Haught Run closed due to bank erosion

Concern for public safety due to stream bank erosion has resulted in the closure this month of the Haught Run campground along Ohio 26 in the Wayne National Forest.

“The Little Muskingum River is widening in that area, and the bank has eroded toward one of the four campsites there to the point that we had to close the campground,” said Gary Chancey, public affairs officer for the Wayne National Forest.

He said the closure is not expected to be permanent, but there is currently no timeline for reopening the facility.

“We’ve lost about 5 or 6 feet of stream bank in that area over the last couple of years due to erosion, but that’s what rivers do,” said Dawn McCarthy, assistant ranger of operations for the forest’s Athens District.

She said the Haught Run campground’s location in a bend of the Little Muskingum has increased the likelihood of stream bank erosion as the river rises and falls throughout the year.

McCarthy said forest officials and engineers will have to take a closer look at the erosion and determine what should be done to remedy the problem, which could include stabilization of the stream bank and possible movement of campsites further away from the river.

Haught Run, about 14 miles north of Marietta, is one of four “fee-free” federal campgrounds located along Ohio 26 in the Wayne within Washington County. The others include the Lane Farm, Hune Bridge and Ring Mill campgrounds.

“There is no fee to camp at those locations, although there is a restriction on how long people can camp there,” Chancey said. “They can only camp for a maximum of 14 days within any 30-day period.”

He noted each of the primitive campgrounds include three to four campsites with picnic tables, fire rings, trash cans and pit toilets. No water or electricity is provided.

“But these campgrounds do get a lot of use every year, and we keep the facilities maintained,” Chancey said. “And they’re part of the National Forest Covered Bridge Scenic Byway.”

There are three historic covered bridges also located along Ohio 26 in Washington County.

The Wayne does have a much larger fee-based campground, Leith Run Recreation Area, located along the Ohio River off Ohio 7 between Newport and New Matamoras. Leith Run is equipped with electric, water and other amenities.

McCarthy said only the Haught Run campground has been closed along Ohio 26, and there are no issues at any of the other facilities.

But she noted that there have been other stream erosion concerns in the past.

“Each of the campgrounds used to have a canoe and kayak launch area, but those have also washed away,” McCarthy said.

Ryan Smith, owner of the Marietta Adventure Company, has a special permit to conduct overnight kayak and canoe trips along the Little Muskingum within the Wayne National Forest. He said the campgrounds are well-maintained and ideal locations for those excursions.

“The campgrounds are just about ideally spaced for people who want to kayak on the Little Muskingum,” he said. “Really the Little Muskingum is the only public option for paddling trips on a smaller stream with places to camp in this area.”

Smith said the closing of Haught Run will limit the camping options for paddlers, but they would still be able to utilize the Ring Mill and Hune Bridge campgrounds located on the river above and below the Haught Run facility.

“But one of the big obstacles has been access to the Little Muskingum to put in canoes or kayaks,” he said, echoing McCarthy’s concerns for the washed-away launch locations.

“A few years back the access point at the Lane Farm campground washed away,” Smith said. “The forest service had plans to fix it, but that hasn’t happened so far. I think the campgrounds and Little Muskingum would get more use by the public if there was better stream access.”

He said there are still a few suitable put-in locations for kayaks or canoes along the stream within the Wayne, but there is no signage directing paddlers to those sites.

McCarthy and Chancey said more public use of the campgrounds and of the Wayne in general is always encouraged, and future improvements of facilities within the forest would be dependent on funding availability.