Sugar Creek in Indiana
Sugar Creek is a clear running stream which travels in a generally northeast to southwest direction as it cuts across west-central Indiana. The source lies in Tipton County and the entire river length to the Wabash confluence is approximately 90 miles.
Early Indians named the stream after seeing the many sugar maple trees in the area. Because of its swift water, Sugar Creek was important to the early pioneers as a source of power. The Woolen and Yountsville Mills were located along the stream and their remains can still be seen today.
Sugar Creek is not Indiana's fastest nor is it our most challenging canoe water, but it is generally conceded to be the most beautiful stream in the State. It runs either through or along a Girl Scout Camp, Pine Hills Nature Preserve, Shades State Park, Turkey Run State Park and Allee Memorial Forest. Mississippian and Pennsylvanian sedimentary rocks have been exposed by the erosive action of the stream. An added attraction in the area is the many covered bridges over Sugar Creek and other streams in the area.
The dominant native vegetation along the stream is an upland beech-maple association. In places, unique relic species such as hemlock and white pine occur. These trees have a normal range 150 or more miles to the north but may be found on northwestern facing cliffs. The river generally ranges from 2-4 feet deep with a bottom of rubble or sand. The stream runs clear except after rain when it tends to become muddy. Fishing is generally good in the stream; game fish species include largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, panfish and catfish. Look for most fish to be in the pools lying just below rapids.
Sugar Creek is usually hospitable to its visitors, displaying a series of riffles, pools and gentle wide runs. During flood stage, however, the character changes drastically and the river becomes dangerous for all but the experienced whitewater canoeist. If you think the water may be high, contact the property manager at Shades State Park to check on water levels and conditions before you leave. In case of emergency, the location of the nearest hospital or medical assistance will be either Crawfordsville or Rockville.
Sugar Creek is one of Indiana’s best canoeing rivers. There is a lot of use of the river in June, July and August….especially on the weekends. The access points for the river are tightly controlled through the Shades State Park and Turkey Run State Park corridors. It is not easy to self shuttle the middle section of this river.
The river is teaming with wildlife and it is more likely than not that you will see an Eagle on your trip. Please check the maps on the site for the location of some of the Eagles Nests. In addition, you will likely pass under one or more of six covered bridges that cross the Creek.There are many access points on Sugar Creek and the Creek is served by at least four canoe liveries. The river character can be broken down into four main sections, although you can create trips of varying lengths:
A canoe camp is available for overnight camping in Shades State Park, and with good water level and enjoyable two-day trip may be made from Crawfordsville to West Union Covered Bridge.
Darlington to Crawfordsville
This upper part of the river has more drop per mile than the lower stretches. The river has several shelves that create nice rapids. There are also several large sandy beaches in this stretch.
At Crawfordsville you have a dam to portage that is right by the power plant. Portage right, and then be sure to continue downstream by hugging the right bank until you clear the dam outwash. There can be a powerful suction created by the water going over the dam, and you can get sucked into it if you are not careful. Shortly after the dam you will find the Crawfordsville Public Access Point on the left bank of the river.
