Kayaking Guide – All You Need To Know About the Muskingum River

You might have heard about the prehistoric feel that paddlers experience on Ohio’s Muskingum River. The state-designated water way offers you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view America’s only remaining hand-operated locks, some of which date back as far as 1841.


But how exactly do you plan your trip through history? Well, that’s where this nifty guide comes in. Check out our tips and pointers, and you’ll soon be armed with all the info you could ever need to plan a trip kayaking the Muskingum River!


Muskingum River- Fast Facts

River Length:                          112 miles

Average Trip Duration:          3-4 days, depending on your pace

Paddling Difficulty:                Easy

Number of Access Points:      27

Water Conditions:                  Wide river with a constant current. The waters are mostly flat with                                                     very little fast moving current.

Experience Level:                   Beginner



Before You Paddle

  • While fishing is permitted in the area, the catching of mussels is monitored, and since the species is becoming endangered, visitors are encouraged to avoid catching mussels.
  • Locks are National Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks (and kind of look like dams). These areas are services by technicians which have to help you portage.
  • For guided tours in the area, you can get in touch with Southeastern Ohio Kayaking at 740-767-3780.


The Trip at a Glance

  • With 27 access points for canoes and kayaks, there really isn’t any lack of launching spots along the Muskingum River. Parking is the same, simply put, there’s more than enough for everybody. All this equates to the Muskingum being one of the safest rivers to plan a kayaking trip on.
  • There is also a lot of beach-like pit-stop zones located along the river banks, which make for great spots to stop and catch your breath before you carry on with your trip.
  • For the ambitious at heart, you might want to start your 112-mile river-journey at Coshocton and paddle out to Marietta at the confluence of the Muskingum and Ohio Rivers. If you’re in tip-top shape, you can get this trip done in 3 days, but for the rest of us normal folks, it should take roughly 10 days.
  • If you’re a day-tripper, the 9-miles between McConnelsville and Stockport should prove to be worthwhile. You’ll pass the mill built in 1842 (the only remaining one on the Muskingum).

Your Camping Options

You are free to camp out at any one of the locks (dams), unless of course the area is demarcated as private property. There are camping grounds located along the banks of the river, which are spread out between 3 and 10 miles from each other. Keep in mind that the camp sites aren’t very big, so they can only accommodate small parties at a time.


Camping sites along the river next to the locks are primitive, so make sure that you take everything and anything from a water purifier to a means of getting your food cooked and keeping warm at night.


Are Water Levels Ever Dangerous?

Luckily, the answer is no. While the Muskingum River’s water levels are generally at their lowest between June and July, it’s never low enough to drag your kayak. The fact that there are many dams located along the river way means that the water level is always kept constant. There are also various locks in the area that ensure safe passageway for powerboats, which you should know, are limited on the river, which means one less worry for paddlers.


As a side note, if you should ever wish to pass through a dam, you need the help of an access technician. This can be summoned by blowing on your whistle, which means that you’ll have to remember to pack one.


What About Fishing?

The Muskingum River is a good fishing spot, and aside from the issues with mussels, you can go ahead and try your luck at catching local species like crappies, sunfish, bass, channel catfish, and flathead catfish.


What Is The Best Time To Go?

This largely depends in what you want to achieve while you’re in the area. The river itself is good for paddling year-round, but if you’re keen on catching channel catfish, summer months are ideal.


Need More Info?

We know that sometimes we might forget to mention a fact or two, which is why we’ve rounded up a bunch of cool articles that might add some information to your already-full arsenal.

  • For details on the area’s launching spots, locks, parking spots, and camping grounds, check out this map.
  • This Paddlin.net article shares some great tips and tricks for paddlers.
  • This article shows pictures of a fellow paddler’s trip, and should give you a great idea of what the locks and dams in the area looks like.
  • The official Muskingum River website provides a bunch of useful info for visitors to the area.


And there you go! We’ve shared pretty much everything we know about the Muskingum River, and we sincerely hope that this guide will come in handy to assist you in planning one kickass kayaking trip down a living, breathing piece of American history, the great Muskingum River!