Thousands of Kayakers to Descend on the Ohio River During Paddlefest This Weekend

Join over 2,000 paddlers in "the nation's largest paddling celebration."

Thousands of Kayakers to Descend on the Ohio River During Paddlefest This Weekend

Thousands of kayakers, canoers and other person-powered boaters will descend on the Ohio River on Aug. 6 for the annual Ohio River Paddlefest.

Launched in 2001 by a group of friends, the fest has grown from 275 attendees to more than 2,000 and is centered around two different paddling opportunities: the Paddlefest Classic (9-miles) or Paddlefest Mini (4.5-miles).

“We’re excited to once again host paddlers for this hallmark community event, the nation’s largest paddling celebration,” Miriam Wise, director of support and engagement for Adventure Crew, which produces Paddlefest, says in a release. “With two distances to choose from, the event is accessible to paddlers of all skill levels.”

Both the 9-mile and 4.5-mile routes depart from the Schmidt Recreation Complex in the East End. Put-in begins at 7 a.m. and paddlers can opt to race or take their time on the route, as long as they are out of the water by noon, when the Ohio River will reopen to motorized traffic.

Paddlefest Mini participants exit at the Public Landing downtown while Paddlefest Classic paddlers continue down the river to the Gilday Recreation Complex in Riverside.

A Finish Line Festival will be set up at Gilday from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. with music from The SunBurners, MadTree beer and food trucks.

In advance of Saturday's paddling event, Paddlefest weekend kicks off Friday with the Outdoors for All Expo. This pre-party takes place at the Schmidt Recreation Complex — the boater launch point — from 4-9:430 p.m. on Aug. 5.

The free event features outdoor exhibits, demos and hands-on fun in addition to live music, MadTree beer and food trucks. Buy or sell outdoor gear at the on-site market, check out the kids zone and listen to local bands Gabbard & Co., Tracy Walker and The Tillers.

Rain and storms are forecasted for the Greater Cincinnati area this week, but event producers say Paddlfest will go on rain or shine — as long as river conditions are safe.

"We're monitoring this week's weather and will notify all registrants in the event of a change or cancellation," Shauna Steigerwald, communications and events manager for Adventure Crew, tells CityBeat.

All Paddlefest paddlers must register to participate at The 9-mile paddle is $75 for adults and $25 for youth. The 4.5-mile paddle is $70 for adults and $20 for youth.

Participants can either use their own kayak, canoe or paddleboard or rent one at the time of registration. Don't wait till the last minute if you plan on renting a boat, as rental boats are limited and sell out every year, according to the event.

Proceeds support Adventure Crew, a nonprofit organization focused on providing outdoor recreation experiences for local youth.

“Funds raised through Paddlefest help us get more city teens outdoors for recreation activities, like paddling. So not only is Paddlefest a great time, it lets participants support a great cause — sharing their love of nature with teens who might not otherwise have access," says Wise.

Paddlefest races start 7 a.m. Aug. 6. The Finish Line Festival runs 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Aug. 6.

Put-in takes place at the Schmidt Recreation Complex, 2944 Humbert Ave., East End. The Finish Line Festival is at the Gilday Recreation Complex, 3540 Southside Ave., Riverside.

Get more info and register at

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