Thursday, October 29, 2015

REI Closing on Black Friday

Yeah, it's mostly about marketing, but to me it still points to a company being more true to their mission.
Good call REI.

Hopefully the weather will cooperate, and it will be a good day to get in a paddling trip.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Wabash Weekend - Lockport to Lafayette

The Wabash River is historically and geographically important to the state, and I have spoken with several people who have said they would like to paddle the length of it, but I can’t seem to get too excited about paddling on it. In my experience it is usually more like paddling on a lake than a river, except that every trip has included a point where it suddenly gets shallow and someone runs aground unexpectedly. The lake-paddling similarity probably comes from the width, sometimes minimal current, and its running west and south against the prevailing winds. But, there are times when a lack of rain leaves it as the best option, and this trip was one of those times.

The original plan was to leave from the Oakdale Dam on the Tippecanoe River & go to the Wabash, ending in Lafayette, but due to difficulty finding a place to stop overnight I decided to find another location. I considered Deer Creek in Carroll County as it looks like a good place to take a trip at some point, but with the lack of rain recently the water was too low
for paddling.

So, after a little research on the recreation page of the Carroll County website and the Wabash River site, French Post Park near Lockport became the new starting point. This would make the trip about 15 miles to a stopping point on Wise Island near Americus, then another 15 miles the second day to Tapawingo Park in West Lafayette. Of the several parks in the Lafayette/West Lafayette area with ramps Tapawingo doesn’t have one, but it does have a sandbar that makes for a decent takeout in spite of a longer carry distance. It also has a well-lit parking lot, which gave us more peace of mind about leaving a vehicle overnight.

I looked at the ramps at Shamrock Park and  Fort Quiatenon Park before deciding on the ending point; the ramp at Shamrock is not that great. There is adequate parking but the ramp itself is sand & gravel, and pretty rough. The ramp at Fort Quiatenon is concrete in good condition with easy access and parking, but the weekend of the trip was the Feast of the Hunter's Moon, so getting out there would have been a nightmare.

The French Post Park boat ramp is very nice concrete, and out of the main channel flow, so it makes for an easy put-in. The park is part of the Carroll County Parks Department, and primitive camping is available.

The water level was low enough that we had to keep an eye out for sandbars and rocky areas as we made our way downstream, but we didn’t encounter any significant obstacles. We did see something new at the CR 700 W bridge: a tree trunk balanced on the top of the bridge pier. The odds that the tree would stay in place as the flood waters that put it there receded have to be really slim.

This section of the river mainly has a gravel bottom, and with several small islands and sandbars along the way we were able to find places for breaks whenever someone needed it. All of our stops had many freshwater mussel shells, some larger than 4” across.

Thanks to the help of a 20-MPH plus tailwind most of the day we were able to cover 15 miles in about five hours.Wise Island is owned by the NICHES Land Trust ( Their description of the island is: “This is a 2 acre island in the middle of the Wabash River near Americus in the northeast section of Tippecanoe County.  This property hasn’t been used as a campsite in over twenty years… It has potential as a stopover site for canoeing down the Wabash River or for a small birding expedition.”

We checked out access to the island by paddling down both sides of it; I went around the secondary channel side while Dave & Austin went along the main channel. The best access was at the west end, as the banks were steep on both sides, especially the river side. We found several level spots on the west end, and picked one somewhat out of the wind. A handy silver maple had branches that were perfectly spaced to use for our dining fly and wind break. At first it looked like the center part of the island was too overgrown to walk through easily, but we eventually found a trail into the central section that led to a couple more places that could be used for camping. 

The remainder of our trip on the second day was uneventful, and the river fairly mundane. After the confluence with the Tippecanoe River (Prophetstown State Park is river right) the river widens out even more, and has less current. The bottom is also more sand than gravel, but there were still a few islands and sandbars to provide stopping points. We did encounter a surprisingly low water level about a mile from the end; Dave suddenly ran aground in the middle of the river with no riffles or other indicators of low water. Fortunately he didn’t have to get out, but I have found that you do have to pay attention on the Wabash wherever you are, or spots like this can catch you out without warning.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015 is one of my favorite sites for paddling info. They have a periodic boat giveaway, photos, and some very good writers.

