After paddling through a wide stretch of open backwater, the paddlers entered the channel of French Creek, and proceeded upstream. Near the point where the creek met the backwater, lush stands of arrowleaf lined the banks, and killdeer trotted along sandy stretches of shoreline.
More heron sightings occurred further up the creek. When the tall wading birds were sighted, the group drifted silently toward them to see how close they could approach before the birds took flight.
After a final crossing of the Ohio near Broadback Island, the paddlers entered the final backwater of the tour, Newell Run, and glided to a take-out point.
"Back on the river, it was a little like kayaking in the ocean," said Jeff Carrigan, who was touring in a tandem kayak with Jackie Scheimann. The Belpre, Ohio, residents had paddled a tandem seagoing kayak while vacationing in Cozumel, Mexico, but had not kayaked closer to home until taking the Marietta Adventure Co. tour.
"It was a fun trip," said Scheimann. "We saw tons of herons and got to ride some waves."
Other guided weekend kayak tours offered by the Marietta Adventure Co. include a 14-mile trip down the scenic Little Muskingum River, featuring a put-in near a covered bridge and a few fast riffles to navigate, and descents of nearby Duck Creek.
On Sunday, a more leisurely four-hour float will be offered on the main Muskingum River, featuring a locking through the nation's only hand-cranked lock and dam system, a lunch stop and swimming breaks as needed.
The guided trips cost $40 per person, including kayak rental, shuttle, paddle and personal floatation device. Those owning their own kayaks can take the trips for a $25 shuttle fee.
Self-guided trips using rented kayaks and shuttle service are also available.
"We went out and explored all the kayak routes we could find in the area, and timed how long it took to run them," said store owner Ryan Smith. "We also saw which routes did best under certain weather conditions, so we know what works best if it's been rainy or dry. All the routes are suitable for beginners -- no whitewater above Class I."
The backwater tour will be offered at various times throughout the remainder of the year.
"When the flowers along the backwaters are at their peak, we'll go back there, and it's a great tour for taking in the fall colors," said Smith, who plans to keep the weekend tour schedule going through the end of October.
In addition to hosting paddling trips selling kayaks and accessories, Marietta Adventure Co., is a Specialized mountain bike dealer. The city of Marietta maintains a 15-mile bike trail system, and nearly 80 miles of trail are available in the nearby Wayne National Forest.
To learn more about Marietta Adventure Co. trip offerings, call 740-538-0801, or visit the company's Facebook page, where upcoming tours and tour photos are posted.
Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.