There's something special about being on the water that entices more people every year to try kayaking and canoeing on local streams and rivers.
"I would absolutely recommend kayaking on the local rivers to anyone," said Matt Kress of Marietta who took up paddling about nine years ago in waterways around his native Akron.
"I've kayaked on both the Muskingum and Ohio rivers here," he said. "And seeing the Marietta area from the water gives you a totally different perspective."
Another enthusiast is Marietta Councilman Mike McCauley, who's building a 17-foot wooden kayak in his home workshop.
"It's just nice and quiet to be out on the river, and there's a lot of scenery and wildlife you can't see from land," he said. "I've been canoeing up and down the Muskingum River for years, but never had a boat this light that will be able to go through the water so quickly."
McCauley said the idea to build a kayak came from his wife, Jane.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
Ryan Smith, owner of the Marietta Adventure Company, hefts a kayak in the second floor showroom of his store at 219 Second St.
"She wanted to do some kayaking, so I ordered this kit. And she's helped me work on it," he said. "But I couldn't have even started this project without help from people like Dan Jones and Pete Prigge from the Marietta Rowing and Cycling Club. One thing about living in Marietta is that people are always willing to help each other out."
Now that he's nearly completed his first wooden kayak, McCauley's already thinking about a second boat.
"Only one person-she or me-can be in this boat at one time," he said. "So you know next winter we'll probably be building another one."
Ryan Smith has built his Marietta Adventure Company business at 219 Second St. around the growing interest in kayaking on area waterways.
"We started in 2011, just with kayak rentals and a shuttle service to and from kayaking locations," he said. "And we've always focused on paddling along the local streams and rivers, within 45 minutes to an hour of Marietta."
Smith said the Ohio and Muskingum rivers provide great opportunities for kayaking and canoeing, but many people also enjoy exploring tributaries like Duck Creek and the Little Muskingum near Marietta.
"Many people will put in at the Williamstown boat ramp and paddle around Buckley Island, then over to Duck Creek at the I-77 bridge," he said. "And just across the river from the upper end of the island is the entrance to the Little Muskingum. You can paddle a mile or more upstream and explore those smaller tributaries."
One of the Marietta Adventure Company's most popular kayak excursions is an easy ride down the Muskingum River from Indian Acres Park to the confluence with the Ohio River, then up the Ohio to a beach at the lower end of Buckley Island under the Williamstown Bridge.
"It takes about an hour or hour-and-a-half," Smith said. "We drop people off at Indian Acres and pick them up at the boat ramp in Williamstown. And all of their equipment-kayaks, paddles and life jackets, are provided."
He said the cost of the excursion from Indian Acres starts at $25 a person.
"If they have their own kayaks we can provide the shuttle service starting at $15 per person," Smith added. "But all of our trips have a two-person minimum."
Anyone heading out to kayak or canoe on area streams or rivers should do some preparations, he said.
"They should plan at a minimum to get their feet wet, so wear shoes that can get wet, and wear comfortable clothing," Smith said. "Kayakers should also bring along plenty of sunscreen and water, and possibly pack some food for longer trips."
The Marietta Adventure Company's website, mariettaadventurecompany.com, has plenty of information about kayaking, hiking, biking, and related outdoor activities.
"A lot of what we do here is share information with people to help them learn what outdoor recreation opportunities are available in the Marietta area," Smith said. "For example, many people who want to go kayaking or canoeing don't know where to access the local streams and rivers. That kind of information is available at the store or on our web site."
Longtime kayaker Dan Jones, president of the Marietta Rowing and Cycling Club, encourages people to get out on the local rivers and other waterways, but to do it safely.
"Paddling on the rivers is great, but safety is key," he said. "The most important piece of safety equipment on any boat is a life jacket. I never paddle anywhere without a life jacket."
Jones said the next important safety factor is knowing the water temperature.
"At this time of year the water is still very cold, and if you fall in you can quickly develop hypothermia," he said. "Most people overlook this fact. For beginners the middle of summer provides the best water temperature for paddling."
During cooler months Jones said paddlers need to dress according to the water temperature.
"Wear a wet suit, or a dry suit with long underwear underneath," he said. "Dry suits are made of nylon and waterproof, but your skin can still get cold in the water, so you need some kind of insulation between the suit and your skin to keep your body warm."
Other safety tips include watching weather reports before heading out on the water to be sure no storms or high winds are forecast.
"A light breeze is OK, but strong winds blowing against the river current can create dangerous waves," Jones said. "You have to learn to read the water. Watch the river current."
He said the strongest current in the Ohio and Muskingum rivers will be in the middle of the channel, so kayakers should stay closer to shore to avoid battling those currents.