The Weller family unites youth mentoring, history, and family fun on the river – all for an affordable price!
Married for 53 years, Paulding Putnam Electric Co-op members Doug and Bonnie Weller share a motto: “Paddle together or swim alone.”
This mindset can be found everywhere in their business model for Auglaize Canoe and Kayak in Oakwood, operating on the Blanchard and Auglaize rivers. Leaving behind long careers as a salesman and a teacher, Doug and Bonnie opened their business in 2013 — the same summer after retiring.
“We have trouble sitting still,” Doug laughs. “So we thought, ‘Why wait?’ The whole idea was to teach our grandkids entrepreneurial skills to learn how to work with people and communicate.”
This family vein runs deep with the Wellers, as the couple’s family has lived in Paulding County for more than 100 years. Their business sits on the family farm established in 1846 but has been outfitted to bring a new spark to the ancestral home. Old horse stalls were transformed into a service counter with computers to monitor the weather and river conditions. More than 115 canoes and kayaks, kindly maintained by local students, stand ready for excursions. The business is a family affair, with one son and eight of Doug and Bonnie’s grandchildren helping out.
“It’s not uncommon to have fish jump over your kayak or to spot river otters, turtles, or even bald eagles. The nature here is incredible.”
“We’re different because we work with high school guidance counselors around the county to find kids who need jobs for the summer,” Bonnie says. “I used to be many of these kids’ teacher, so I love watching the shy ones come out of their shells and really shine. We like to give them the skills they need for life — especially how to get along with people.”
“I love watching the shy kids come out of their shells and really shine. We like to give them the skills they need for life.”
The Wellers’ property has it all: primitive camping sites; stable, ocean-style canoes and kayaks for extra comfort; wildlife galore; riverside camping access; and history out the wazoo. The stones in their 12-foot fire ring came from the old Defiance Courthouse, and the river route many visitors take is the same as where former president and military leader William Henry Harrison rode in the early 1800s.
The river route you’ll take is where former president and military leader William Henry Harrison rode in the early 1800s!
“As you float along the banks of our river, you’ll encounter views that the settlers and British and American armies once saw,” Doug says. “The Indian encampments were also along these riverbanks.”
On some weekends, the Wellers accommodate 250 to 300 guests, all of whom rave about the wildlife — cranes, peacocks, deer, otters, turtles, and bald eagles — and bring back entertaining stories of their adventures.
“One guy somehow found a kitten along the way!” Doug remarks, in awe. “That little Siamese nestled up around his neck, and it was love for those two. He ended up taking him home.”
Groups ranging from the Ottawa Boy Scouts to Defiance Middle School’s Summer Reading Program have enjoyed a day (or overnight) experience. Learning to paddle together reinforces team skills. Family reunions, business teams, and friends “just catching up” are common as well. Groups larger than 15 even receive a special rate — Doug and Bonnie simply ask that you make your reservation in advance.
“We’re open six and a half days a week,” Bonnie says. “But we’re in church with the family on Sunday morning. Then I make lunch for our employees and expect them to treat our customers with the same kindness. We teach them that the impression you give people is important.”
If you want to end your summer with an unforgettable memory, give Doug and Bonnie a call. They have waterproof phone bags that allow you to still use your phone for photos, coolers for drinks, and souvenirs like T-shirts and koozies. Plus, they’re guaranteed to make you laugh.
“We’ve got nice, white water that isn’t very deep and has lots of nature and historic links,” Doug says. “With no houses in sight, it’s a great location to bring the kids and relax.”
Auglaize Canoe and Kayak has 115 luxury canoes and kayaks available, including options with padded seats, easy-drain plugs, and wheelchair accessibility. Fishing kayaks are also available, with gear included!
For more information or to book your trip, visit www.ack207.com or call 419-594-3456. Pricing is available on their website. They also share daily river water updates and fun photos on their Facebook page HERE. They are located at 24687 Road 207 in Oakwood, Ohio.