LOUDONVILLE - The Mohican River area is celebrating 50 years of canoeing this season. Since the first canoe livery opened in Loudonville in 1961, the pastime has grown and become a popular destination.
It's actually so popular that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Water, earlier this year designated Loudonville as "Canoe Capital of Ohio."
"In 1961 Dick Frye opened Mohican Canoe Livery with a dream and 14 aluminum canoes," said Bob Yun, executive director of Mohican-Loudonville Visitors Bureau. "The Livery was first located near the intersection of SR 3 and 97, across from Mohican State Park. Today the livery is now called Mohican Adventures and has moved just up the road from the state park on SR 3."
Today, Mohican has six canoe liveries, which are open daily. Most remain open through October.
"Loudonville is fortunate to have an abundance of natural resources in the area, especially the Mohican River, that out-of-town visitors can enjoy," Yun said. "We are proud three family generations of Ohioans have made many cherished memories on the Mohican River the past 50 years. With two months left in the canoeing season, we invite all Ohioans to make some Mohican memories of their own this year in Loudonville. Fall foliage on the river is incredible. We are a nearby and affordable getaway."
Frye, an avid snow skier and canoeist, started his canoe business after a trip to Michigan and modeled it after a business he saw there, according to the Mohican-Loudonville Visitors Bureau website. He purchased canoes and constructed an A-frame office on the shore of the Clear Fork, just above where it joins the Black Fork to create the Mohican River. He named the business "Mohican Canoe Livery" and it was the first of its kind in Ohio.
Frye promoted the business as a safe adventure that could be both fast and exciting for the avid canoeist, or slow and relaxing for the novice. He offered trips from two hours to a six-day quest to Marietta.
According to the website, "One early brochure mentions a trip all the way to New Orleans, and suggests those who have the time and inclination to take such an adventure should sell their canoe when they get there and fly back home."
Frye, who became known as the "Father of Ohio Canoeing," co-founded the Camp and Canoe Association, which later evolved into the Mohican Tourist Association. He died in 1992 on an area ski slope, and a memorial plaque in his honor is prominently displayed south of Loudonville near the canoe livery he founded.
The original livery is now called Mohican Adventures and moved to SR 3. Owners Doug and Patty Shannon have added camping, cabins, go-carting and miniature golf. The original 14-16 canoes has grown to 884, not to mention the kayaks, tubes, rafts and various other means of floating down the river.
Much earlier than canoeing, the Mohican area was settled by Europeans after American Indians were forced away after the War of 1812.
John Chapman, also know as Johnny Appleseed, frequented the region during the 1800s, caring for his apple tree nurseries. His name and the date, carved in the wall of Lyons Falls, were an attraction for years. But the etchings have been obliterated with the passage of time.
Prior to 1949, most of the area that comprises the present Mohican State Park was part of the Mohican State Forest. When the Ohio Department of Natural Resources was created, Mohican was one of several state parks to be developed from existing state forests. The park was named Clear Fork State Park, but the name was changed in 1996 to Mohican State Park.
In 2006, the Mohican was designated a state scenic river.
Canoeing is only one aspect of the area.
The 1,110-acre Mohican State Park and the adjacent 4,525-acre state forest offer hiking and picnicking areas, as well as a variety of recreational trails.
Along with many campgrounds - both at the state park and private enterprises - there are cottages and a resort lodge available.
In the state park, there are 12 picnic areas and three shelter houses that can be rented.
The state park has six hiking trails for scenic walks. A two-mile easy walk on Lyon Fall Trail follows Clear Fork Gorge and features two waterfalls. A more difficult two-mile hike on Hemlock Gorge Trail leads to a scenic wooden bridge. There are three one-mile routes - Songbird, Grist Mill and North Rim trails - and a three-quarter mile trail that follows the lake shoreline.
There are two bike trails and three bridle trails.
A 24 1/2-mile mountain bike trail voted No. 1 mountain bike trail in Ohio by "Mountain Bike Action Magazine" last year, and a "must ride" according to National Geographic Explorer Magazine two years ago. It is home of the Mohican MTB100, a stop on the National Ultra Endurance Series, that draws top USA Olympians and national champions.
Other activities include boating on the Clear Fork of the Mohican River, fishing, hunting and snowmobiling.
A lesser known area of the state forest contains Memorial Forest Shrine, which is dedicated to nearly 20,000 Ohioans who died in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf War. The memorial hosts two events each year. One if a pilgrimage by the Ohio Chapter of American Gold Star Mothers, an organization of women who have lost children in war, and the other is a Memorial Day service by the local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.