O'Bannon Creek - Gibson Road to Little Miami confluence

O'Bannon Creek, Ohio, US


Gibson Road to Little Miami confluence

Usual Difficulty II(III) (varies with level)
Length 4.5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 32 fpm
Max Gradient 40 fpm


Photo of Lamar Jackson by me and my gopro taken 07/06/13 @ high runnable

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
O'Bannon Creek near Loveland OH
usgs-03244936 300 - 5000 cfs II-III 00h22m 366 cfs (running)
Best flow for small play. Low end of this range is a little scrapy.

River Description

The breakdown is one mile at 20 fpm, the next two miles at 40 fpm, and the final mile-and-a-half at around 17 fpm. From that breakdown you can see the middle section is where most of the action is - although some of the better playspots are near the end of the run.

O'Bannon Creek is a nice run that provides a variety of play at a wide range of boatable levels.  While lower water is perfect for newer boaters looking to step up from the Great or Little Miami Rivers, higher water can create very large wave trains with boils behind them and few, if any, eddies.  This creek is changing all the time with the rain events creating new playspots that can last for several years or several months.  Some of the better playspots shown in the pictures are no longer there or have changed significantly.

Boaters can use either feet or cfs to gauge whether this run is in.  Check the flows tab for more information on that.  While some people run this below 300 cfs, it really is a very rocky river and so I've upped the minimum to 300 cfs, which is probably the best low end level.  Much below that and you are really looking to put a beating on your boat.

The real attraction for O'Bannon is it closeness to the Cincinnati area, the frequency at which this river runs, and the variety of levels that it can be paddled.  The best level for all-around play is around 500-600 cfs, although play can be had at all the levels.  Bigger water means bigger tricks for the skilled playboater in a variety of playspots.  While "Shithole" is not as good as it once was, certain levels still are very good for big play.  The final ledge has changed into a really nice spot for bigger tricks at certain levels.  Pothole, once considered the best spot on the river, has really changed and is no longer as good of a playspot as it used to be - although it can still be fun at lower water.  There are several spin spots throughout the run and you can front, side, and backsurf to your hearts content at most water levels.

PLEASE remember, most of this run is through people's yards, and banks are private property! We certainly wouldn't want to ruin our already limited access to this creek! This is a great intermediate creek for folks in the Cincinnati area. There are other runs in the area that are great also (Stonelick, Whiteoak) and we want to ensure that generations to come can enjoy them as well.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2017-07-18 01:19:31


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Put-InN/APutin Photo
1.0Boogie WaterI
1.2Waterfall RapidII
1.4First LedgeII
1.6Bridge RapidII
1.7Undercut RapidII+
1.8Second LedgeII
2.3Door #3III
2.5Spin HoleIIPlayspot
2.8Obannonville RapidII
3.3Hawk WaveIIPlayspot
3.7Round RockIIPlayspot Photo
4.2PotholeIIIPlayspot Photo
4.3Final LedgeIIIPlayspot Photo
4.5Take OutN/ATakeout

Rapid Descriptions

Put-In (Class N/A)

gibson putin bridge

gibson putin bridge
Photo of lamarj by eric w taken 05/28/09

Either walk down by the bridge or take the well-worn trail on Nature Conservancy property down to the put-in.  If you park in the small subdivision across the street, just park in front of the houses and be respectful.  The house on the end near the cul-de-sac tends to put-up cones during rain events to discourage people from parking in the cul-de-sac (which actually has no homes in it and is away from people's houses).

Boogie Water (Class I, Mile 1.0)

About 1 mile in you'll see some old bridge piers and the action will start to pick-up from here.  A couple small surf waves can be present in this area to warm-up on.

Waterfall Rapid (Class II, Mile 1.2)

There is small waterfall on your left that is at the top of this rapid.  Catch some eddies on the left as you work you way down or catch a bunch of catch-on-the-fly surf waves.  About midway down, there is sometimes a nice glassy surf wave and a diagonal hole behind it.  Near the end of the sequence are also a couple small surf waves.  It's best to start this one left and work right above the glassy wave and then stay right and finish out below it.  Sometimes some eddies form on the left below the glassy wave which can be fun to negotiate.

