Trip Report for Sugar Creek in Indiana
Crawfordsville to The Narrows (at Turkey Run State Park)
March 9-10, 2002

My partner, Dick Whicker and myself, Zeke Miller, did the canoe trip from the Crawfordsville Coke Plant launch site to The Narrows take-out, just north of Turkey Run State Park.. We departed on Saturday March 9 and completed the trip on Sunday March 10. Even though the weather forecast was for rain, high winds and severe cold, we decided to proceed as planned.

The creek was bank-full at the Coke Plant, muddy with a fair amount of floating debris. Flow rate was between 2500 and 3000 CFM for the two-day trip. We are both experienced paddlers and I would not recommend attacking the creek in these conditions without a lot of experience and confidence in boat handling and preparedness for mishap. For us, it was a joy to be on the creek with no other human encounters and to be able to experience the fast moving water.

It was 11:00 A.M. when we left Crawfordsville. Our first-night destination was the canoe camp at Shades State Park. We were prepared with food, tent, stove, and bivouac gear for winter conditions. We paddled steadily and following a 20-minute lunch break at the Pine Hills Nature Preserve arrived at Deer's Mill around 2:00 p.m.

The highlight of the first day of travel was the sighting of 2 pairs of mature bald eagles. We saw all four birds in the air at the same time, directly overhead, at treetop level. The sighting was approximately one half mile south of the Davis Bridge. As we progressed downstream, we saw several more eagles but could not verify they were different pairs or the same we had seen earlier. Within one half to one mile from the Davis Bridge we were able to identify a single nest which looked like many other eagle nests we have seen in both Alaska and Canada. In addition to the eagles, we saw numerous waterfowl, birds, and white tail deer.

We arrived at the Shades Canoe Camp at 2:40 PM, found a relatively dry spot for the tent, and prepared for a long cold night.

As predicted, the morning was clear and cold with temperatures in the very low 20's. We had marked the creek level with a stick the night before. When we checked it at 8:30 A.M. on Sunday, the stick was 2 feet in the water. The creek was still rising, quite muddy and fast flowing. We were packed and in the water by 9:30 A.M. It was still quite windy but not as severe as Saturday and the sun helped to warm our spirits and sharpen our concentration.

Later we learned the measured water flow was about 3,000 cfs (normal is 500 cfs) and hence there were numerous opportunities for error and a quick dumping in the torrent waters. We experienced several sections south of Shades Park with 2-foot standing waves, both times taking on water.

A highlight of this second day was the sighting of a group of 18 Blue Herrons. Normally a very solitary bird, this was a unique experience to see this many at one time.

We arrived at the Narrows at 10:40 A.M. and proceeded to shoot past the exit ramp. With lots of muscle and maneuvering the boat to an eddy, we were able to get to the shore only 50 feet from the intended landing. After securing our gear, hanging several items to dry, we dug out the stove and coffee and made a warm cup while waiting for our pick-up vehicle.

Some summary thoughts:

It was great to be alone on the creek; something that brought back memories of living in Crawfordsville in the late '60's and making many trips down Sugar Creek before it was a popular attraction.

Though the creek was muddy with lots of debris and trash floating downstream, it was comforting to see the creek cleansing itself of such litter and remnants of our disposable society. If people could see it in it's natural state, free of the ugliness of pop and beer containers, they would possibly be more cautious of carrying and being careless with their trash.

With the wind roaring and the water rushing through rapids and narrows, it was still a very peaceful and reverent place to be on these 2 particular days. Dick and I agreed, "Even though we have traveled to many beautiful mountains, wilderness and scenic areas none surpass our well-kept Indiana secret."

We would like to thank our State Parks and DNR who do whatever is possible to maintain this wonderful wilderness and scenic waterway.

Zeke Miller - Indianapolis In.
Dick Whicker - Danville In.

Outdoor Resources:
Other Information: - Indiana's Online Outdoor Recreation Guide