BLUE RIVER - Rothrock Mill to Leavenworth, Indiana
Having paddled most of the "tourist/recreational" area of the Blue River in southern Indiana years ago, a group of us wanted to see the river farther south and get away from the rental canoeists. We put in about 1:30pm on Thursday, intending to have a leisurely 3 day, 2 night fishing/camping experience. There were 6 of us in 3 canoes, and a lot of gear! Accompanying were David, Thom, and Bob Carmony, all originally from Shelbyville, IN, and 3 of us from Columbus Regional Hospital in Columbus, IN.: Dan Spartz, Charles Gast, and Frank Berry. Ages ranged from 47-66.
There is still a lot of beautiful scenery this far south, but the river does slow and lose some character as you get within a few miles of the Ohio. From Rothrock Mill to the Ohio River is about 21 paddling miles. For the first 15-16 miles, river levels seemed a bit low and there are numerous places where the canoes bottomed out and we had to line them through shallow ripples. Be careful though, even in these conditions there are areas where the water is moving very swiftly and invite falls or will quickly turn your canoe sideways.
Our biggest mistake was in thinking we would have numerous options as to where to camp. This river from Rothrock Mill where we put in, to the Ohio, is lined generally on both banks by steep hills. Finding a campsite to accommodate 3 tents was very challenging. Concerns rose that we needed to find something soon or we'd be hampered by darkness.
There is a breached dam just past where the stream flows under I-64 and Hwy. 62. With water levels seemingly fairly low this day, we had no problem riding through the breach and avoided unloading and portaging. Stay in the center and it's pretty quick and easy. From here we were searching pretty seriously for a campsite and wondered what the possibility of utilizing the closed Stagestop Campground might be. But as things turned out, and the sun setting rapidly, we found a decent spot approx. 11 miles from Rothrock and about a mile short of the Stagestop Campground. It is on the left bank heading south and right where a small island splits the stream.
Setting out on day 2, it was still our intent to get to a campsite fairly early to allow more time for fishing. But again, we realized there just aren't any good camping options along this stretch of the river so we decided to make it all the way to the Ohio on Friday. We reached the river by about 3:00pm and actually set up camp in a beautiful spot just between the boat ramp and parking lot there. We made arrangements with Matt, a local fellow we met on the ramp, to take a couple of us back to Rothrock so we could get our vehicle and canoe trailer. Nice guy who shared a lot of local information with us and was very reluctant to take any money for running us back to our vehicle.
We enjoyed a great meal, campfire, and a few beers that evening, as well as meeting some very nice people fishing the area. A welcome bath was had on the ramp! Breakfast Saturday morning was at Stephens General Store in Leavenworth. I pray places like that will always survive. A wonderful trip back in time.
If you make this trip, pack light and know your camping options are limited.
3 canoes loaded with fishing and camping gear