LENGTH: 65 miles
SOURCE: Mud Lake, Bailey Lakes
MOUTH: Lake Erie, Vermilion
Vermilion residents love the tranquility of their best-kept secret — the Vermilion River. Stroll the rocky shoreline of Mill Hollow Vermilion River Reservation and find solace among the towering shale cliffs, a popular feature of the river’s lower portions, and the shallow stream, often muddied by the red shale that gave it its name. “You can find your own little area to just catch your breath and relax,” says senior naturalist Jannah Wilson. “You feel like you’re away from everything down here.”
EXPLORE: Deepest in spring, the watershed’s lower portions are typically too shallow to navigate, but Mill Hollow’s high bald eagle population makes hiking an adventure. Experienced kayakers, however, traverse the 27-mile Vermilion-Lorain Water Trail, which passes Showse Park and downtown on the Vermilion portion. Beginning paddlers can hop in upriver at West River Paddle Sports, which offers lessons, guided tours and rentals.
FIN, FEATHER, FUR: Among Steelhead Alley, in-the-know fly fisherman pay tribute to this tributary. The Ohio Division of Wildlife stocks 55,000 steelhead annually, and hordes of spring-run Little Manistee-strain steelhead return after the first heavy fall rain. While early spring and late fall are best for trophy trout due to deeper and cooler waters, some report catching smallmouth bass and carp in the summer.
EXPERT TAKE: Marred by ruins of an 1800s-era mansion, Swift Hollow is a scenic spot rarely explored — possibly because it’s allegedly haunted. Hunt for its hidden location off a trail on Gore Orphanage Road. “People look at the old mansion site but don’t go down to the river and walk around,” says Wilson. “It’s a mystical environment down there.”