My friends and I had planned out a weekend trip down Indiana's beautiful Sugar Creek for months. Our original dates were cancelled due to this year's heavy spring rains, which brought Sugar Creek to nearly record highs.
The weekend we put in was perfect, with an above average water level of 2.5 feet - by far the best water I had seen on Sugar Creek. We put in at the Crawfordsville Public Access on Friday, June 7th. The public access point is great with the ample parking and open area, so that the public can keep an eye on your vehicle/trailer for the weekend.
I could see where some may have trouble launching from here in fast water, but we had minimal difficulty. We had a pickup vehicle at Cox Ford Covered Bridge in Turkey Run State Park approximately 30 river miles away. If you go to the main office of the park they will give you a parking pass for as many days as you need, free of charge.
Our crew consisted of 4 friends, two of which had a lot of pool and drop experience, the other two having little to no experience. After seeing the water was up, we gave our chief mates a little briefing on emergency situations and paddling technique.
We set sail and the water was absolutely amazing. I had never been on Sugar Creek was as much continuity in rapids. We spotted a bald eagle within the first 20 minutes of being on the water and the smallmouth bass started to get active.
About 4 miles in we pulled off for lunch and noticed dangerous obstruction ahead. We were able to portage after lunch and continued on our way.
Shortly after lunch we came upon a dangerous bend in the water, with a large downed oak tree hanging from one bank to the other. My partner and I braked and slowly went underneath, while we warned the others of the dangers ahead. We stopped in the next pool to wait for them when we saw some of their gear coming downstream!
I asked my partner to walk the bank back up while I tried to gathered their gear. My partner returned and informed me that one of the others had dislocated a shoulder in the dump. I put him in the front of my canoe, while the others repacked the other canoe, and hauled him to the nearest bridge, SR32. My friend was going in to shock. I flagged down a motorcyclist and he phoned an ambulance. They arrived minutes later and hauled our friend away. Morale was down....
The others got to the bridge shortly after and we set back out. We found a good island to camp on, cooked up some venison, and called it a night.
Waking up to a fresh cup of coffee on the water is a great thing. We were one man down, but spirits had lifted with the blue skies that Saturday brought. We set out only to see beautiful limestone bluffs, fun sets of class 1 - 2 rapids, and a nice population of smallmouth bass. We were nearing Shades state park and the most natural and scenic parts of our trip. There was no one in sight. Large flocks of canadian geese flew in V form directly at us right near the water. The bald eagle was back and seemed to follow us for the rest of the day. Life was great.
We paddled into the late afternoon and found another good island to camp on. I heated up a big batch of chicken creole and we feasted. We catfished in to the night with mild success,while the smell of the clean air and the sounds of beautiful Sugar Creek were enough for me to drift off to sleep.
We were awakened by the sound of humans. It was a rental service, Sugar Valley Canoes. This was a bit of a bummer but we were close to our take out point. I will say that the scenery through Turkey Run State Park is amazing. Waterfalls, wildlife, and a great day of canoeing. We pulled out, one man down, and gathered our gear. It was time to pack up and head home.
Shortly after, we got word our friend had been released and was feeling good again. We all learned a lot on this trip. The next Sugar Creek trip I do, I will put in farther north and take out before Turkey Run. All in all it was a great success.
Mad River Heritage canoe
You can acquire a free parking permit for Turkey Run State Park.