Two mornings ago when I paddled out of Wheeling the air temperature was finally starting to head up above the water temp, new friends had helped me launch, and more had already offered safe harbors downstream (thanks to the morning press in Wheeling).
This region of the river flows through a fairly high density of power, chemical, and water treatment plants–complete with all of the permitted outfalls that come with them. It is also the start of the river’s trip through West Virginia’s mountains and the Ohio River’s islands–parts of which are protected in combinations of national forest and wildlife refuges. Both of which seem to work–wildlife on that morning paddle out of Wheeling was a constant. White-tail deer hiding on the banks, geese, ospreys, eagles, hawks, kingfishers, terns, sandpipers, and at least a half dozen species of duck paddling and flying around. Some of the islands also serve as rookeries for blue herons–though the locations of these are not ideal–at least one was surrounded by smoke stakes.
Lots of small creeks flow into the Ohio in this region and most have homes or camps at their confluence. One of these, Captina Creek, was poisoned by a spill of coal sludge by Murray Energy last fall.
That evening I pulled into the muddy boat ramp behind the Baristas Cafe and Pub in New Martinsville and was immediately welcomed with coffee, a hot shower, dinner, drinks, and a wonderful place to stay. The pub crowd was a mix of gas company workers, cyclist, story tellers, fisherpeople, bakers, and riverrats–great conversations, until very, very late. I made a side trip up to one of the owner’s farm in the mountains and caught an amazing sunset over the river. Such a great place and community–I look forward to getting back there someday.
This morning I started a bit late and paddled about 30 miles down to St. Mary’s, WV. There was nearly no barge traffic and the shore line was broken only by small towns and ridgelines–beautiful, quiet country. Now I’m planning to turn in early and sleep through the forecasted snow.
Thanks to everyone whose helped out these first few days.