Giving the Mad River Some Love

By Sarah Hippensteel Hall, Ph.D., manager of watershed partnerships

Sometimes it feels like the Great Miami River gets all of the attention.

But the Mad River, with its scenic vistas, abundant fishing and paddling, and new rock climbing access, offers fun and unique places that can’t be found on other rivers.

If you have paddled on the Mad River from Eastwood MetroPark to downtown Dayton, you know what it is like to float through the forested riverbanks and then transition to urban life with the approaching downtown and RiverScape fountains. And while a rather unique trip, there’s so much more to the Mad River.

Premier outdoor recreation 

Designated as part of Ohio’s only national water trail, the Mad River and its tributaries offers diverse recreation fun.

  • World-class fishing including brown trout
  • 60+ miles of flatwater for beginning and intermediate paddlers
  • 5 whitewater features for the advanced paddler on Buck Creek and the Mad River
  • 2 lakes for powerboating and sailing at CJ Brown Reservoir in Springfield and Eastwood Metropark in Dayton.
  • Rock climbing in the Mad River gorge

Play area along the Mad River at Eastwood MetroPark

The health of the Mad River

So the Mad River offers exceptional river recreation. But what about the health of the river? Is it safe to recreate?

The Mad River is in good condition based on the number and diversity of fish, bugs and habitat. As with virtually every water body in the country, however, there are threats. One of the most common is bacteria.

While bacteria levels often spike in the Mad River and its tributaries from fecal contamination after steady or hard rainfall, the good news is the bacteria tend to die off quickly.

Keep in mind that even if bacteria levels are elevated, the risk of exposure to bacteria is likely to be low unless you swim in or drink the river water. For most people, paddling or rowing is a relatively low-risk activity.

If, however, you have open wounds, skin infections, or have a compromised immune system, consult your physician before taking part in any river recreation, and use caution.

MCD has collected data to develop a forecasting app for parts of the Mad River. When completed, the forecasting app will be available on the Great Miami Riverway website.

MCD and the Mad River

Keeping rivers healthy is a big part of MCD’s water stewardship efforts. We collaborate with schools, communities and local groups to protect the river:

  • Bringing Trout Unlimited’s Trout in the Classroom program into local schools so students learn about the importance of clean rivers, and raise and release trout.
  • Assisting the City of Springfield in updating development policies to encourage green infrastructure, and installing rain gardens.
  • Tracking nutrient, bacteria, and other pollutant levels in the Mad River.
  • Sponsoring trash cleanups on the river.
  • Educating homeowners on proper maintenance of home sewage treatment systems.

Fishing on the Mad River

Stay Safe

And anytime we talk about river adventures, we need to talk about river safety. A few small steps can ensure your next experience on the Mad River—or any river for that matter—is a fun and safe one.

  • Do not enter the water when river levels are higher or water is moving faster. Most people underestimate the power of water.
  • Always wear a life jacket while paddling.
  • To minimize your exposure to bacteria in the Mad River, enjoy it during days of dry weather.

Use our Mad River water trail map to learn more about staying safe on the river.

Your water wise actions keep the Mad River healthy.