Today I will finish up our spring tour of Ohio with a trip along the Maumee River. We begin our journey by hopping on I-75 south to Toledo. On the west side of the city is the Toledo Botanical Garden. This is a lovely place to walk around; free to the public year round it consists of 60 acres of display gardens, sculpture and Crosby Lake. We come in through the Elmer Drive entrance; the Tulips were Stunning! Tall yellow and purple Tulips create a border the length of the garden wall. Once inside we got ourselves parked and were drawn to another Tulip bed; these were a magnificent orange. We began exploring the grounds in the shade garden; Azaleas were in full bloom showing off blossoms of hot pink in contrast to the white Dogwoods. Daffodils had come and gone but replacing them were Anemone, hostas and Forget-me-nots. This area is lush, you can have a seat at the nearby gazebos and relax while watching the fish swim in the pond beside it. Traversing the grass we joined up with the paved path passing several large pieces of sculpture provided by Toledo’s Art In Public Places program. We crossed over the water on the wooden bridge to gently rolling grassy hills dotted with fragrant Crabapple trees. The informal gardens are divided by a stone wall; the flowers here were just beginning to come up, the pergola already covered in Wisteria vine in bloom…. much to the delight of the local bees. We meandered around the grounds encountering a herb garden that smelled fantastic, and several other Tulip displays. Each time we come it looks completely different, but it is always a place of beauty and tranquility.
Back in the car we make our way to River Rd, as we pass the zoo we have to remember to veer left at the Harvard Circle Cloud Fountain to continue on the scenic byway. The river flows from the Maumee Bay of Lake Erie through northwest Ohio into northeast Indiana. This section of the drive, through the city of Maumee is picturesque; stately homes sit back from the road, large front yards lend themselves to exceptionally well-tended landscapes. It has a very Grosse Pointe feel to it and all the while the river is in view. The unique thing about taking this trip in the spring is that Walleye come here to spawn from the west end of Lake Erie, the Detroit River and Lake St Clair. As a matter of fact this is one of the largest migrations of river bound Walleye east of the Mississippi. It starts in early March and continues through the end of April. You are probably saying “so”. What that means is, fishermen come from all around to catch themselves some Walleye, it is quite a spectacle. Instead of using boats men wade out into the river and cast their lines, when I say men, I mean lots and lots of men, on a weekend there may be 1000 fishermen out in the water. It’s a whole to-do complete with waders, fishing caps, coolers and hibachi’s. Not getting any bites? No problem, just stroll on over to the nearest truck selling fishing lures and try something new.
In the town of Waterville we cross over to the south side of the river. Here the terrain becomes a little more country in feel; houses are farther apart, and we start to see farms. Our next stop was the charming hamlet of Grand Rapids; main street looks like a picture on a postcard. Victorian style brick buildings, tiny shops, restaurants, an ice cream stand, and a wonderful view of the river. We meandered in and out of storefronts; the general store has a fun variety of vintage style candy in large glass jars, along with chocolate and other treats. New stores seem to be opening all the time; if you like those girlie home decor shops grab your girlfriends and make a trip down. Antiques from furniture to jewelry are in abundance, they even have an old fashioned book store. It was a pretty day so we picked up a few slices of pizza from Pisanello’s and ate at a picnic table overlooking the Maumee. Grand Rapids has done a marvelous job making the town a wonderful place to visit; they even have an original lock from the Miami Erie Canal, it’s fascinating to see. As a matter of fact throughout much of the drive there is evidence remaining from the old canal.
We continued to follow the river westward and now there are even fewer homes; farmland is abundant, fields have been turned over and look ready to plant. The scenery was stunning; Redbuds are planted every few feet and were loaded with purple flowers, the scent of lilacs and honeysuckle drifted in through the car windows. It’s a beautiful drive on winding, hilly roads. In Napoleon we see the landmark that reminds us to cross back over the river; a giant can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup! Campbell’s has a plant here and the icon stands on the grounds. Before we know it we have arrived in the city of Defiance; with a population of over 16,000 this is a good size town. In 1845 a canal system linked Defiance with Toledo to the north and Cincinnati to the south, the town exploded with growth. Homes and buildings are built in Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Ann and Colonial Revival styles. Downtown is still in tact and rich with historic buildings. We stopped in the local coffee shop for refreshments and wouldn’t you know it, we stumbled right into the annual Chocolate Walk, yay! The coffee shop was giving out tasty samples of Ohio’s own Buckeye candies, a combination of chocolate and peanut butter. We walked through town a little, both to stretch our legs and find more chocolate……
Back in the car again, this time heading toward home. Ohio is known for its wonderful park systems; the Maumee river valley is loaded with wonderful metro parks. Each one we explored had free admission and great views of the river. Independence Dam State Park offers a hiking trail that was once the towpath for the Miami/Wabash/Erie Canal, it is three miles long and winds between the old canal and the river. We journeyed back the same way we had come; the fishermen were gone now and towns were coming to life on this mild Friday evening. When we arrived back in Grand Rapids we stopped for an ice cream. For the remainder of the way we followed 65 on the south side of the river through Perrysburg and back into Toledo. We said farewell to the Maumee while enjoying a picturesque downtown view. We took it all in, glad to have had an amazing day and a wonderful ride.