OH DNR officer said I MUST use ramp?

Today my friend and I were at East Fork State Park in Ohio; we went to practice wet exits, bow rescues and rolling (the latter isn’t quite there yet). We, as many others have over the years, put in at the edge of the public beach being careful to stay well outside the buoyed swim area.

Today, as we were loading our kayaks back onto my friend’s truck, an Ohio DNR Watercraft Enforcement officer pulled up next to us. Since I couldn’t hear anything because my ears were still too wet to put my hearing aids back in, I hollered to my friend who talked to the officer. I figured he was going to ask for our registrations as I scrambled to put the hearing aids in, but to my surprise, the officer had a different question.

The officer questioned if we were about to put in, and we replied, “No, we just took out”. The officer then informed us that we are not allowed to launch from the beach. My friend said we’ve been doing this for a long time with no problem and the officer informed us that, “There is no difference between your boats [kayaks] and a motorboat”. Not wanting to argue with the officer, we relented and wend about strapping our boats down. The whole incident seemed very odd because we’ve been ignored by rangers and other park officials for a long time.

While I know one isn’t allowed to back their trailer up to the beach to launch, I can’t seem to find any state laws or park rules that state ANY boat Must be launched from the ramps, let alone canoes and kayaks. If there’s a law or DNR regulation on the books that specifically requires me to use boat ramps, I’d like to know it so I can get it changed.

As a canoer/kayaker, I go out of my way to avoid mixing with power boats. The last place I want to be is near a busy ramp. Beyond this, the concrete boat ramps are not really suitable for launching paddlecraft and the power boaters have not been kind friendly folks who are patient while we carry our boats down to the water, enter them and paddle away (we actually used the ramps when we were new at the sport and [more] stupid).

All this leads me to wonder if the Ohio DNR has taken a new stance against paddlers. Just a few weeks ago, the DNR was out on the Little Miami river and in a single day issued over a hundred citations (to paddlers) ranging from public intoxication (good) to people urinating in the woods along the bank (it’s the woods for cripe’s sake!).

Do any of you have ideas for what approach I can take? If I’m required to use a paved ramp at this ODNR administered state park, why aren’t I when accessing the Little Miami river, which is also an ODNR body of water? There isn’t a single paved ramp along that entire river. I figure I’ll call the ODNR office located at East Fork Lake Park, but I suspect the “kayaks are the same as power boats” is a vague interpretation.




I would
Call the main office and ask to speak to the head of the DNR.

You don’t have to use boat ramps

– Last Updated: Aug-19-07 7:37 PM EST –

But you can't launch or land on a swimming beach. This makes sense to me. A kayak can be a danger to a swimmer. I paddle Ohio waters and have never been told I have to launch from a boat ramp. But there are clear rules against launching from a swimmer's beach. You can launch from boater's beaches if you like, and I find the boater's beaches around me to be pretty empty in the evenings and during the week. We use the boater's beaches for rescue and roll practice all the time. There are at most lakes a million other suitable places to launch that are not swimmers beaches and are not concrete ramps.

But kayaks and paddles are hard objects. Add some waves, generated by wind or a powerboat offshore--and you have a hard object bobbing up and down that could conk a swimmer on the head.
If you were really outside the swimmer's area, I'm surprised they bothered you. But if you were in it, or right up against the ropes to the swim area, I can see why they did.

As for ramps, you are as entitled to use them as the motorboats, if you like. And if you use them properly--have all your gear ready, carry the boat over, get in and paddle away--you will take less time on the ramp than your average motor boater, so they have no reason to complain. Typically, there is open shoreline NEAR a boat ramp where you can launch, and still be a good distance away from the motor boaters.

I doubt you’ll get the Director
on the phone. It’s a pretty big bureacracy, and I don’t think he deals with these kinds of things. Call the Division of Watercraft and ask for clarification.

just ignore it.

its better to beg forgiveness than ask permission.

If the same guy asks again just make a show of putting in the hearing aid and tell him you could not hear.



