The Mad River is Ohio's largest and most prolific coldwater fishery and one of the best places in the state to paddle. The roughly 60-mile waterway is fed by springs, never reaches 70 degrees and flows through a good cross-section of western Ohio countryside.
Two liveries operate along the way: Aaron's Canoe and Kayak Center in Springfield and Birch Bark Canoe Livery in Urbana. Both offer canoe and kayak rentals, transportation for those with their own boats and knowledgeable river experience.
Here's more about a trip through the southern section.
Aaron's Canoe and Kayak Center 5605 Old Lower Valley Pike, Springfield 937-882-6925 Homepage
View larger image The main lodge has plenty of canoes, kayaks and tubes for rent. Trips start at $26 for a canoe or $18 for a kayak, and first-timers will be happy traversing five miles in an afternoon. Excursions as long as 16 miles are available.
View larger image A few small rapids pop up along the way, but you probably won't need to portage. The water is clear, so you can usually see if you're about to bottom out.
View larger image Here's the Mad in miniature: a calm, clear, quiet stream that's hidden by trees for most of its way. White-water hounds will be disappointed; deep thinkers will not.
View larger image A few highway overpasses break the serenity, as does a small stretch near some abandoned factories. It's not long before you're back into the well-watered woods.
View larger image Brown trout are stocked annually by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and you'll see plenty of catches well over 12 inches. Fish in deep pools and near the river's many riffles.
View larger image Every so often, the river forks into the main stream and a dead-end. Don't worry: Most directional problems are marked with signs.
View larger image Occasional homesteads can be found along the banks of the Mad. This prime real estate comes with its own boat.