks will add a 27-mile (43 km) long water trail for canoes, kayaks and other paddle boats.x1 The trail starts at the park system’s Vermilion River Reservation, goes down the Vermilion River to Lake Erie, hugs the lake shore eastward for eleven miles, then heads up the Black River to the Black River Reservation. Unlike the park system’s bike and hiking trails, the water trail needs no acquisition, grading or paving. The freedom to travel the water trail is ancient, and kept by Ohio law – basically, the public may travel any waterway that can float a canoe.x2 What the park system adds to the trail are boat ramps, parking lots near the ramps, and some mileage markers. The park system will also issue maps and any hazard warnings — such as low water, log jams, and, presumably, choppy lake waters. A privately-owned kayak rental shop stands near one ramp to the Black River in the city of Lorain.
27-mile-long boat trail (Google Map)
The Vermilion River cuts into the shale at Mill Hollow. (Lorain County Metro Parks)
Marina on the Vermilion River in the city of Vermilion (myphotoalbum.com)
Lorain Harbor lighthouse (ckpiros @ webshots.com)
Black River in Lorain, Ohio (Back Roads and Beaches Blog)
The boat trail passes under a hiking trail in the Black River Resservation. (Lorain County Metro Parks)
A Great Blue Heron takes off from the Black River (Back Roads and Beaches Blog)
See more Lorain County photos at Lorain County Photographer’s Blog.
Summary: Ohio is kind to recreational boaters. Ohio allows the public to use streams capable of floating recreational boats (e.g., kayaking and canoeing). Factors for determining whether the public has a right to use a stream (besides physical characteristics of the stream) include the stream’s history of public use for recreational boating and the existence of public access. There is some evidence that Ohio boaters may have the right to portage, although no definitive law on the subject exists.
State Test of Navigability: Navigation for pleasure and recreation is regarded as just as important as navigation for a commercial purpose by the Ohio courts.1) A watercourse in Ohio is navigable if it is capable of being used for recreational boating.2) If it is a naturally navigable watercourse, it is public. …
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