I enjoy vacationing at the beach as well as in the mountains, but I need to live near water. It doesn’t have anything to do with an apocalyptic view of a drought-stricken world or rising ocean levels destroying property values. It has everything to do with the way being on, in or in view of water makes me feel.
I always thought it was because I grew up visiting grandparents who lived on the St. Joseph River in Fort Wayne, or because I probably learned to water ski before I could ride a bike. Scientists are now showing the happy or calm response people have when they look at or play in the water is due to chemicals released in the brain. The “feel good” chemicals like dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin are produced in the brain when we are around water. Factor in the physical benefits when people walk, fish or paddle and you have a public health asset flowing through our neighborhoods.
We are blessed in Delaware County to have the Mississinewa and White rivers in our communities. Most of us realize these important natural resources provide clean drinking water, natural protection from flooding and wildlife habitat.
Have you taken advantage of the amazing recreational opportunity they offer? Fishing, wildlife watching, and boating are just a few of the ways to enjoy these waterways. The Mississinewa River originates in Ohio and flows west and north about 100 miles before it joins the Wabash River near Peru, Indiana. It was named by the Miami Indians who called it “falling water,” and it is one of the swiftest streams in Indiana. The West Fork of the White River originates near the Ohio border and journeys west through Muncie. It turns south as it gathers strength from surrounding creeks and streams. In southern Indiana it combines with the East Fork of the White River and empties into the Wabash River.
Both rivers are lined with trees including maple, oak, sycamore, cottonwood, river birch and others. This riparian, or wooded habitat along the river, provides homes to Canada geese, turtles, blue and green herons, ducks, deer, muskrat, fox, squirrels, groundhogs and beaver. Fishing varies by section of each river but may include the possibility of largemouth and smallmouth bass, catfish, perch and crappie. Fresh mussels are also found in the stream banks. This rich, diverse wildlife corridor can be enjoyed from a river overlook or trail alongside the river.
The ultimate way to enjoy the waterway trail in my opinion is to become part of the habitat by paddling a canoe, kayak or stand up paddle board. The excitement of going through a riffle or spotting a heron as you come around the bend can only be experienced on the water. The experience changes with the season. In spring the riverbanks are covered in wildflowers, in the summer the tree canopy offers a cool escape, and in fall the leaves dropping on the water create a surreal painting.
Not every experience I have had on the water has been calm and happy. Thunderstorms, swift currents or spills in cold water can quickly turn a great day into a disaster. Prepare and reduce the inherent risks by checking the weather forecast, water conditions, taking appropriate gear, wearing a personal flotation device, and don’t go solo. Most property along the river is private so go with a river outfitter or plan to launch and take out at designated sites. Be sure to pack out all trash and observe not disturb wildlife.
The planning required makes it feel like more of an adventure like Lewis and Clark. I don’t know if my love of water is due to the neurotransmitter effect of water, reliving childhood memories, or the fact that I always paddle with friends or family. I just know that a day spent on the water is always a day well spent. The next time you cross a bridge on your daily travels think about how you might enjoy the water trail.
A digital and printed map of the White River through Delaware County is available at the GIS office and http://www.co.delaware.in.us/egov/documents/161801206457951.pdf. Canoe Country Outfitters (www.canoeindiana.com) offers canoe, kayak, and float trips on the White River between Yorktown and Anderson. BSU Outdoor Pursuits (bsu.edu/recreation/rental-center.html) has kayak and gear rental available as well at trip planning information. Additional outfitter information for other rivers can be found at www.indianaoutfitters.com. To check current water conditions for Indiana rivers visit http://waterwatch.usgs.gov/index.php?r=in&id=ww_current. Public fishing and launch site information is listed at www.in.gov/dnr/. Red-tail Land Conservancy has 3 protected areas on the rivers, Mississinewa Woods, McVey Forest also on the Mississinewa River, and White River Woods (www.fortheland.org).