First Ledge (Class II, Mile 1.4)

A small bit of slack water after Waterfall and you'll be at First Ledge.  Currently, the best line is to run this on the left - although for the longest time you'd want to run it on the right.  Some rock has gotten into the right and that's not a great route unless the river is above 1500 cfs.

Bridge Rapid (Class II, Mile 1.6)

This rapid is best run from left to right and can get boney in spots.  A couple of fun eddies exist along river left wall.  Look for the deepest water and expect to scrape bottom.  Some surfing at the bottom of this at lower levels.

Undercut Rapid (Class II+, Mile 1.7)

This one starts not long below Bridge Rapid and can sometimes have some nice surfing right at the top of the rapid with eddy service on the right.  After the surf wave, you'll want to get left because it gets shallow on the right.  Beware the undercut wall on the left bank that is not fatal, but could certainly be scary.  Some more surfing can be had at moderate flows the undercut wall on the left.  

Second Ledge (Class II, Mile 1.8)

Second Ledge can form into a really strange curling wave at some levels, but I've not seen that in a while.  What once was something to deal with, is now, not much of an issue.  There is generally always wood to deal with, but usually a very nice glassy, shallow surf wave to front surf until you are bored or your crew is giving you the stink eye.  After you go through the diagonal "ledge", there is a wave train downstream for wavewheels and eddyline moves.

Shithole (Class II+, Mile 2.2)

Seeing the sewage treatment plant means you are about to enter Shithole.  At higher water, some really big surf waves can form at the top of this rapid.  At lower levels, some fun holes are present about mid-way down.  This can have a small or big wave train or be totally washed out.  At around 5000 cfs, it's a really big ride.  Either way, expect this to evolve over time and at different river levels.  Currently there's an eddy on river left near the end of the big stuff that you can use to play and spin in a couple of small holes.

Door #3 (Class III, Mile 2.3)

There used to be several "doors" that a paddler could choose from but wood and moving rock have all but blocked doors #1 and #2.  Door #3 is along the right hand bank and you have to negotiate a tree that partially blocks where you want to go.  After you pass the tree, there are a couple nice waves and then the rapid gets REALLY SHALLOW.  Expect to scrape here!  You'll then join the rest of the flow (which comes in on your left) and be prepared for a great wave train that is good for wavewheels and whatever other downriver moves you think you can throw.  Some surfing exists in the upper and lower part of this rapid.  It culminates with a great view of a wide 8 foot waterfall on your left.  BEWARE - the property owner on river right watches this like a hawk but is generally friendly.  DO NOT TRY TO RUN THIS from O'Bannon.  If you heart desires, start upstream on this feeder to run the big drop.  "No Trespassing" signs are abound in the area.

Spin Hole (Class II, Mile 2.5)

There's a lonely spin hole in this rapid that is midway down, right in the middle of it.  Most people stay left and run through the wave train, but you can catch one of the eddies at the top on river left and you'll see the spin hole in the middle.  Ferry over - if you miss it, there's sometimes an eddy on surfer's left of the hole.  Spin until you get bored.

Obannonville Rapid (Class II, Mile 2.8)

This has some surfing potential up top and some spots for wavewheels downstream.  Below the bridge are some weird currents, so throw some stern squits and have a fun ride.  Beware that below 700 cfs, this can be shallow in spots for playing.

Hawk Wave (Class II, Mile 3.3)

Named after seeing several Redtail Hawks in the tree right above the wave, this is the best low water play feature on the creek.  At levels around 400 cfs, this is a great front surfing wave that is so much fun to carve on until you are bored or (again) are getting the stink eye from your group.  It's pretty shallow here, but I'm sure better boaters could throw blunts on this.  EASY eddy serve on river left and you can keep getting back into it over and over again.  Not usually all that great above 800 cfs.  Just good, clean fun!

