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Difficulty I-II
Length 4.2 Miles
Gauge Great Miami River at Hamilton OH
Flow Range 750 - 5000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 34 minutes ago 777 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 11/04/2012 5:20 pm

River Description

The Great Miami (Heritage to Dravo) run is the classic dependable "whitewater" run in the Cincinnati area.  Having larger volume than its Little Miami east-side brother, the Great Miami can serve up waves and easy play when nothing else is running.  The run includes probably 3-4 Class I rapids with about a half dozen or more rips and ripples. During the spring, summer, and fall, the Cincypaddlers run the river weekly on Thursday nights.  Check their Yahoo Groups page ( for dates and times.  The weekly paddle does get cancelled from time-to-time for inclement weather or low water levels.

This section of the Great Miami River is run at a variety of levels from 500 cfs to 5000 cfs+.  The cut off listed is 5000 cfs, not necessarily because of increased danger, but because the rapids generally are flushed out.  Death Hole appears to be playable past this point, maybe up to around 7000 cfs.  Incidentally, if the river is rocking above 5000 cfs, there are probably better whitewater options available in the area.  Somewhere around 8000 cfs, paddlers probably want to stay off the river due to the presence of wood and other floating paddling buddies.

Many whitewater boaters will forgo the first couple miles of mostly rips and ripples and put-in at the Blue Rock Road bridge (parking is on East Miami River Road, north of the bridge).  This gives boaters all the fun without the flatwater paddling.  Most of the rapids have been named after paddlers in the Cincypaddler group, although some are referred to by different names.  I've included both names in the rapid descriptions so that people can easily identify where they are on the river.

The other thing to note about this run is that it is constantly changing.  Features that were there last year are no longer there.  Features that were terrible for play are now decent.  Rocks are constantly shifting and moving, so the desriptions offered in the rapids section may not reflect the current situation.  Additionally, some features come in at higher water and some come in at lower water.  Please use the comment section if there are major changes to the river so that paddlers know what the current run is like. 

The run is appropriate for almost every skill level of paddler at most daily water levels.  Around 3000 cfs, the river gets a little fast and the average rec boater and novice whitewater paddler might find the eddylines tricky.  Having competent paddlers in the group should overcome those issues.

Put-In: Heritage Park, located off of East Miami River Road about 2 miles north of the Blue Rock Rd intersection. (Approx. a 4.35-mile trip)

Alternate Put-In: On East Miami River Rd just north of the Blue Rock Rd intersection. (Approx. a 1.6-mile trip)

Take Out: Obergiesing Soccer Complex (formerly Dravo Park), located off of East Miami River Rd. 1.6 miles south of Blue Rock Rd.

Other related or nearby streams: 50 Hole, Great Miami, Ohio (Class I), about 11 miles Southwest (downstream).  This runs only at lower water levels and is good if someone just wants a park and play session. 

Rapid Descriptions

Put-In Rapid

Class - I Mile - 0
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Right at the put-in is your first rapid of the day.  The middle-top part is also known as "Ken's Chute" and the last little feature is known as "Jenn's Wave".

If the water is above 2000 cfs, you'll generally put-in at the pool of water and float down the little rapid.  At lower water, you'll have to walk your boat across the pool into the main current.  If you go to the main current, there's a small ledge and well defined eddyline for good play.  Ender and squirt to your hearts content.  The water is deep.

If you don't head to the main current and take the river left path, then you'll get a chance to practice your eddy turns immediately.  The next two ripples are about the same in character: some waves with eddies on both sides ending in funny water.  Around 4500 cfs, the funny water at the second set of waves ends in a series of whirlpools (this feature is called "Blender"). 

Down at the end of the series of ripples is "Jenn's Wave".  It's a lot like the top ledge/eddyline at the beginning of the rapid.  Surfing can be had a certain levels, but the eddyline is really the better play feature.

"The Deck"

Class - I Mile - 1.9
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AKA "Captain Hanks Crunch".  It's a small ledge system that has some small surfing opportunities.  You want to head towards the high deck on river right to surf.  There's a surf wave in the middle of the river, but that's formed by some old rusty metal - eek!!

Blue Rock Rapid

Class - I Mile - 2.6
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There are several features that the Cincypaddlers have named here, but I include them all in the same rapid.  Those features include:  "Blue Rock Wave" and "Teresa's Other Side". 

This rapid is one of the better ones on the run.  The rapid is directly before and underneath Blue Rock bridge.  "Blue Rock Wave" referenced above I think is now gone.  That was located on river left.  If it's still there, it's not worth the trip over to that side of the river.

