July 4th Weekend - Day Trip Reports

After leaving the kids behind on last year's Alaska adventure, they were adamant about being included in any outdoor plans this summer. And, as any parent knows, traveling with kids can get expensive fast, so we settled for a few nearby budget options. Paddling in Prince William Sound gave us the itch for kayaking and I was able to buy a couple boats with the goal of exploring Indiana's many creeks and rivers. A long July 4th weekend gave us just the opportunity.

07/03/2014 2:30 PM – Cagles Mill Lake to Lower Cataract Falls

We set out for Cagles Mills Lake under blue skies and low humidity – a welcome respite from the sticky weather that has settled upon central Indiana for the last couple of weeks. Since we have only two kayaks, but four people in our family, the plan was for the girls to paddle roughly four miles to Lower Cataract Falls where we would meet up and switch roles. Mel and Greta put in at the Cunot Boat Ramp and had a tail-wind to the Highway 42 bridge. From there, the water level was high enough in Mill Creek for flat-water paddling.

Meanwhile, Dirk and I headed for Cataract Falls SRA via Cunot-Cataract Road. We explored the Upper Falls and the covered bridge. We also hiked an overgrown nature trail that ran along the creek. The path quickly deteriorated and forced us to turn back after a losing battle with stinging nettle. We then headed to the Lower Falls parking lot to wait for the girls. A short trail leads down to the water from the parking area to where Mel and Greta were waiting on a sandbar.

Tip: Click to enlarge. Use the 'Left' and 'Right' arrow keys to navigate the gallery.

Mid-summer in Indiana means daylight until 10p and we were treated with golden light and long shadows on the return trip. We paddled by several great blue herons and an immature bald eagle. The sunlight bouncing off of the arch bridge over Cagles Mills Lake was spectacular. 2-1/2 hours later, we were back where we started. We loaded up our yaks and headed for the next leg of our adventure.

07/04/2014 – Brown County State Park

Even though it was last-minute, we were able to get a couple of sites in the campground at Brown Country State Park. Our friends were set to join us for a day of hiking, bicycling, and horseback-riding around the park. All of the kids with one exception could ride their own horse unassisted. Just the excuse I was looking for! I could hang with Ellie-Kate while everyone else got their equine fix. Afterwards, we cooked up a hearty campfire meal and headed into nearby Nashville for the community fireworks show.

07/05/2014 4:30 PM – South Fork Salt Creek @ Elkinsville

I've been to some rural places in Indiana, but this one might top the list. 5-miles southwest of Story lies the sleepy community of Elkinsville. Our group of nine was looking for a lazy spot to paddle near Brown County State Park, where we had set up camp. Unfortunately, we did not find it on the south fork of Salt Creek. Instead we found a secluded, stagnant tributary. I'm not suggesting this wasn't scenic, or that I wouldn't come back under different circumstances. But for a larger group that includes kids, other rivers would be a better fit. There aren't any rocky sandbars to take out for breaks, and swimming is a non-starter given the clarity of the water.

We put in at the west end of Combs Road and paddled downstream for about 90 minutes before heading back to the starting point. To maintain interest, we crafted a train by attaching all of the boats end-to-end with towropes. The "engines" got a good workout, if nothing else.

What others are saying...

Great pictures! It was a fun trip. You forgot one of the most interesting parts of the kayak trip was renting them from the "off the grid, cash only, creepy, shirtless, kayaking specialist".

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