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The BEST Kayaking In Indiana – Canoe and Kayak Guide to The Hoosier State

Mark Armstrong
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The Hoosier State is rich in farmland and forests, with plenty of streams and even a shoreline on one of the Great Lakes.

Kayaking in Indiana can be both peaceful and exciting, with wildlife, mild rapids and flatwater all easily accessible from many cities. 

To give you a better idea of what you can expect we’ve made a guide with a few of our favorites.

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9 Best Places To Kayak & Canoe In Indiana

1: Lake Monroe

Kayaker at Lake Monroe at sunrisePin
Courtesy: Elizabeth Nicodemus on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Lake Monroe is Indiana’s largest lake, covering just under 11,000 acres. It can be found in Hoosier National Forest, just south of Bloomington. This can be a popular summer spot, meaning it can get busy with swimmers and recreational boaters.

There are several boat ramps with plenty of parking, including one at Hardin Ridge Recreation Area, where there is also a campground. There is also another boat ramp just off Highway 446 at Paynetown State Recreation Area, where you can rent kayaks.

This can be a great place to paddle on flatwater through the state’s only designated wilderness area. As well as forests, there are lots of beaches where you can stop for a rest, making it fun for families. There are also backwater areas and creeks to explore.

Bass fishing in creeks

How to get there:

From Bloomington, head south on Highway 446. Paynetown Boat Ramp is located at the end of Paynetown Road (before the bridge). Hardin Ridge Boat Ramp is on Hardin Ridge Road, around eight miles south of the bridge.

2: Eagle Creek Reservoir

Eagle Creek Reservoir is located in northwestern Indianapolis, so it can be easy to reach from the metro area. Despite being so close to downtown, there are almost 4,000 acres of forest around the lake within Eagle Creek Park, which can offer good wildlife spotting opportunities. The park is one of the largest city parks in the US.

Eagle Creek Park can be a good spot to launch, with two kayak launch areas and kayak rentals available on site. There is another boat ramp between 38th and West 46th Street.

The northern area of the lake can be better for wildlife, as it borders the ornithology center for studying birds. You can also access Eagle Creek which can be quieter, although it’s an upstream paddle from the reservoir.

How to get there:

From I-65 take the exit for West 71st Street and follow Eagle Creek Parkway to Eagle Creek Park. You can also access the park at the south gate from West 56th Street.

3: Blue River

The Blue River is a designated Natural, Scenic and Recreational River. It features limestone bluffs, caves, islands and sandbars, so it can be a great place to spend a day or two. There are even some Class I rapids to keep you on your toes.

There are campsites available along the river, including one at Cave Country Canoes, which can be a good spot to launch. You can also rent kayaks and canoes from there.

You can take-out at Rothrock Mill where there’s a gravel access point. You can also launch from here if you want to paddle closer to the Ohio River. There are several spots to launch and takeout along the 57-mile stretch between Fredericksburg and where the Blue joins the Ohio River.

How to get there:

The Blue River can be accessed from Fredericksburg at Old Mill Canoe Rental on US-150. The launch at Cave Country Canoes is in Milltown, just off IN-64.

4: Sugar Creek

Two kayakers on a calm river of Sugar CreekPin
Courtesy: USFWS Midwest Region on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Sugar Creek is a scenic stream that flows alongside maple trees, through two state parks and under historic covered bridges. It can be a great place to canoe or kayak for a day trip or even an extended trip. There are campgrounds located within Turkey Run State Park and Shades State Park, as well as others along the river.

Paddling from Shades State Park to Turkey Run State Park can be a good option for a family trip, with lots of wildlife. The put-in is at the Deer’s Mill covered bridge, where you can rent canoes.

> Kayaking at Turkey Run

There are two take-outs at Turkey Run: one just before the Narrows covered bridge and another around three miles downstream, just after the Cox Ford covered bridge.

How to get there:

Shades State Park and Deer’s Mill Bridge launch is just off IN-234 via IN-47 from Crawfordsville. Turkey Run State Park is just off IN-47.

5: Tippecanoe River

The Tippecanoe River offers natural scenery, wildlife, and good fishing. This can be a leisurely paddle on mostly flatwater, making it ideal for paddlers of all skill levels.

The river flows through Tippecanoe River State Park, which can be a great place for an overnight stop during your paddling trip, with several canoe-in campsites. The park can also be an ideal spot to launch if you have your own kayak or canoe.

A good spot to launch for an all-day 15-mile paddle to the state park is at the boat ramp in Monterey City Park. You can take-out or camp at the River Tent Camp in the state park. An extended trip can take you roughly 12 miles along to the take-out at Riverside Rentals in Winamac. You can rent kayaks and canoes here, and they also offer a shuttle service.

