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Difficulty I at this flow (II(III) normally)
Length 4.5 Miles
Gauge O'Bannon Creek near Loveland OH
Flow Range 300 - 5000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 40 minutes ago 2.85 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 07/18/2017 1:19 am

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.

Rapid Descriptions


Class - N/A Mile - 0

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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.


Class - II+ Mile - 2.2
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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

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.


Class - III Mile - 4.2

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

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


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Aaron Bird
2 years ago

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.

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7 years ago

two strainners river wide top half of creek as of 4/19/13

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Scott Puthoff
9 years ago

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.

Gage Descriptions

Here's the breakdown on the flow based on the gauge reading for feet from Lamar:  My scale: 2ft is superscrapy, 3ft top section alittle scrapy at points bottom section good min level, 4ft the entire run is good to go (classII), 5ft rockin class II(IV), 6ft maybe a class III(IV). Much over that, the two big ledges might be the only thing not 'washed out' but they get huge.

Here's the breakdown on the flow based on the gauge reading for cfs:  200-350 cfs is superscrapy, 350-700 cfs is scrapy is spots, but there is a lot of small play throughout, 700-1200 cfs has a lot of good wave trains but some of the lower playspots have gone away but other catch on the fly spots are probably popping up throughout the rapids, 1200-2500 cfs things start to get bigger and smaller playspots are gone, 2500-3500 cfs things start to get washed out but some nice wave trains are still there (look for floating wood), 3500-5000 cfs things are really big, large wave trains in the couple spots there there are still waves, and look for all of the boils behind the rapids and around the turns.  Above 5000 cfs - go look for something else to run because everything should be popping.

Directions Description

For directions from listed put-in to alternate 'upper' put-in, enter into the text box below: 39.2298 -84.1645

For drive time, distance, and directions to the listed (lower) put-in from your home or other starting location, enter your location (address city state, city state, or lat long coordinates) into the text entry box.

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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.

lamar jackson




Scott Puthoff


Matt Muir


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