This story is brought to you by our friends at IceMule Coolers. Their unique insulated backpack cooler designs are perfect for a Little Miami camping trip, They combine the best qualities of a dry bag and an ice chest, keeping your supplies cold for 24 hours while you’re floating, fishing, camping, and more. 

1969 was a big year for Ohio rivers. While up in the northern reaches of the state the Cuyahoga was polluted and burning, the Little Miami River in the south was designated the state’s first scenic river.

Today, there are about 29,000 total miles of river in the state of Ohio. Just two hundred have been declared scenic, however, including the Ashtabula, Chagrin, Big & Little Darby, Kokosing, Mohican, Olentangy, and Sandusky. What makes the Little Miami River so special though, isn’t just that it was the first to earn that designation. It’s how much you can do on a Little Miami camping trip.

The Little Miami has been popular for centuries. The Native American tribe, from which the river gets its name, called its banks home during the early days of white settlement. In 1872, a song was penned about it calling it “a second earthly paradise.” The basin around the Little Miami is incredibly biodiverse, making this a prime viewing area for birds and other wildlife, and a magnet for anglers seeking bass and other fish. About a decade after the state of Ohio recognized the river as something really special, so did the federal government, which named the Little Miami a member of the National Wild and Scenic River System in 1973.

Photo by The Dyrt Ranger Don B.

The Little Miami also gets a lot of love because it’s so close to both Dayton and Cincinnati. It’s super easy to get from either city to the natural area around the Little Miami, whether you are hoping to get out on the water or simply bike or hike nearby. The Little Miami River Bicycle Trail follows almost 80 miles and crosses picturesque bridges and countryside from Cincinnati to Springfield. There are also almost 50 paved miles of converted rail-to-trail for cyclists, joggers, and rollerbladers. You can drive in to the State Park, of course, which is designed as a kind of corridor along the river. Eighty-six miles of the river are also open to paddlers, too.

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Small towns along the Little Miami are flush with restaurants, hostels, canoe outfitters and tour companies, and tackle shops. You should have no problem stocking up on provisions for a canoe camping trip. Don’t miss out on ice cream at Graeters, which is an Ohio classic. If you’re smart, you’ll bring an insulated backpack cooler like the ones by IceMule to keep your pint fresh while you paddle. Nothing says a midwestern summer like snacking on cold Buckeye Chocolate Chip while you float on the water. 

Camping on the Little Miami River

You can set up your tent in John Bryan State Park, which The Dyrt Ranger Don B. describes as a “great place to visit” with “three parks in one: John Bryant, and Glen Helen nature preserve, and Clifton Gorge are some of the best hiking trails in southwest Ohio.” He added that “Campsites are great for tent camping with a few RV spots.” If you choose to hang out in nearby Yellow Springs, The Dyrt Ranger Art S. describes it was having a kind of mellow hippie vibe. You can also set up camp near the Narrows Reserve Canoe Launch, the Little Miami Canoe Rental at Old Mill Base,  Morgan’s Riverside Park, and at Fort Ancient Canoe Rental.

Photo by The Dyrt Ranger Renée C.

If you’re new to canoe camping or ‘yakpacking, if you just like the chance to camp and fish near beautiful sycamores and cliff faces, or if you’re just craving a good picnic in sunny weather, the Little Miami is super accessible. Those without much outdoor gear can easily rely on the tour companies in the area to get a feel for the experience. More experienced outdoors people can challenge themselves with a bikepacking trip or extended fishing excursion.

However you choose to spend your time on the Little Miami, you can get a sense of what’s made this a popular destination for hikers and paddlers, and just how far Ohio’s rivers have come in the past fifty years.

You can win free gear from Icemule—like their insulated backpack cooler—and 19 other brands by reviewing campgrounds on The Dyrt. Share past camping experiences, photos, and videos to earn points towards monthly prizes in this year’s camping contest!

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