This article about strainers caught my eye because not too long after I started paddling regularly my son and I were in a tandem kayak on Eagle Creek and got caught by a strainer right after a sharp bend. It was November, so the water was very cold, and weren't far from the takeout, but wrestling a swamped boat out of the water in cold temperatures isn't fun.
We were fortunate that we just dumped the boat and floated on through the branches, but strainers can be very dangerous and are something to be on the lookout for, especially on smaller streams where you may not be able to see very far ahead.

A New Adventure of Sorts

I'm now blogging for WildIndiana magazine, check it out at or

Posts on those sites will probably be shorter than what shows up here...I can ramble on as long as I want on this site.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Group Expedition

Our church small group decided to spend a day at Eagle Creek, and spend part of the time paddling so we offered to supply boats for as many of our group of 23 as we could. Over the years we have acquired several boats; two tandem kayaks, two whitewater kayaks, a rec single kayak and a couple of canoes. We are also currently storing a canoe for some friends, so we loaded six boats on the trailer, and one on the truck and headed south. Sort of the Clampett's go boating...

Sort of like the Clampett's going paddling...

One of the other families has two single kayaks that they brought along, to make nine personal boats total. Another family borrowed a bunch of life jackets, so I think we would have had enough for everyone to have two, if that had been necessary.

When we pulled up to the gate and I told the lady I had seven boats she thought I was kidding. We decided to use the "personal craft" launch at the marina for convenience, and since it was a nice day the parking lot was really crowded.

It's a short carry from the access drive to the launch, so we parked near the walkway and unloaded, which went smoothly (lots of help).

Fortunately they let you park in the grass along the road to the marina, or I might have had an extremely long walk back from an unknown parking lot somewhere. While I was parking a guy started asking me about the trailer; where I got it, how many boats could I get on it, etc., so everyone was wondering what had happened to me by the time I got back, and the younger natives were getting restless.

Note to self: With a group this large, making a list of who is going to be in what boat is very helpful. Actually taking that list with you to the lake is even more helpful, because when you have that many people standing around waiting it's a little stressful trying to remember the arrangements you worked out two days before.

We finally got it all figured out, and a couple of people headed to the marina to rent boats for those that ended up without a seat. Eagle Creek Outfitters has a nice selection of rental boats available; SUP's, SOT and sit-in kayaks - both single and tandem - canoes, paddle boats, sail boats and small pontoons.

After we all met up on the lake we had quite the flotilla: four canoes, seven kayaks and a paddle boat.

We all paddled around the north end of the lake for a while, and everyone had a great time. The paddle boat was a nice platform for some of the kids to take a rest from paddling, or to switch between boats if they wanted.

Everyone was smiling at the end, that's a good sign

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Non-Indiana Adventure

Location: Benton Harbor, MI/ Paw Paw River

Well, like a lot of blogs done just for fun, it looks like I've neglected this one for a while. I didn't realize how long until I looked at the dates. I have been paddling some, but not near as much as I was, and not anyplace different from the trip reports I already posted, so I haven't been adding anything.

However, that has changed, as I recently got an unexpected chance to go paddling in Michigan. Since it  was an unexpected part of a trip completely unrelated to paddling, I'll include the back story:
We traveled to Benton Harbor, MI the week of July 12 to work with Harbor Habitat for Humanity. The first couple of days we worked on existing homes that are being rehabbed for eligible families. Wednesday we had one crew working on landscaping and cleanup around the Crystal Estates neighborhood that is all Habitat homes, built in 2008. The crew I was with worked on a new storage shed at the Habitat ReStore. We worked with Bruce and Nick, who are part of Harbor's "Thursday Crew" a group of retired individuals who get together every Thursday - surprise! - to work on various projects. The Thursday Crew had mostly finished the shed, but we were tasked with building a dormer on the roof. When we broke for lunch we asked Nick and Bruce to join us, and they accepted.

