This guide is possible thanks to Stanley Hedeen, professor emeritus, Xavier University Department of Biology, and author of Natural History of the Cincinnati Region.
This is a guide to the four-mile river stretch between Great Parks of Hamilton County’s Bass Island and Armleder Park. This stream segment supports the greatest diversity of vertebrate and invertebrate species to be found along the entire 107-mile length of the river. Take a copy of this guide along on your next canoe trip. You can put your canoe in the river at Bass Island or any upstream access site.
Mile Point 0.0 — The Bass Island Canoe Access is located just downstream of the Newtown Road Bridge. The fishy name of this island reflects the fact that the Little Miami and its tributaries support 95 fish species, including three that are endangered in Ohio.
Mile Point 0.0 to 0.5 — The left bank is covered by a floodplain forest community. Floodplain trees are species that are able to tolerate frequent flooding, saturated soil, and reduced soil aeration. The upper portion of the higher right bank supports upland trees, although this shoreline forest has been greatly altered by human activities. Beginning in the early 1800s, this woodland was logged for lumber to build flatboats that floated farm goods from here to New Orleans. The Little Miami Railroad in the 1840s harvested many of the trees to procure wood for rail ties and locomotive fuel. Finally, buildings erected along the U.S. 50 highway corridor displaced most of the remaining trees. Concrete that washed into the river from a cement trucking business remains along the right shoreline between Mile Point 0.3 and 0.4.
Mile Point 0.5 to 1.0 — A portion of the floodplain forest along the left shoreline has been cleared for home sites. The houses here have been repaired often, as is usually the case when buildings are located in a floodplain. For houses, flooding is always a cost and never a benefit. In contrast, flooding generally is a benefit for crop fields since the soil is rejuvenated by nutrients in the stranded flood debris.
Mile Point 1.0 to 1.5 — The right bank has a lower elevation downstream of the railroad bridge located at Mile Point 1.2. Exclusively floodplain vegetation now lines both shorelines of the river. Watch for trees felled by beavers that reside in riverbank dens accessed by underwater tunnels. This section was the first Little Miami River location to which beavers returned in the 1980s, after having been missing for 175 years.
Mile Point 1.5 to 2.0 — This river stretch is a good place for observing fish-eating birds. The belted kingfisher and great blue heron may be found here throughout the year, while the osprey and bald eagle may be seen in the spring and fall. Also in this river section, farms utilizing the rich floodplain soil are located beyond the trees lining both shorelines. The discovery of prehistoric Native American farming implements in these fields shows that agriculture has existed in this valley bottom for over a thousand years.
Mile Point 2.0 to 2.5 — The river makes an obvious horseshoe-shaped bend at Mile Point 2.3. This is the site at which the Ancestral Little Miami entered the Ancestral Ohio River. About a quarter million years ago, the Ohio River was pushed southward to its current location when a continental glacier advanced over this vicinity, forcing the Ohio to cut its new channel along the glacier’s southern margin. Following the glacier’s retreat, the Little Miami added almost six miles to its length in order to reach its new mouth on the Ohio River.
Mile Point 2.5 to 3.0 — More types of birds (215 species) have been recorded in this undisturbed Little Miami River Valley segment than in any other portion of the Valley. This great diversity is due to the large number of habitats present in the area: forests, meadows, crop fields, oxbow ponds, beaches, and shallow and deep river pools. Thousands of migrating waterfowl rest here when the bottomland is flooded in the early spring.
Mile Point 3.0 to 3.5 — A large amount of sediment accumulates along the right shoreline in this stretch of the river. Several freshwater mussel shells may be found on the mud/sand/gravel/cobblestone beach. At least 40 species of mussels inhabit the Little Miami, seven of which are endangered in Ohio. Dead fish also wash up on this beach, causing turkey vultures to frequent this area.
Mile Point 3.5 to 4.0 — A long section of the right shoreline is treeless where the river is actively undercutting the bank. The riverside tree corridor is continuing to fall into the channel as bank erosion proceeds downstream. The downed trees in the river channel provide resting places for sunning turtles and dead branches for perching swallows. Killdeer and spotted sandpipers feed along both the eroding right bank and the stone beach bordering the left bank.
Mile Point 4.0 — The Armleder Park Canoe Landing is located along the right shoreline. However, if you wish to continue your trip, at Mile Point 6.5 there is a canoe access on the left shoreline at the Cincinnati Park Board’s Magrish River lands Preserve. The mouth of the Little Miami is located at Mile Point 8.0.