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We put in on the east side of the S.R. 39 bridge where we have access on private property. It looks like decent access and parking for a couple of vehicles is available in the highway right-of-way on the northeast side of the bridge. There is no gauge in the area.
About 1.5 miles into the trip we came to a large island we could not see around, and elected to go to the right. That route turned out to be blocked by an old farm bridge low to the water, so we portaged around. We went river right since the bank was lower, but this is in someone’s yard. Fortunately we were back in the water before the dog noticed us... he was not looking too friendly as we paddled away.
There is an old concrete arch railroad bridge about 1.2 miles downstream and an iron truss bridge about 4.6 miles downstream. The iron bridge is another possible takeout point for a shorter trip, I have included the coordinates for that location.
After passing under the iron bridge then Interstate 65 we noticed that the property owner on river left had posted notices reading “No Trespassing” and “Notice Regarding Public Access to Sugar Creek” in large letters and a lot of small print underneath that you couldn’t read from the water. Since it seemed like a good time for a bathroom break we stopped to do that and read the rest of the notice. The small print contained the warning that because Sugar Creek has not been designated a navigable waterway touching the bank or bottom is trespassing. We decided it was nice of them to post that part in letters so small you have to be within a few feet to read them, so you are essentially trespassing to find out you are trespassing. This is such a rural area with so little development that I don’t believe that most people are aware of the river law or would care if you did portage for a short way as long as you are within the normal high water mark like any navigable stream. However, this particular property owner has also fenced several hundred acres to create his own hunting area and is also apparently concerned about invasion via water.
We continued on our way scaring up a couple of whitetail bucks that would run downstream a few hundred yards to hide, then jump up and run again when we got close. They finally got tired of the game and crossed the creek about 50 yards in front of us and took off through a farm field.
We also saw several squirrels and, surprisingly for the time of day, a raccoon. We saw evidence of beavers as well, but no animals.
About a half mile from the end we got to “the maze”... the creek had split around a very small island, and was completely blocked by trees that had fallen from either side and brush that had washed down into them. We scouted a bit to find a way around, and were amazed to find that there were several more small islands downstream basically held together by tree roots with water running through in several directions. We portaged river right and continued around to the right since that seemed the smoothest. This will be a fun place to come back and play around in on a warmer day this summer.
While not the easiest access in the world due to the slope, the water level was perfect at the takeout for us to be able to pull over at the bottom of the roadside drainage ditch on river right and haul our boats up to the northbound U.S. 52 shoulder where we had parked.
This is a fairly easy paddle, but you do have to look out for downed trees. Some of the maneuvering would be tight for inexperienced paddlers or possibly a large boat, but there were no other major obstacles.
We enjoy paddling less-popular waterways just to see what is around the next bend in spite of the challenges that might bring, and this was a section that we found to be very enjoyable.
From the south take I-65 to U.S. 52. It's approximately 7 miles. Coordinates are 40.148613, -86.585035. From the north take I-65 to S.R. 47, west to U.S. 52 then north about 2 miles.
Indiana Navigability Report Summary:
Indiana law is somewhat confusing as it applies to recreational boaters. Boaters may clearly use larger navigable streams where the state owns the streambed, as well as smaller streams that have been statutorily designated as recreational rivers. Whether smaller navigable streams, which have privately owned beds, may be used for boating is presently unclear. Despite the fact that Indiana authorities have discussed navigability, the law determining which Indiana streams are open to recreational boating is far from clear. The exception to this is any stream designated as a recreational stream.
I did ask permission from AW to use this information and it was granted as long as the source was cited
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