At lunch Bruce was sitting and talking with one of our crew, and he said "Bruce has kayaks". I had noticed a truck in the parking lot with kayak saddles mounted on the roof, but I didn't know who it belonged to. Of course finding out that Bruce was the owner meant we had more to talk about at lunch. Then he slid a business card over to me with a background image of two people in a tandem kayak, and said "I built that boat". Suddenly things were even more interesting, as I have a book on building stripper canoes, but haven't yet attempted to build anything. We talked a bit about trips and boats the rest of lunch, then went back to work for the afternoon.

Thursday morning we showed up to work, and with our group of six, and the Thursday Crew of about 10 it seemed like there were a lot more people around than Wednesday. Before we started working I jokingly said to Bruce that there were a lot of people around, so we should just go get his boats and go kayaking. He replied by asking what I was doing in the afternoon. Since we finished each day at 3, and all we had planned was dinner, I told him not much, and we made tentative plans to go paddling.

We were able to get everything arranged, and Bruce picked me up at the church for the short drive to the Paw Paw River. It flows southward to Benton Harbor, and empties into the St. Joe River near Lake Michigan.

Bruce brought his 16' boat, and a 15.5' Current Designs boat  - whose model name I can't remember - for me to paddle. He even loaned me water shoes, what  a great host!

We paddled upstream from a ramp at Riverview Drive and Grant Avenue. It's not on the aerial photos that are currently used by Google Earth, but it's there. The ramp was constructed as part of a development project that included a golf course, hotel, marina, and residential development.

Most of this trip was through the golf course, but it's well above the water in most places, so it didn't feel like we were in the middle of the action. And even though the Paw Paw has a decent current, it wasn't difficult to paddle upstream. We went about 1.75 miles upstream before it started to rain a little, and since the weather had been showing a storm on the lake before we left we decided to play it safe and head back. Once we got back to the ramp it wasn't raining, so we decided to go on downstream and have a look around.

Bruce had mentioned that the water level was high, and as we approached a railroad bridge downstream of the ramp it looked like we would have to duck to get under it. Since there was a moving train on it at the time it was a little intimidating to have that much moving bulk a few feet above our heads, but we made it under and went on. It is only a few hundred yards to where the Paw Paw empties into a channel that flows into the St. Joe, so we paddled east up the channel just to see what we could see.

There are several buildings along Main Street that back onto the channel, and most of them had boats tied up at slips. Bruce noted that it had been a while since there had been boats in that area, so maybe it was a sign of some economic improvement. One building in particular was interesting, it is an older brick building with the back being mostly industrial-looking glass. To the east side of the building is a large garage door that leads to a boathouse incorporated into the building - a pretty cool amenity, I think.

After poking around the marina at the new hotel for a few minutes and admiring some really large boats we decided it was getting dark enough that we should head back. After another duck under the bridge (this time without a train) we were back at the ramp. We got the boats loaded and ourselves in the truck just in time to miss the real rain starting to come down, so we were damp but not soaked.

Anr item of note is that there is a kayak livery right at the ramp. Instead of shuttling you just rent & return to the ramp. If I had known that sooner I might have been out earlier in the week, but then I would have missed the chance to paddle with someone local who was able to tell me about the area we were paddling through.

If you're in the St. Joe/Benton Harbor and looking for an easy paddle this is a nice one. And, you could also easily head downstream into the lake from the ramp. Bruce says the channel can be a bit rough with powerboats going in an out, even though it's a no-wake zone, but that it's not a bad way to get out into the lake.

Maybe next time...

Monday, November 2, 2009

August Paddle

Eagle Creek Reservoir

James had acquired a new kevlar canoe that needed to be in the water so we took it out on a really nice August evening. We also got Mark and Paula to come along, and Paula had her first outing in the Looksha.

The Looksha doesn't have the initial stability of the Breeze that she is used to paddling so she was a little uncomfortable for the first bit. The canoe is also pretty narrow, but after getting the feel of it we decided it paddles like a dream. With both of us paddling with kayak paddles we could really make it fly.

There is a size limit for paddling this boat, though, as the back seat is fixed in place due to the way the back of the boat tapers, and it's pretty narrow. But it's really fast, if I hadn't mentioned that.

We just went out and paddled around, but it was a really nice evening just about sunset. Unfortunately the Lafayette Road bridge was still not finished so we had to thread our way around construction debris and a silt boom, but once on the lake it was really nice.