ODNR Scenic River designation for Paint, Rattlesnake and Rocky Fork creeks
When I heard the news, I thought, “Why not here? In mid-August, ODNR intends to add portions of Paint Creek, Rocky Fork Creek and Rattlesnake Creek as the state’s 16th designated scenic river joining the Little Miami River, Big & Little Darby. Creeks and others on a distinguished list of pristine rivers and streams. A who’s who of the best waterways in the state.
In the early 1970s, I did a lot of fishing and canoeing on Rocky Fork Creek, under Rocky Fork Lake, back when Seven Caves was still Seven Caves and there were three covered bridges across the creek. . From Rocky Fork Creek we would canoe past Seven Caves and several miles into Paint Creek, and with courage enough for the stupid young boys we would haul the rapids out of Paint Creek and find ourselves at the rest area on US 50 which is no longer there. From there, one of us hitchhiked back to our car which was either parked at Beaver Dam or McCoppin Mill while the other stayed with the fishing gear and canoe.
It was a long time ago and I remember the unique features of Rocky Fork Creek and the great fishing, especially downstream from the three historic mill dams that used to be on the creek. A lot has changed since then, but I guess not much has changed with the stream. As of those days, a Rocky Fork Gorge State Nature Reserve now sits along the creek and 7-Caves is now the Highland Nature Sanctuary. These changes would actually enhance the uniqueness of the stream.
Paint Creek and its tributaries are home to 118 species of rare and endangered freshwater fish, 11 plants, animals and mussels, according to the ODNR study. It is considered an “exceptional warm water habitat,” which is the highest rating that can be given to a watercourse.
As for Paint Creek, the trip from where Rock Fork meets it is through the Paint Creek Valley from Highland to Ross County and mostly follows US 50 east from Hillsboro to Chillicothe which could be considered the one of the most scenic roads in the state. . Almost 82 miles of the Paint Creek watershed is marked for the scenic river designation.
There have been two previous attempts to have the Ohio Brush Creek designated as a State Scenic River at the time. The first attempt was killed by the popular nature columnist for The defender of peoples, Roy Cable, who didn’t think the state government should have business on the Creek. The next attempt was in the 90s, led by a local group of concerned citizens who actually gained traction because then commissioners approved the idea and issued a proclamation. However, a handful of landowners along Brush Creek strongly opposed it and the proclamation was rescinded. No one has publicly spoken about the issue since then, but the idea has been circulating for years from pious thinkers like myself and others.
I have been informed and it is common knowledge that the Ohio Brush would easily meet the criteria for designation of Scenic Rivers and many studies have been done on the creek and it is also listed as Outstanding Hot Water Habitat and has many threatened and endangered species along its shores and living in its watershed.
The Scenic River designation for Ohio Brush Creek would boost Adams County’s image across the state. The sign on the bridges saying “State Scenic Waterway” says it all. So again I ask myself, “Why not here”?
To learn more about ODNR Scenic Rivers, visit https://ohiodnr.gov/wps/portal/gov/odnr/discover-and-learn/land-water/rivers-streams-wetlands/scenic-rivers-program .