- Associated Press - Sunday, August 2, 2020

FRANKLIN, Ind. (AP) - A steady breeze rippled the placid water of the Driftwood River, breaking the tranquility surrounding the canoe.

The rustling leaves of the towering sycamore, cottonwood and silver maple trees along the river was the only other sound on the water. Though a fellow group of paddlers could be seen up ahead, nearly around a bend in the river, the sense of isolation was palpable.

This stretch of the Driftwood River is less than a mile from U.S. 31 and the bustling traffic around Edinburgh. But on the water, it’s an opportunity to enjoy a little slice of wilderness.

Hoosiers have an entirely new kind of trail to explore this summertime. Water trails - streams and rivers with multiple public access points - are available all over Indiana for canoeing, kayaking, tubing and other outdoor activities.

To help people find the best waterways, where to put in their boat or find a place to rent one, the Department of Natural Resources has unveiled a new interactive tool making the state’s water trails easy to reach.

“We knew there was a big demand for this. Paddle sports are definitely exploding in popularity, and a lot of this information was out there, just not in one place,” said Allen Hurst, trails coordinator for the division of outdoor recreation at the Department of Natural Resources. “We wanted to work on consolidating what is out there in all of Indiana, put it in one location to see what is available.”

The Department of Natural Resources developed its Where to Paddle tool to help people better find and understand the water trail system in the state, Hurst said. The system launched in early July, and already has more than 20,000 hits from users.

“This has been on our docket for a while. In the ’80s, the DNR had paper guides that went over each water trail and what it would look like, access point to access point, what to expect,” he said. “That was badly outdated, and we wanted to bring a new guide into the new generation, to be accessible to all.”

Water trails are defined as a stream that has at least two public access points, though it may have additional access points as well as other amenities. Unlike on a lake or a reservoir, paddling sports such as canoeing, kayaking, rafting and stand-up paddleboarding are the main form of recreation on water trails, Hurst said.

But people can also engage in boating, floating, fishing, wildlife watching and camping.

“When we were building the Where to Paddle application, we wanted to concentrate more on water trails and less on fishing ponds and lakes,” he said.

With the Where to Paddle tool, people can search a map of Indiana to find the best stream for what they want to do. Each public access point is marked, as are areas where low-head dams are in place blocking the route. The mileage of longer rivers and steams are also marked on the map, letting you know that you’d travel about 40 miles from Martinsville to Indianapolis along the White River, for example.

Links to U.S. Geological Survey steam gauges provide up-to-date information on how deep the water is in different areas of a water trail.

Sugar Creek and the Driftwood River are the only water trails in Johnson County identified by the Department of Natural Resources. But with the Where to Paddle interactive tool, it’s easy to find trails and public access points nearby in Morgan County, along the Big Blue River in Shelbyville and on the Flatrock River leading into Columbus.

“Basically, we were looking for a river with put-in and take-out points that were generally 10 miles apart from each other, so you can get on a water trail at one location and get off further down the stream,” Hurst said.

The map also helps identify canoe and kayak liveries, where people can rent equipment to go out on the water.

In Johnson County, the nearest location is at Blue’s Canoe Livery, located off of U.S. 31 in Edinburgh.

On a hot mid-July Friday morning, the shuttles at Blue’s Canoe Livery were already running a constant cycle of routes. Hundreds of paddlers had made reservations to hit the water with friends or family, engaging in some socially distant fun while enjoying the outdoors.

Blue’s took canoers and kayakers from their main headquarters on converted buses pulling racks of watercraft. Everyone was hauled about 10 miles north on U.S. 31 to a public launch on Sugar Creek, near Atterbury Fish and Wildlife Area.

Once on the water, groups naturally spread out, figuring out the nuances of their watercraft and enjoying the natural scenery that surrounded them. Glimpses of snakes, turtles and fish could be found in the shallows along the shore.

In the heat of summer, parts of the river were low, creating some fast water and turbulence. At points, people had to hop out and ford particularly shallow areas. But for nearly the entire seven-mile route back to Blue’s, the ride was a leisurely, relaxing way to spend a Friday.

“Paddling is a great way to get outdoors, to get out of the house so you’re not cooped up, but still adhere to all of the social distancing recommendations,” Hurst said.


What: An interactive map letting people explore water trails, streams and rivers throughout Indiana with public access points, where you can canoe, kayak or boat.

Who: The Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Where to find it: on.in.gov/where to paddle

Area access points

Atterbury Fish and Wildlife Area, River Road, off of Old Hospital Road in Edinburgh. Turn on Old Hospital Road heading west, and River Road is about one mile on the right.

Irwin Park, North Main Street, Edinburgh

Bill Newton Public Access Site, Taylorsville. Turn west on Tannehill Road off of U.S. 31, launch is on the right.

Flat Rock River, Flat Rock. Turn east on State Road 252 from Interstate 65, launch is on West Willow Road.

Shelbyville Public Access Site, 544 River Road.

Local canoe and kayak rentals

Blue’s Canoe Livery

Where: 4220 W. 700 N., Edinburgh

What: 7-mile and 9-mile canoe excursions along Sugar Creek and the Driftwood River in southern Johnson County

Information: 812-526-9851 or bluescanoelivery.com


Source: Daily Journal

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