– Last Updated: Aug-19-07 10:27 PM EST –

East Fork is the main lake I kayak too and I always put in just to the right of the swimming beach and never had a problem. Almost went out today but had too much going on at home to get away. I too used the boat ramp the first few times I kayaked but have since taken to putting in near the swim beach. That area is outside of the swimming area and shouldn't be a problem with the ranger. I plan to continue using that area but would be interested to hear what the ODNR says to your inquiry.

I too have been practicing wet exits and palawata rolls at East Fork. Got the wet exit and paddlefloat reentry down. Unfortunately, the roll has proved to be elusive.

We were outside the beach area

– Last Updated: Aug-19-07 10:43 PM EST –

We put in and took out at the edge (end near where it turns into dirt) of the beach at least 50 yards from the nearest swimming marker buoy. At no time did we enter the swimming area being occupied by a total of 3 people. The officer didn't witness any behavior, he just categorically declared that we must use the boat ramps.

The sad part is that the very area we put in at is a common spot for PWC boaters to beach their craft. The DNR doesn't seem to have a problem with Jet-Skis buzzing around the swimming areas and high powered race boats ripping past the the buoys (within 25 yards) at break neck speeds, but two kayakers practicing safety are a real problem.


Well that sounds like
he was just being a jerk. If you were clearly outside the swimming area, you can launch there.

I would call the ranger’s office for the park in question, and ask them. They definitely will know the rules.

It is a simple and quick matter to use
the ramp if there are two of you.

Take your boats off the vehicle away from the ramp and get them all outfitted and ready to go, and then just carry them to the ramp and you can get out of the way as quick as the power boaters do.

That guy must have been a jerk or they are trying to prevent beach erosion in that particular spot.

Here in NC, the DNR and fish and wildlife guys are about as friendly as they get.



Same At A Few Of Our Ramps
I am not sure it is inforced but several of the DNR ramps in our area have signs posted which say that you can not go on the beach adjacent to the ramp. This was explained as a policy to help reduce the environmental impact on the beach.

I believe that hand launching on the beach would keep out of everyones way and would result in little or no impact on the beach. On the other hand, I really appreciate our DNR providing the boating access that they do and am more than willing to follow their rules.

Happy Paddling,


Don’t be too appreciative
Keep in mind that it is your lake, not theirs. And you are their boss. Of course it is always a good idea to assume there is a good reason for what at first seems like an arbitrary rule, and you should always be polite when asking for an explanation. But my experience in Ohio is that power boat needs drive policy, and small paddle craft are not considered or are at best an afterthought when setting policy. Usually this is not a big deal. But sometimes it leads to the writing of stupid regulations that make little sense for kayaks and canoes.

The officer did not witness anything…
He had no idea if we launched in the middle of the swimming area or on the edge of the beach. He didn’t ask. He just said “There’s no difference between your kayak and a power boat. You have to use the ramps”.

I respect the rangers/DNR folks, I really do. Maybe this guy was having a bad day, but I can’t accept that he didn’t know the rules about paddlecraft. Since he’s an official representative of the DNR Watercraft Enforcement Office, it really disturbs me that he made this blanket statement.

As for the boat ramps, yes we’ve used them before and can put in with reasonable speed. It still doesn’t change the power boater’s attitude and puts us too close to them in the first place. It’s not a huge problem if we’re going for a tour around the lake, but for safety practice, it’s a pain because anywhere near the ramp is obviously a terrible place to practice safety drills and is several miles from the beach.

The short of it is telling us to use the ramps decreases safety and adds to congestion. It makes no sense whatsoever.


Another take - PWCs are the real problem
Consider what you wrote above:

“the very area we put in at is a common spot for PWC boaters to beach their craft. The DNR doesn’t seem to have a problem with Jet-Skis buzzing around the swimming areas…”

I would make the opposite assumption you did, and bet they DO have a problem with PWCs. They have almost certainly received complaints about these PWCs near the swimming beach(es), and because of this they are now watching this more closely.

When he told you “There’s no difference between your kayak and a power boat. You have to use the ramps” - you can be pretty sure he’s been telling the PWC drivers exactly the same thing and doesn’t want to get caught up in making distinctions/exceptions between vessel types.

