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Kayak  Sandusky, Portage, Huron &
Vermilion Rivers 

Learn the history of these Scenic Ohio rivers

The Sandusky river begins its nearly 130-mile journey to Lake Erie at the confluence of Paramour Creek and the Allen Run. The first 45 miles of the Sandusky River flow along the outer margin of an end moraine in a general east-to- west direction. The river turns to a more northerly course in Upper Sandusky and continues in that direction through Tiffin and Fremont before reaching its mouth at the Sandusky Bay (Lake Erie).

The land surrounding the mouth of the Sandusky River is mostly undeveloped consisting of bogs and marsh areas. The watershed is home to 220,000 people (120 people per square mile), making it the least densely populated of Ohio’s major watersheds.

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Native Americans
The Sandusky River was once home to the Seneca and Wyandot indians. The 1785 Treaty of Greenville established a boundary between Native American territory and lands open for white settlement. The Native American territory encompassed northwest and north-central Ohio, including the Sandusky River basin. The 1817 Treaty of the Miami of Lake Erie laid out reservations along the Sandusky in Seneca County, including the Big Springs, Delaware, Seneca, Vanmeter and Wyandot.


Indian Removal Act
In 1830, U.S. Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which led to the eventual relocation of all Native American tribes from Ohio. In 1842, the Wyandot Indians relinquished their claim to reservation lands in Upper Sandusky and in 1843 were the last Native American people to leave Ohio.

Portage River

Oak Harbor
Up until the 1870's, the Portage River was the only way for local businesses to ship their products. The first boat on the river was the "John Marshall", run by Adolphus Kraemer. The scow "Mary Berkhead", was, in pre-Civil War times, the fourth largest on the Great Lakes. It shipped white oak staves from the Charles Roose Stave Factory to Buffalo, New York. Poplar plank were also sent to Buffalo sometime later during the Civil War. Thousands of cords of wood were sent to Cleveland, Sandusky and the Lake Erie Islands to be used for fuel for the Buffalo/Detroit steamships. A great number of the products from Oak Harbor manufacturing went down the Portage River and on to world ports.

Gold Fish by the Tons - 1920
According to an Associated Press article, dated December 20th, 1920,  carp-like goldfish were being taken by the ton at the Portage River and many of them were several inches long and weighing up to a half pound.

pound. They were “highly colored in yellow and gold” with sprinkles of red, making them “very attractive”.  The local fishermen say they had been catching them in their nets for several years at various times, and would take them in as novelties.  It wasn’t until this particular years, 1920, their numbers were so huge and so abundant that they were being caught and put “live” into railroad tank cars where they were being shipped to retail and wholesale markets in New York City.

It is believed that may have gotten into Lake Erie during the great floods of 1913 when many backyard ponds and aquariums were flooded over and thousands of the little gold fish were sent into the flood waters.   

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Huron River
The word “Huron” refers to a Native American tribe that was prevalent in the Great Lakes region prior to European settlement. Variant names have included Bald Eagle Creek, Notowacy Thepy and Pettquotting River, among others.

The Firelands
Much of the river system flows through Huron and Erie counties which together comprise a large amount of “the Firelands,” the westernmost portion of the Connecticut Western Reserve. Established in 1792, the Firelands had been reserved for Connecticut residents whose homes were burned during the British raids of the late 1700s during the Revolutionary War. In the early 1800s, settlers began populating the area.

Milan Canal
In 1839 the Milan Canal opened. The canal paralleled the east bank of the Huron River and connected the village of Milan to Lake Erie. During the canal’s prime, Milan thrived as Lake Erie’s largest inland port and as one of the busiest Great Lakes ports. Inventor Thomas Alva Edison’s birth home overlooked the canal in downtown Milan. The Milan Canal era ended in 1868, due to flooding as a result of a feeder dam failure.

Vermilion River
Native Indians
History tells us that the Erie Indians lived along the south shore of Lake Erie until their extinction by the warlike Iroquois from upper New York State in 1655. Then around 1700 the Ottawas, Hurons (Wyandottes) and Chippewas gradually returned to the area for furs to sell to the French traders until they too were pushed out of their hunting and trapping grounds by the pioneering white man. Few Indians remained by 1800.

The Vermilion river was the main enticement that caused the Indians to settle along the highlands near the river. Fish easily caught from the stream provided a necessity of life. The river was the key to livability in the rugged and wild life of the native.

The Pelton Wheel
Lester Allan Pelton born in Vermilion, Ohio in 1829, considered to be the father of modern day hydroelectric power, is one of the most famous inventors of American history.  Pelton invented the impulse water turbine.  The Pelton wheel introduced


an entirely new physical concept to water turbine design (impulse as opposed to reaction), and revolutionized turbines adapted for high head sites. Up until this time, all water turbines were reaction machines that were powered by water pressure. Pelton's invention was powered by the kinetic energy of a high velocity water jet.

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