How to get there:

Tippecanoe State Park is located off of US-35, around 50 miles south of Michigan City. Winamac is a further five miles south.

6: White River

The White River flows through central and southern Indiana before joining the Wabash River, so it can be easy to reach from most places around Indianapolis.

The river is mostly flat water, which can make it easy to paddle for beginners. It also features lots of natural scenery and wildlife, despite flowing through the center of Indianapolis. However, paddling through Indianapolis you’ll notice there are several dams that you might need to portage around.

There are lots of launch sites for easy trip planning. One good spot is at the Forest Park public boat ramp in Noblesville. There’s plenty of parking and you can rent canoes and kayaks in Noblesville, a mile downstream from the launch.

There are take-outs at River Road Park in Carmel or the East 116th Street bridge, around a three-hour trip from Noblesville.

How to get there:

The White River can be accessed from downtown Indianapolis. The launch at Noblesville can be reached just off Highway 19 at Forest Park.

7: Raccoon Lake

Racoon Lake (also known as Cecil M. Harden Lake) is about an hour’s drive west of Indianapolis. It can be a fantastic place to paddle with over 2,000 acres of flatwater surrounded by forests and wildlife, with lots of coves. It can also be a great place for bass fishing.

There are a few places to set off on your kayak, including at Walker Boat Ramp on the southeastern shores of the lake, which has parking and restrooms. 

You can also launch at Raccoon Lake State Recreation Area, where kayak rentals are available. However, kayaks rented from the park are limited to paddling only in the cove in front of the rental office.

How to get there:

Raccoon Lake State Recreation Area is located off the US-36 west of Indianapolis.

8: Cagles Mill Lake

Cagles Mill Lake is around 35 miles southwest of Indianapolis, so it can be ideal for a day trip from the city. The 1,400-acre lake is within Lieber and Cataract Falls State Recreation Areas and has an abundance of natural scenery for a relaxing paddle.

Although parts of the lake can get windy, it’s generally flatwater and can be suitable for all skill levels. One of the highlights of this area is Cataract Falls. You can paddle upstream from the lake to get an up-close view of the lower falls. However, water levels can affect your trip.

There are several spots to launch, with the closest ramp to the falls being the Lieber Boat Ramp just west of IN-42 at the end of Boat Dock Road. You can also launch at the beach at Lieber State Recreation Area on the northeast shores of the lake.

You can rent kayaks from Indianapolis and transport them to the lake yourself. You may be able to arrange for your rental to be delivered to a location at the lake.

How to get there:

From Indianapolis, take I-70 west to State Route 243. Follow the 243 south to Lieber State Recreation Area. You can continue to Cunot and over the 42 bridge to the Lieber Boat Ramp.

9: Cedar Creek

Cedar Creek is designated Indiana Natural, Scenic and Recreational River that flows through the countryside on its way to the Saint Joseph River. This can be a relaxing spot with lots of wildlife around and not many people.

Because it’s a natural stream, you may find some logjams and branches that can cause difficulties while paddling. A good place to set off is the Tonkel Road bridge, where there tend to be fewer natural hazards on the trip to the take-out at the public access site at State Route 1.

For a slightly longer trip, you can launch at Cook’s Landing, but it can be a little trickier to navigate between there and Tonkel Road, and may not be ideal for beginners.

How to get there:

From Fort Wayne, take I-69 north to SR-1. A DNR creek access site with parking is located off SR-1 in Leo-Cedarville. Tonkel Road is located off SR-1 with the launch at the bridge.

What Are The Kayak Laws For Indiana?

US Coast GuardPin

While paddling in Indiana it can be important to follow the state boating laws and regulations. Remember that some areas may have different rules so it can be important to research the particular body of water you plan to hit.

Our full guide to Indiana kayak laws here

  • PFDs are required on all vessels. There should be one (US Coast Guard approved) for each person on your kayak.
  • Children 13 and under are required to wear a US Coast Guard approved PFD while a kayak or other vessel is underway.
  • Boating Under the Influence (BUI) is illegal in Indiana. You can be arrested for having a blood alcohol level of 0.05% and will be considered intoxicated with a blood alcohol level of 0.08%.
  • Registration is not required for non-motorized kayaks.
  • Visual Distress Signals (VDS) for night use are required for night paddling on Lake Michigan. A white light is also required for night paddling on all waters.

Kayak Rentals And Tours Around IN

If you don’t have your own, there are several places you can rent a kayak or canoe near to our favorite spots.

Final Words

Indiana can be a great place for a kayaking trip. With lots of beautiful rivers, there are opportunities to spend several days on the water, camping along the shores or fishing.

Remember to check local water levels before you head out and let us know how you get on. If you think this could help your buddies, share it with them.

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