Thousands of Hoosiers can be found paddling away in their canoes throughout the year. Canoeing, however, isn't something to jump into. You need to know a lot before setting out on your canoe adventure. Luckily, organizations want to help you. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources offers a great canoeing site suitable for the beginning and seasoned paddler. The guide gives some great advice on where to find canoe trails and canoe liveries; how to paddle; canoe camping; topographic maps and river flow data; and commonsensical tips on being safe while having fun.
The American Canoe Association, or the ACA, also provides courses in paddling. Learn paddling jargon; whether to choose a canoe or kayak; essential and optional gear; how to plan a trip appropriately; paddling techniques; how to be safe on the water; and boat care all in one easy to read handbook.
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Where to Canoe in Indiana
Indiana has about 2600 miles of waterways suitable for paddling. However, not all of these possible destinations have public access sites therefore it's important to do a little research before heading out to your local lake or river. The following waterways are just a few of the more popular canoeing sites in Indiana:
- Forests, caves and pastoral landscapes can be seen no matter what Blue River access point you decide to launch from.
- Wildcat Creek is just one of Indiana's three scenic rivers and is located in north central Indiana.
- Though it won't be the most challenging canoe trail, Sugar Creek may just be the most beautiful.
- Indiana's most famous river, the Wabash, flows 465 miles throughout our great state and offers multiple access points.
Indiana Canoe Clubs and Outfitters
Brown County Wilderness Canoe Rental
Cave Country Canoes
Morgan's Canoe & Outdoor Centers
Rusted Moon Outfitters
White River Canoe Company
Indiana Outfitters also offers an extensive list of canoe outfitters throughout Indiana as well as trails, river and weather information. Indiana Rivers also has a forum discussing paddling groups and shuttle help.
Being Prepared and Playing It Safe
Canoeing may seem like a simple, laid-back kind of activity but dangers do exist. Motorboats sharing the same river or lake and bad weather are canoeist's biggest threats. However, you can minimize your risk of danger by being smart about where and when you canoe. These guidelines will help keep you safe:
- Choose a lake or river appropriate for your skill level. Visit WaterWatch for current water conditions based on historical information.
- Unless you're a skilled canoeist and looking for some excitement, stay away from high waters as it causes the river to elevate.
- Avoid going out during bad weather, i.e. high winds and thunderstorms.
- Don't go solo; it is always best to have at least one partner along. Remember, the more the merrier (and quite possibly, safer).
- At least two paddles, you'll need an extra if you drop or break one
- Extra ropes or lines, duct tape and extra straps.
- A bail bucket to get water out of the boat.
- A well-stocked first-aid kit.
- A litter bag; bring in what you take out.
- Appropriate clothing; sun and rain gear if weather calls for it.
- A dry change of clothes in a waterproof bag.
- Food and water, plenty for the duration of the trip.
- A flashlight if you will be out in low-light conditions.
- Visual distress signals.
- A personal flotation device or life jacket, with a whistle attached, for each passenger. Remember, you should always wear your pfd when in and near the water.
If you would like to have more information on canoe safety, visit the National Safety Council or the American Canoe Associations "Safety" section that offers a number of brochures on life jackets, safety checklists and rescue guides.
Keeping It Environmentally Friendly
Canoeists understand that one of greatest enjoyments taken from being out on the water is the connection they have with the waterways and the wilderness surrounding them. For many paddlers, nothing is more important than water conservation and stewardship. Here are several tips from the American Canoe Association on how to make your camping adventure as low-impact as possible:
- Leave no trace! Don't litter and always pack out whatever you packed in.
- Make sure to conduct all toilet activity at least 200 feet away from all water sources to prevent contamination.
- Do not disturb the wildlife around you and leave what you find.
- When possible, use designated paths and launching areas. Please respect the rights of private land owners as well.
- Minimize the impact made on the shore when launching, portaging or taking the canoe in. Float the canoe when launching and lift it out when landing.
- Campfires along the shore should be contained in fire rings and used only in an emergency.
Don't Forget Your Permit!
Indiana requires all watercrafts - motorized or not - to have a lake permit displayed on their vessels. The lake permit replaced the launching permit beginning in 2006 but the funds are still used to cover operating costs to the facility visited. Before you head out, make sure to check out the DNR's information on watercraft permits.