Flowing south roughly from Bellefontaine to Dayton, the Mad River is neither mad nor a river - just a gentle stream named for General "Mad" Anthony Wayne, a noted Revolutionary War badass.

Flowing south roughly from Bellefontaine to Dayton, the Mad River is neither mad nor a river - just a gentle stream named for General "Mad" Anthony Wayne, a noted Revolutionary War badass.

Now, misconceptions aside, the good news: The Mad 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.

For Columbus residents who only explore areas southeast of town, this is flatter terrain dotted by plains, farms and pockets of hardwood forest. What it lacks in sandstone it more than compensates for with secluded, small-town charm and vast, horizontal views.

The Mad is my favorite way through it - an accessible stream that nearly everyone can paddle with proper planning and beginner skills.

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.

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.

Once you shove off, the crystal-clear water opens a world normally obscured by muddier, silt-bottom rivers so common around the Buckeye State. You'll be pleasantly surprised by the clarity and water temperatures you'll consider very refreshing when it's hot.

In deep pools and rocky riffles, you'll see hearty populations of sculpin, minnows and brown trout, which are stocked annually by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. A good number of trophies growing 18 inches or more make the Mad a year-round angling destination.

Paddlers will face a few class II rapids, several summertime bottom-out spots and the occasional log jam. Other than that it's smooth sailing around quiet bends, through shaded channels and beneath several working railroad trestles.

Looking for a last-minute summer escape? Plenty of places to bike, hike, fish, camp and canoe await on the Ohio Adventure Map, available at columbusalive.com/venture.