Sugar Creek in Indiana

A self-supported trip created by YakOfSteel

Trip Overview

From Crawfordsville to Shades State Park entrance at Clement's.

15 water miles.

Gauge height at the dam, 3.0' & 1000 ft3/m,

water temp around 55, air temp from 55F at put-in to near 70 at take out.

Strong current, beautiful skies, temps near 70, several fun drops w/ 2' standing waves and 4 hours later, Yakjak, his daughter, Kelly, and I can't remember a better day paddling. Fortune was REALLY on our side, as every single rental canoe group we passed was on the bank while we passed them. Without fail. No one in our way, great current and 15 miles almost seemed to fly by too fast. We were tired at the end, though better for it.

The updated gauge height states that we were around 3' all day. It was a significant change from 1.8' when we ran it two weeks ago. Like another river altogether, hardly recognizable. Even so, I think this would be a great run even up to 3.5'. We did notice a couple of places where the high-water line was quite high (maybe 3-4' above today's level) and the recent high was just under 4'. The gauge height here can be confusing, as a few inches added height equals a few feet in many places where the river narrows along high banks.

Four feet gauge height would be risky to be sure, as many, MANY strainers would be brought into play on some of the banks. The recent high seems to have cleared out many of the fallen-timber strainers and one that gave us a "scare" on our last run was gone, w/ a nice, clean, chain saw scar as it's place holder (I'm guessing Clement's, the local outfitter, took that one out).

One thing that was kind of funny happened. As we got out on an island for a stretcher, I had my water bottle tucked into my skirt tunnel, and it fell out when I stood up. I chased after it but the current ripped it away faster than I could run in the sand and I gave up. We were on the bank for a good 20 minutes, got back in and I jokingly said to keep an eye out for a clear plastic bottle floating along as it was my last water for the day. 30 minutes later, I paddled right up next to it! Still sealed and cold (water was around 55F), but all the ice was gone. Saved from dehydration!!!

Yakjak also showed some skills as he bottomed out on a hidden rock in some 10-12" chop. He only had a splash deck on his CD Kestral 12 and he caught a lot of water over the back of the cockpit. As he started going over, he braced and spun off the rock to save it w/o a swim. Closest call we had all day, but we noticed most of the canoe renters were coming in obviously having swam, some stating several times. ;~) Definitely a day NOT to run a kayak w/o a skirt.

Summary: Great day. Great company. Great skies, beautiful views and fun water. Not much else to ask for...

Author's Note: Late Summer/Early Fall brings out a lot of rental tubers. I've never experienced this, but others frequently say the weekend is awful and they're drunk, rowdy, & difficult to maneuver. Low water also leads to many, MANY places any watercraft will bottom out and need to be portaged or dragged. Anything less than 1.5' gauge height is nearly un-paddleable...


Numerous camping areas available in the area.




Put in on the South side of bridge off Lafayette Ave., just West of 231 between Crawfordsville and I-74.

Take out at Clement's canoe outfitter public access site which is under the covered bridge on 234 in Deer Mill, just NW of the Shades SP area.


Google maps is your friend.

Trip Details

  • Trip Duration: Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)

Trip Location