Big Walnut Creek in Indiana
Big Walnut Creek is one of Indiana's most beautiful and interesting rivers but unfortunately is it not one of our best canoe streams. Only during the months from March through June is there adequate depth to make an enjoyable trip.
The Big Walnut rises in northwestern Hendricks County and flows more or less diagonally from the northeast to the southwest across Putnam County. Below the confluence of Mill Creek and Big Walnut Creek, the stream is called the Eel River (not to be confused with the Eel River of the north, a tributary of the Wabash).
The uppermost segment of the Big Walnut is a unique natural area which was identified by Alton A. Lindsey in The Report of the Indiana Natural Areas Survey, 1969. Here the stream flows through a deeply cut valley exhibiting a unique relic plant community which contains hemlock and Canadian yew, characteristic of areas found hundreds of miles further north. Several other rare plant species are found here with an abundance of wildlife.
Down river, the natural vegetation is limited to a fringe of trees along the banks. Basically, the area takes on an agricultural aspect with only an occasional view of hardwood slopes. Fishing in the stream is generally good with sizable smallmouth bass, panfish, catfish, suckers, and carp populations present.
Of cultural and historic significance are the four covered bridges which cross the stream. Also of interest are the historical buildings and sites in Greencastle and Depauw University. Indian villages and hunting areas have also been located in the river corridor.
Water quality is generally very good (except near Greencastle) and the stream only muddies after sustained rainfall. Stream flow is moderate with only an occasional riffle making this an excellent stream for the novice or intermediate canoeist. Hospital and doctor assistance is available in Greencastle.
Putnam/Hendricks County Line to US 36
A likely put-in (see notes below) is located at the Putnam/Hendricks County Line Road (aka County Road 900 E), the site of a green iron bridge. There is room to park 3 or 4 cars and a path leads down to the water on the west (downstream) side of the road and north side of the bridge.
IMPORTANT - The public access at the County Rd 900 E iron bridge is poor, and it is easy to mistakenly trespass onto private property, which is VERY unwelcome there. We highly recommend using the access point in McCloud Nature Park instead. McCloud Nature Park (a county park) is south of the bridge and east (upstream) of the road. Enter McCloud Park from Hughes Road, just south of the green iron bridge. However, note that it has been reported that vehicles may not be left overnight at McCloud Park.
A float down to the US 36 bridge should take about 5 to 6 hours. If exiting the stream at this point, take out on the northwest side of the bridge where there is room to park 3 or 4 cars. To shuttle the cars take County Line Road (aka County Rd 900 E) south to US 36 where you will turn right (west) and proceed about 4 miles to the bridge over the Big Walnut. Cross the bridge and park on the right.
US 36 to Greencastle
From the US 36 bridge down to Greencastle it is about 14 miles by water and should not take more than 6 hours to float. Be careful of the dam that is located just upstream of HWY 231 in Greencastle. There have been deaths there in the past. Look at the DNR map that is located on the maps page (see the green destination bar above).
The car shuttles should move west on US 36 from the put-in site to US 231. Go left (south) on US 231 about 5 miles to Greencastle. Turn right on the second street past the courthouse. Proceed 1 1/4 miles and turn left on Grenel Road. Continue approximately 1/4 mile past the concrete bridge over a small creek. Take out on the left side of the road. There is parking for only 2 cars and you will only have to carry the canoe about 50 feet.
It is possible to continue down Big Walnut Creek to the Eel River, however, this segment has not been recommended.
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