Sandusky, Ohio, US
|Usual Difficulty||II(III) (for normal flows)|
|Sandusky River near Fremont OH|
|usgs-04198000||800 - 3000 cfs||II(III)||00h20m||2060 cfs (running)|
Photo. Last rapid before take out, at 800 cfs.
Put in below the Ballville dam on the river left. The far right channel has the most water and runs next to a rock cliff. The rapids are mostly class II at medium flows and could be class III at higher flows.
The rapids continue down to the golf course. After you go under a bridge you pass the old power
station on your left, there is one more nice rapid. After this the take out is on the river
Thanks to Doug Grosjean, a local paddler for the following information
Put-in: Ballville Dam Take-out: Rodger W. Young Mem. Park: Distance: 1.1 Miles
Min. I'm guessing around 1,000 CFS. But if the Sandusky is at 1,000 CFS it's not very big or very fun. Meanwhile the Maumee is probably high at the same time that the Sandusky is coming up, so local boates rarely do the Sandusky at low levels.
Max. I've run it in excess of 10,000 CFS, but a swim would be a very fast flush while trying to dodge brush. You'd likely have to swim into the flatwater at the Rodger W. Young Memorial Park before you could exit the river. If you're good and paddling well, it is a BIG fun run with big waves and really fast water. You get maybe one shot at surfing each wave, and the run is over so fast that multiple runs are the way to go at high water.
Directions to Ballville from US-20, OH-53 South, State St. East, S. Front St. South, Go under steel railroad span Take RH fork, Tiffin St. Go south on Tiffin St. past: Rodger W. Young Memorial Park, Water Treatment Plant, Thornwood Golf Course, Haunted Hydro, Bridge, Dam
Park near the dam. Follow various trails to the river on river left. There's a small spit of rock
on river left below the dam. Put in either above or below it, but beware: putting in above forces
you into a large arcing upstream ferry / surf in heavy current to dodge the strainers that are in
place on that spit. There's a large eddy below the spit on river left as you come over the ledge.
Leaving that eddy, and at high levels there are some big waves down this channel. Eddy out behind
the island on your right, and look around. At most levels, there are good surf waves to the right
of the island. You may have to work a bit to attain them, though. Drop down, and there's a
river-wide diagonal ledge that offers some nice wave surfing at medium and high levels. Pass
under the bridge, there's a break in the action. Then continuing downstream, there's a nice eddy
on river left at the abandoned hydro plant. There's an island just below. Take LH channel, run
through nice surf waves, and eddy right next to island in order to surf the standing waves there
for a good time. But if you flush off the surf waves accidentally, you'll suddenly be running the
final rapid... Just below the standing waves is the final rapid, a big (5'-6' at high water)
crashing wave. Run it anywhere, it's strange no matter where you run it. Paddle through the
flatwater pool after the final rapid. Watch for dirt cliffs on river right, shortly after that is
the dike surrounding Rodger W. Young Memorial Park in Fremont on the left. Take out river left,
walk over the dike.
Land near Ballville Dam has been used as fishing and boating access in the past. Currently there are signs saying "Fishing Area Closed", but locals continue to fish and party and litter in the brush there.
Access at Thornwood Golf Course has varied over the years. It used to be free, then it changed to free if you asked politely, and currently there's an access fee charged to use the golf course land for river access for fishing or boating. The riverbanks at the golf course are steep and eroding, so exiting the river at the golf course isn't easy or reccomended.
Access at Rodger W. Young is free and fun; you can use your kayak to sled down the dike into the
parking lot after boating.
Other Ballville info:
The Ballville Dam was built to supply water to the hydro plant downstream, via a large steel pipe
along the left bank. That plant has been closed since the 1940's, and in recent years there's
been discussions on removing the dam. Fishermen and environmentalists are in favor of removing
the dam, but the EPA is concerned about pollutants trapped in the sediments behind the dam so the
dam's future status is in limbo. Logic and anecdotal stories from old-timers suggest there's good
whitewater behind the dam. It's about 1.5 miles from the shallows at Tindall Bridge to 30'
Ballville Dam, so there are some drops hidden under that sediment. Maybe someday I'll be able to
write about a brand-new stretch of Northwest Ohio whitewater... Doug
If you have more info and would like to add to this page you can e-mail me and we can update this page.