At higher water, a wave train forms that is good for wavewheels.  Most levels have a wave train that you can play in after you are done in the surf wave.

Round Rock (Class II, Mile 3.7)


Photo by lamarj taken 05/28/09

At some levels, a hole forms here that you can play in on surfer's left.  Most levels this is a great ender and stern squit spot.  Lots of little whirlpools that allow boaters to twist and spin around on their backs.  Throw squirts either coming out of eddy or as you go into eddy.  The farther upstream you are in the eddy, the more shallow it is.

Pothole (Class III, Mile 4.2)


Photo taken 06/21/10

This used to be a great playspot, but the ledge has eroded and there's rock in there now.  The runout can be very shallow, so if you play here, be mindful of that and have a quick roll.  At some levels a wave train forms downstream of this, but it can also be shallow so tuck hard.  Currently, at lower water the bottom wave is good for front surfing on surfer's left and spinning on surfer's right.  Best eddy service is on river right near the steep bank.

This can sometimes be covered by water from the Little Miami River if the LMR is really high.

Final Ledge (Class III, Mile 4.3)

last ledge

last ledge
Photo of Lamar Jackson by Lamar Jackson taken 04/06/12 @ 1500 cfs

This can be a really great hole at a lot of levels on river left.  The right is very pourovery (if that's a word), so avoid that.  If the Little Miami is backed up into O'Bannon, this can change the rapid's playability and make it better.  I've seen people loop here, so at some levels it's definitely deep enough.

This can be covered by the Little Miami River at some levels.

Take Out (Class N/A, Mile 4.5)

Either take out before or after the bridge.  Several trails exist for less than 100 yards of walking back to the parking lot.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
July 31 2018 (171 days ago)
Aaron BirdDetails
R2'd today in an RMR Cloud9 after a night and morning of constant rain. Put in at 1180 CFS, took
out at 600. O'Bannon was dropping fast after peaking at 2900 CFS. Hard boaters ahead of us had a
bit more water through their run, but this range has LOTS of fun waves and nice holes. Door #3
opens into wood. Doors #1 and #2 open into vegetation or wood. This rapid is a mandatory carry in a
raft. Some kayakers maybe could slip through in the main channel, but it would be sketchy. It was
sketchy enough to line our raft through the downed trees. None of the holes in this run were overly
sticky for us and we had a great time punching right into their mouths and through them. Other than
no doors being open at Door #3, it was a fantastic run.
July 8 2013 (2020 days ago)
rickkoth (154067)
Several large river wide strainers observed on the creek today. At low volume two were mandatory
portages river left, at higher volumes a couple other strainers may need to be portaged that we
were able to duck under today. None were on the blind turns, be cautious, they can be avoided.
Update 7/8/2013 The first strainer is a couple hundred yards or so before the sub division homes
back up to the creek on the left. At higher levels you can boof it. The 2nd strainer can be real
trouble, once you round the left bend, past the first set of old bridge abutments, begin to look
for the strainer and a spot to park and scout. The 3rd river wide has washed away during the past
week's rain.
April 24 2013 (2095 days ago)
two strainners river wide top half of creek as of 4/19/13
December 21 2011 (2585 days ago)
Scott PuthoffDetails
Strainer all the way across the stream almost immediately after put-in (before the Gibson Rd
Bridge). Easy portage on river left. Ran it today at 500-ish cfs and you could still barely get
around the thing. At higher water, it would probably cause some problems.
April 29 2011 (2821 days ago)
Scott PuthoffDetails
Went down O'Bannon yesterday and one of our group went to dump the water out of her inflatable at
the waterfall when a person on the other shore quasi-kindly informed us that the area there was
private property (there is a sign on the north side of the feeder creek). Not a place that I would
stop for any reason unless it was an emergency and even then, I wouldn't linger. I've heard of
people running the falls, so I'd just be careful not to upset the property owners.