On the river right side, you'll start off with a small ledge for surfing.  You can actually spin a small playboat in the dinky holes that are there.  One thing to do is surf, spin, and then ferry across the moving water towards the middle of the river to a small eddy created by a rock.  You can then ferry back across to the eddy below the surfing ledge and do it all over again.

After this little ledge, you head on down through the main drop.  There are a couple holes that always look much better for surfing than they really are.  They tend to be shallow and not too grabby.  Still, the ride down the waves is fun.  Catch the eddy on river right.  The eddyline is decent for enders and squirts.  Water is deep for flipping and rolling. 

You can also try the Blue Rock attainment:  ferry across the chute of water to the other side of the bridge pillars.  Work you way up river on the river left side of the bridge pillars.  The water gets shallow, so work through the rocks and try and get up as high as you can to attempt a surf at one of the above mentioned holes (you've got a better shot at a surf doing this than catching on the fly).  When that fails, head on back down the river and catch the eddy on river right to do it again!

V Drop

Class - I Mile - 2.8

AKA:  "Lisa's Lagoon".  A very short trip down the river and you'll encounter a V shaped ledge.  Go straight for the middle of the river to get the best ride through some decent holes/waves.  There is a small wave/hole above the actual drop that can be surfed.  It's a challenge to get in and sets you up to go over some rocks backwards, but it's still good fun.

The ledge offers some surfing at almost any level.  The river is constantly changing this area, so just look for the best feature and go for it. 

At low water (below 1000 cfs), there' a spot closer to river left (surfer's right) on the ledge that will side surf a creeker (it's pretty small, just grabby).

Denny's Run

Class - II Mile - 3.1
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This was known as something else earlier, but almost everyone calls it Denny's Run now.  This rapid can either be pretty sweet or completely lame, it really just depends on the day and water level.  It also is constantly changing, so you really never know what you are going to get.  This is generally the best rapid of the day and the one that gives the most people issues.

The river constricts down to about half it's size and goes left down a gradual drop.  Depending on where the rocks are, you can get some 3-4 foot waves in here.  The waves are big enough that kayaks without spray skirts will take on decent water at the right levels.  Complicating matters are the ever-presence of trees at the bottom of the run.  Because of this, paddlers usually catch the river right eddy to avoid the strainers.  The eddyline is crisp and flips novice boaters with delight.  The only spot on the river with consequences, but usually the carnage happens at the eddyline as opposed to the strainers.

Having said all that, this has been the spot of several swiftwater rescues by local fire/EMS with people that have gotten stranded on the strainers in the middle of the river.  Canoes and kayaks have been seen wrapped around the trees, so the hazards are real in this spot.

NOVEMBER 2012 Update:  Currently on river left at 2100 cfs, there is a nice 2-3 foot green wave for front surfing.  Carving is easy on the wave.  You can set yourself up by first catching a river left eddy above the wave and ferrying above the wave to another eddy in the middle.  This sets you up perfectly for the surf.  However, once you're off it's hard to get back in that eddy in the middle.

Final Rapid

Class - I Mile - 3.7
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AKA:  "Dan's Delight".  The river goes over a small shoal and then takes a hard right through some decent waves.  There are eddies along river left that are crispy and fun to catch (try and get "Jeep Eddy").  The tail waves of the rapid offer the opportunity to do some wave wheels over the little waves.  The water is deep enough for rolls, so don't worry when you flip.  Also a good place to practice rolls in move water.  Just check the depth before you give it a go (generally the deep spot starts about 3/5 of the way through the rapid). 

Death Hole

Class - II Mile - 3.9

The name is tounge and cheek, as the hole is generally friendly.  At higher water (3000+ cfs), the hole can look intimidating, but it's quite flushy if you are surfing in it.  The spot can take a variety of forms from a breaking wave, breaking wave hole, hole, or exopsed rock.

This playspot really is good almost the entire time the river is running.  You can play in it at high and medium water.  The lower the water, the more hole like it is.  Generally surfer's right is the sweet spot.  Paddlers can spin and cartwheel on the surfer's right.  When it's more of a pourover hole, you can side surf it.  When the rock is exposed (low water), you can do eddy line moves.  Be warned, there are some other rocks directly behind death hole that can clock yer head if you try and flip there when the Death Hole rock is exposed.