Crawfordsville to Shades State Park
The best existing access to Sugar Creek in Crawfordsville is in Elston Park South, which is upstream of the old US 231/SR 43 bridge (Lafayette Ave.) on the left (south) bank. Several vehicles may be parked at this site. The trip to Shades State Park generally takes approximately 5 hours.Just downstream from the Crawfordsville public access you pass under a small bridge. About a mile later you will come to Sugar Creek Campground on the north (right) bank of the river. You will pass under another small bridge and see some signs of houses and the town for the next couple of miles, and then the river resumes a natural feel. The river has several twists and turns and some riffles. You will also pass under a railroad bridge and the SR 32 bridge (near Yountsville) during the first approximate 6 miles. The remaining 9-10 miles of the trip is through an increasingly scenic and natural segment of Sugar Creek with good fishing and interesting wildlife. After Crawfordsville the next possible access point you come across is the Sugar Creek Public Fishing Area. The usual take-out site for this trip is upstream of Deer's Mill Covered Bridge in Shades State Park on the right or left bank; the parking area on the left bank is larger and usually less congested. To reach the take-out site from Crawfordsville take SR 231 south to SR 47 and proceed southwesterly on SR 47 to SR 234, where a right turn (to the west) is required on SR 234 to follow it to Deer Mill Covered Bridge. One may also turn right (to the west) on SR 32 off SR 47 and proceed to Co. Rd. 600W, turn left (south) and proceed to Co. Rd. 400 S, turn right (west) on Co. Rd 400S and follow through Alamo to Co. Rd 875 W, just south of Alamo, and junctions with SR 234 where a left turn (to the east) is required to follow SR 234 to Deer Mill Covered Bridge.
Shades State Park to Turkey Run State Park
This trip begins at Deer's Mill Covered Bridge, as described in the Crawfordsville to Shades State Park section, or at the Shades canoe camp if one has reached the canoe camp by canoe the previous day. The Shades canoe camp is approximately 2 miles downstream of Deer's Mill Covered Bridge on the left bank; signs to the canoe camp are visible from the creek, and a camping fee is collected in the evening. This section of Sugar Creek is the most natural and scenic and is the most heavily canoed. Consequently, fishing and nature study is usually better during weekdays on this section. Two take-out sites are available with parking for a few vehicles in Turkey Run State Park. The first take-out site is on the right bank where Brush Creek flows into Sugar Creek just upstream of the Narrows Covered Bridge, and it is approximately 11 miles from Deer's Mill Covered Bridge. The second take-out site is on the left bank immediately downstream of Cox Ford Covered Bridge, and it is approximately 14 miles from Deer's Mill Covered Bridge. This trip generally requires 3-4 1/2 hours to complete with average water level, depending on which take-out site is selected. To shuttle vehicles proceed north on SR 234 from Deer's Mill Covered Bridge (SR 234 eventually turns westward) to Co. Rd. 280 E to Co. Rd. 350 E, which is just before the Sugar Creek crossing next to the Narrows Covered Bridge, and turn left (east) and watch for the access site on the right just after the turn; this is the first take-out site in Turkey Run State Park. To continue to the second take-out site in the park, follow Co. Rd. 280 over Sugar Creek to SR 47, turn right (west) on SR 47, and follow it to Co. Rd. 30 E (the first road to the north after the State Park entrance) where a right (north) turn is required to proceed to the take-out site on the left immediately before Cox Ford Covered Bridge.
Turkey Run State Park to West Union Covered Bridge
Sugar Creek broadens and deepens downstream of Turkey Run State Park and the creek valley becomes more flat approaching the Wabash River floodplain. This 9 1/2 to 12 1/2 mile trip, depending on the put-in site, generally takes 3 to 4 1/2 hours. Canoeists may also choose to continue past West Union Covered Bridge into the Wabash River and on to Montezuma to take out downstream of US 36 bridge on the left bank (well before a railroad bridge); this trip extension will usually require an additional 2 to 4 hours, and a headwind is usually encountered on the Wabash River. The put-in site for this trip is near the Narrows Covered Bridge or Cox Ford Covered Bridge; both are described in the Shades State Park to Turkey Run State Park section. The take-out site is just downstream of the West Union Covered Bridge on the right bank. To shuttle vehicles proceed south from either the Narrows Covered Bridge or Cox Ford Covered Bridge on Co. Rd 58, turn right (west) and follow Co. Rd. 58 to Co. Rd. 23 where another right turn is required before proceeding to the intersection of Co. Rd. 23 and Co. Rd. 333 in approximately 3/4-mile where another right (to the north) is required before going over Sugar Creek and taking an immediate right towards the parking area leading to the covered bridge.
We need more trip
reports. E-mail your trip reports to us by Clicking