Giving the Stillwater River Some Love

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

If you haven’t visited the Stillwater River firsthand, it is time you did. The Stillwater River is a special place to fish, paddle, or just enjoy some beautiful scenery.

Ohio’s only National Water Trail and State Scenic River

Designated as both a National Water Trail and a State Scenic River, the Stillwater River and Greenville Creek system are the only river segments in Ohio that have been awarded both of these special distinctions.

Ohio’s scenic river program recognizes high quality natural streams and helps protect them for future generations. The National Park Service’s National Water Trail program recognizes rivers and streams with plentiful public access for river recreation. Together, that makes the Stillwater River one of the best Ohio has to offer.

Greenville Falls

Premier outdoor recreation 

The Stillwater River and its tributaries offer diverse recreation fun.

  • World-class fishing, including some of Ohio’s premier smallmouth bass habitat
  • 60+ miles of flatwater for beginning and intermediate paddlers
  • Beautiful riverside parks managed by Darke County Park District, Miami County Park District, and Five Rivers MetroParks
  • Fun nature education at Brukner Nature Center in Troy, and Aullwood Audubon in Dayton
  • Scenic waterfalls on Greenville Creek

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 Stillwater River—or any river for that matter—is a fun and safe one.

  • Do not enter the water when river levels are high or water is moving fast. Most people underestimate the power of water.
  • Always wear a life jacket while paddling.

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

She is putting on the most important piece of river gear. Always wear a life jacket when paddling the Stillwater River.

The health of the Stillwater River

So the Stillwater River offers exceptional river recreation. But what about the condition of the river?

When Ohio designated the Stillwater River as a Scenic River in 1975, it was considered to be in “excellent” or “good” condition. As with virtually every water body in the country, land uses in recent years threaten the water quality and condition of the habitat. Despite the challenges, the Ohio EPA reports that 52 percent of the Stillwater River and its major tributaries meet Ohio water quality standards.

One of the most common threats to the Stillwater River is nutrients. Nitrogen and phosphorus enter waterways when it rains, impacting water quality. Both are found in fertilizers, animal waste, sewage, and wastewater. These problems can be reduced by fencing livestock out of streams and rivers, better fertilizer management, properly maintaining septic systems, and improvements to wastewater treatment.

The Stillwater River and its tributaries have also been heavily impacted by physical, man-made changes. Removal of stream side forests can increase erosion of the stream banks. When the shape of the stream is changed from a natural, meandering shape to a straight channel, habitat is destroyed.

More than half of the Stillwater River and its tributaries meet Ohio water quality standards.

MCD and the Stillwater 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. We:

  • Track nutrient and other pollutant levels in the Stillwater River.
  • Sponsor trash cleanups on the river.
  • Educate homeowners on proper maintenance of home sewage treatment systems.
  • Partner with communities that manage wastewater treatment to explore new approaches to wastewater management.

We’re working to keep the Stillwater River healthy for you, your family and generations to come. You can help with these simple water wise actions. Let’s give the Stillwater River some big love in return for all it gives us.

One simple act can lead to a safe summer on the water

By Sarah Hippensteel Hall, manager of watershed partnerships

The Great Miami, Stillwater, and Mad rivers offer many paddling, rowing, and power boating opportunities. Our water trail maps take you to public access sites and give you safety information. And one simple act can help you have a safe summer on the water.

Wear your life jacket!


It’s that simple. The facts are clear:

  • Four out of every five boating deaths in 2018 were due to drowning.
  • 84 percent of drowning victims in recreational boating accidents were not wearing a life jacket.

Having a life jacket in your boat isn’t enough. You have to wear it. Accidents can happen much too fast to reach for a stowed life jacket, so WEAR IT!

As you prepare for the boating/paddling season remember to:

  • Make sure your life jacket is U.S. Coast Guard approved.
  • Double check that your life jacket is appropriate for your favorite water activities. Read the label!
  • Take the time to ensure a proper fit. A life jacket that is too large or too small can cause different situational problems.
  • Check that your life jacket is in good condition, with no tears or holes.
  • Life jackets meant for adult-sized people do not work for children. If you are boating with children, make sure they are wearing properly fitted, child-sized life jackets based on their weight. Do not buy a life jacket for your child to “grow into.”

Modern life jackets are much more comfortable, lightweight and stylish than the bulky orange version. There are so many life jackets to choose from, there’s simply no excuse not to wear one. There are even life jackets that use inflatable technologies so you can remain cool and comfortable. Some will inflate automatically when immersed in water.

A good life jacket is critical to your safety. There are other steps to take as well. Before heading out for a day on the water, be sure to review the safety tips on the back of our maps.

COVID-19 considerations

COVID-19 is part of our lives for now and needs to be considered when boating, too. Maintain good hand washing and don’t go boating if someone in your household is sick. Be sure to review these tips for navigating social distancing  while boating and tips for cleaning and storing your life jacket.

National Safe Boating Week is May 16-22.