You can also try the "Cheating Death" attainment at low water.  It's really quite lame, but fun to do when the rock is exposed.  Surfer's right behind the Death Hole rock paddle hard to above the rock and ferry above it.  Take the little chute down on surfer's left (river right).  It's bumpy, so you'll have to use your hands on that one.

You can also park and play this by parking at Dravo, walking through the soccer fields up the river until you get to the woods (stay close to the river, as opposed to the road), take the trail through the woods down to the river, and put-in there and ferry across to give 'er a go.

Dravo Park

Class - N/A Mile - 4.2

This is the take out.  At levels around 1500 cfs and above, you can take the river left path.  Below 1500 cfs, you'll have to paddle on river right around the gravel island.  Paddle below the island and follow the maze of water, tree branches, and garbage to the take out ramp (or take out at the gravel island and have yourself a walk).


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Tara Mapes
2 years ago

We did this route yesterday 6/16/18--Water levels were normal, no recent storms and no warnings present. To anyone else is considering this route--- this is not for recreational kayakers. We've kayaked for years, but this was challenging and one of us almost died. No one was on the water on a highly popular kayak canoe day for weather this weekend. Our boats took on so much water in some of the rapids, one of us went under and the boat had to be retrieved--the other kayaker had to swim to shore. Ironically--the 'Death Hole" was where he went under, though it states it is fairly harmless.Just beware. Do some research, if you're not experienced, don't take your chances. Of course, WEAR LIFE JACKETS--they saved a life yesterday.

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8 years ago

A small group of us met at the base of Blue Rock Road for a bit of Park and Play at the ledge just downstream from the bridge, adjacent to the softball fields. Water level was around 650 cfs, which is supposedly too low to be runnable, but let me tell you, the ledge where we were playing was just fine for surfing and practicing ferries, peel-outs, S-turns and just about any other basic WW moves you need to work on. We also found it to be a great place for combat rolls. We were at 50 hole last week. This was much better.

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8 years ago

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barry welling
10 years ago

hit this section 3/6/10 and it was About 4000cfs. Photos taken of the strainers... at that level it was easily passable by staying just right of the wave train, or on the right side of the wave train. They sit just out of view of the bridge, as the river makes a sharp left hand turn, and drops over a gravel shoal. Head River right / center above the bend, and you can easily portage it, or boat scout safely. the take out has become very clogged with wood. Reccomend you access the take out ramp by ferrying across downstream of the growing woodpile on River left.

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jason Emerson
14 years ago

The "Death Hole" can be a park and walk and play. Just park at the Dravo parking lot and walk up stream to the end of the soccer fields. There will be a path at the end of the fence. Walk down the path and you will see the hole. Somewhere between 4500 cfs and 7000 there is an ok hole that forms. at 5600 it's pretty much a front surfing green wave, but it is likely that at the right level a haystack will form making it much better.

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Robert Ellstrom
14 years ago

Little or no technical expertise required. One or two tight turns, at least one with a strainer. Be alert, however, for strong cross-currents at confluences of divided current. These can tend to be grabby at higher water levels.

Undecked canoes will likely take on significant water at higher levels if they choose to run the taller haystacks. Easier routes are almost always available, however.

The safest routes under Blue Rock Bridge to avoid the strainers on the bridge abutments are either all the way river right or river left. River right is the easiest, but misses the play spot under the bridge on river left. This play spot washes out above 3000 cfs or so.

Eggleston Park is another put-in that is perhaps a quarter mile shorter. The first rapid after that put-in has a great set of ferry waves that run most of the width of the river. You can leave a bicycle at Dravo Park and ride back to your car easily. Some decent waves and generally continuous rapids until the takeout river left at the old bridge abutments. A fun run for the whole family with relatively big water in comparison to the Little Miami or Whitewater rivers.

Gage Descriptions

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Directions Description

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Date Flow Result Factor  
1981-06-01 High Near Miss/Rescue Inexperience Read More




article main photo

New Hydro Project for Cuyahoga (OH)

Thomas O'Keefe

The Cuyahoga River, the river that burned, played a pivotal role in the birth of the nation's river conservation movement. While restoration gains have been significant, a proposal for a new hydropower project on a dam targeted for removal would represent a signficant setback in ongoing restoration efforts and would delay for at least half a century any effort to bring back the lost whitewater that sits buried behind the Ohio Edison Gorge Dam. Paddler participation at upcoming scoping meetings is important.

Scott Puthoff




Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1201645 11/04/12 Scott Puthoff Updated with rapids and current description of run
1194343 04/15/09 Rob n/a