On Wednesday, August 30, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and local partners will host a grand celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of the Olentangy River’s designation as a state scenic river. The event, taking place from 5:30-8 p.m. at Highbanks Metro Park, promises an evening of exploration and education for families and river enthusiasts alike.
Jeff Johnson, Chief of the ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, highlighted the significance of the river’s status. “The Olentangy River was the third river to be designated as a state scenic river,” he said. “Despite its proximity to central Ohio’s urban region, the river continues to exhibit the superior natural characteristics which led to its designation 50 years ago.”
Activities for the Whole Family
The event is not just a celebration but an invitation to engage with the natural world. ODNR has organized a range of activities both in and out of the water. Attendees can participate in wildlife and geology hikes, collect aquatic critters, and even play trivia games. Experts from ODNR will be on hand to discuss the benefits of a healthy river ecosystem.
The event will be located in the Big Meadows Picnic area within Highbanks Metro Park, accessible via the river trail. ODNR encourages attendees to wear appropriate footwear for splashing around in the river.
The Ecological Importance of the Olentangy River
The Olentangy River is not just a body of water; it’s an ecological marvel that plays a critical role in local communities. Forests along the Olentangy State Scenic River provide stabilized streambanks, migration routes, flood protection, and natural pollutant filtration. These are essential for both wildlife and human inhabitants.
Last year, the Ohio Scenic River Program acquired a 19-acre property along the Olentangy River near Delaware to further protect these vital stream-side lands. This acquisition ensures that the river will continue to benefit the community as land use and weather patterns evolve.
The Geology and Geography of the Olentangy
The Olentangy State Scenic River stretches over 22 miles, from the Delaware Lake dam in northern Delaware County to Wilson Bridge Road in Franklin County. The river valley is a treasure trove of natural beauty, featuring steep shale cliffs, winding ravines, and unusual geologic formations known as concretions.
The river’s designation as a state scenic river is a testament to its unique characteristics, which add a touch of wilderness to Central Ohio. It’s a place where nature and community coalesce, offering a respite from urban life and a classroom for environmental education.
Photo: Creative Commons License