Ohio’s only mobile canoe and kayak company, Happy Paddles, is located in the heart of Midwest Electric’s territory in Allen County’s Spencerville, on the outskirts of Lima. And the family who runs the business is just as unique.
Owner Brent Ward watched his son, Trenton, mowing graveyards to build college savings. He decided that wasn’t going to cut it. His sons needed a more efficient way to save for their futures — something that allowed them to go to school during the year and work hard all summer. Enter Happy Paddles Canoe and Kayak.
Since 2017, the mobile rental company has operated on a reservation basis, with more than 30 canoes and kayaks to accommodate church groups, family reunions, sports teams, and friends. Manager Trenton Ward, a senior at Ohio State University’s Lima branch, gives customers the best experience possible with his own goal in mind: save enough to go to Marietta Georgia to be a chiropractor. As a Shawnee High School graduate, Trenton knows the value of hard work from his years playing soccer, baseball, and golf, not to mention learning entrepreneurial skills from his dad.
“Things get hectic at times with lots of 6 a.m. mornings cleaning the boats, but I absolutely love it,” Trenton says with a grin. “Being a smaller business is key and gives us a leg up in terms of personalized service. Making customers happy is our priority.”
His 16-year-old brother, Brayden, helps out, too. When he isn’t fishing or hunting, Brayden takes pride in knowing he helps people enjoy nature and de-stress on the water.
“It’s a lot of fun on the river,” he says. “Once you go one time, you’ll want to do it again.”
With a choice between the three- or nine-mile trip and a variety of boat options, everyone from lone fishermen to families with young kids can find an option that works best for their needs. Trenton recommends beginners start with the Armstrong Road trip, the classic excursion that can sometimes be done with tubes under certain water conditions. This trip takes between an hour and a half to two hours, depending on how quickly you paddle.
"You can see bald eagles on our three-mile trip. The wildlife is incredible."
“We’re different from most canoe and kayak shops because our boats come equipped with seat backs for maximum comfort,” Trenton says. “They are also easy to drain with plugs, so don’t worry about sinking. We provide life jackets, bags for phones, and all the equipment you’ll need to have a blast.”
Groups excitedly report seeing all kinds of wildlife on the river, including turtles, mink, deer, and birds. Seeing a bald eagle isn’t a rare experience either; in fact, babies were reported earlier this year.
“You won’t regret getting out there to enjoy secluded nature,” Trenton says. “Fish love to jump over people’s boats and surprise them.”
If you want to end your summer with a memory you won’t forget, give Happy Paddles a shot. Just be sure to make your reservation in advance, since all trips originate from the Agerter Road River Access point.
Sandy beaches under bridges make for excellent swimming spots, so don’t forget your swimsuit!
Happy Paddles Canoe and Kayak is open for reservations seven days a week at 10410 Agerter Road in Spencerville. Prices range from $12 to $18 per person, based on the length of the trip. For more information or to book your trip, visit happypaddleslima.wordpress.com or call 567-371-9004. They report daily river conditions on their Facebook and Instagram pages, @HappyPaddlesLima.