I agree …

Instead of getting hot and bothered about an instance like this I’ve found one should always pause and try to figure out the reason.

In my experience, there are very, very few people in the world who enjoy being a jerk and go out of their way to behave like a jerk. Most people in authority that behave like jerks are socially dysfunctional, and just like the dysfunctional members of our paddling community, they don’t even realize they’re coming across as a jerk when they interact with real people.

Like the above post surmizes, there is a problem and there were probably orders given to stop “boat” launching near the beach.

It wouldn’t hurt to pick up the phone and ask soas to ensure that your anger and outrage doesn’t make things any worse for everyone else.

It was wise of you not to confront him
in a public setting. Right or wrong you could have had a much bigger problem by showing disrespect.

Message I sent to the ODNR inbox

– Last Updated: Aug-20-07 1:00 PM EST –

Since the phone at the nearest ODNR station has been busy today, I sent the following message to their Questions mail box. I hope it sounds level headed and respectful, that was my intent:

Yesterday (8/20/2007), my friend and I went to East Fork State park to practice kayak safety maneuvers. As we and others have in the past, we parked at the far end of the beach parking area and put in at the edge of the beach at least 50 yards from the nearest "Swimming" buoy. At no time did we enter the swimming area or beach adjacent to it.

As we were strapping our boats down in preparation to leave, an ODNR Watercraft Enforcemnt officer pulled up and asked us if we were getting ready to put in. We informed him that we had just taken out and were packing up to leave. The officer then informed us that we cannot use this area as a put-in. We were surpised to hear this and mentioned we and others have used this spot as a paddlecraft put-in for a long time without incident (believing we were following the rules). The officer then informed us that, "There is no difference between your kayak and a power boat [and} You must use the boat ramps". Not wanting to argue with the officer, we continued to pack up and left.

As conscientious boaters, we strive to obey all applicable rules and regulations. To our knowledge, there is no state regulation or park rule that requires us to launch only at boat ramps. We also maintain that it is in our and others' best interest if we in paddlecraft avoid being in close quarters with power boaters and that it's good citizenship for us to avoid tying up the ramps for boaters that must use them because of the size/design of their craft.

All this boils down to is the following question: Are we within the rule of law by putting in paddlecraft at locations other than designated ramps (outside of swim areas, etc.) and if not, which laws specifies this?

Thank you,

Agreed . . . "shut the hell up."
I like the “better to ask forgiveness than permission” idea on this one.

I learned that lesson years ago w/ a state cop. In a construction zone on a three lane interstate, they had the left lane closed about 2 miles ahead of me, w/ signs up saying “Do Not Pass”. Now at the end of the merge, I’m getting ready to get over, and there’s a cop standing next to his car waiving me over. I do, and he comes over saying I was supposed to merge two miles back. I started to explain that the heavy traffic wouldn’t let me in, and I never passed a single car, when he interrupted me with a lecture that the signs made it clear I wasn’t so supposed to pass them. Huh? I wasn’t supposed to pass the SIGNS? Where in the world does “Do Not Pass” mean do not pass this sign?! I started to argue about the lunacy of this when he barking at me and I heard the word warning. I quickly asked if he was just giving me a warning or a ticket. When he made it clear it was a warning if I quit arguing, I shut the hell up. No need to be right when you aren’t getting a ticket, right?

Same here. He warned you, apologize and move on. Next time you’re there, enter the water where ever YOU know is right, and if he or another one warns you again, THEN you may start looking into it. But again, don’t argue it on the beach. You won’t get anywhere there anyway . . . .

I was with you UNTIL I got to:

“All this boils down to is the following question:”

And then you go on to demand a legal citation?


In the above advice what part of not showing an attitude didn’t you understand?

ODNR rangers
In the past, I have had run-ins with cranky ODNR officers. At the time, I did my best to avoid giving them any guff, though it’s hard not to when they’re making untrue accusations of you and attempting to trap you into something.

Later, I became friendly with said ranger’s boss and talked about his behavior (two separate incidents). Interestingly, said cranky ranger didn’t work there long afterwards. I’m curious if it’s the same guy I dealt with. :-p