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Turkey Run Kayaking And Canoeing

Nicola Burridge
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Hey, fellow adventurer!

Ever thought of mixing some history, geology, and wildlife into your paddling experience?

Welcome aboard the Turkey Run kayaking adventure – it’s no ordinary ride!

Weave through calm waters, surrounded by historic relics and wonders of nature, with the local wildlife for company.

And the best part? There’s more than enough room for your tent under the stars!

Turkey Run Kayaking And Canoeing - Pinterest ImagePin

Turkey Run State Park

Turkey Run State Park is a historic state park located around 60 miles west of Indianapolis, Indiana. It features sandstone gorges that date back 600 million years. 

It also offers a unique look into Indiana’s pioneering past, with 19th century log cabins, historic bridges, and a 19th century home with seasonal tours. There are also remnants of old coal mines to be found. 

Kayaking and canoeing at Turkey Run is one of the most exciting ways to explore the park but there are also plenty of things to do on foot. You’ll find several campgrounds in and around the park to make the most of your Turkey Run canoeing trip. 

Turkey Run is also home to an outdoor swimming pool so it’s a great place for a family day out with the kids or a weekend adventure. It’s worth noting that swimming is not allowed in the creek.

If you like to fish for bass and bluegill, you’ll find plenty of them in Sugar Creek.

Wildlife At Turkey Run

As well as the historic and geological interest, the park is also a great place to view wildlife. Turkey Run is one of the best places in Indiana to spot bald eagles.

After you’ve explored Turkey Run in your canoe, you can head to the Nature Center where they have interactive exhibits and live wildlife. Plus, there’s a wildlife viewing room so you can watch the various birds, squirrels and other creatures at the wildlife feeders.  

Sugar Creek

Sugar Creek is the scenic stream that flows through Turkey Run State Park and Shades State Park. This is one of the main attractions, with many visitors opting to canoe or tube along the picturesque creek all season long. 

It does get pretty busy during the summer, particularly on weekends. So it can be a good idea to get there early if you want to avoid most of the crowds.

The creek is generally slow-moving so you can usually explore at a relaxed pace. Flowing in a southwesterly direction, the clear water flows around 90 miles from Tipton County to the Wabash River. 

Sugar Creek is one of the best places for a canoeing trip in the whole of Indiana. However, during floods, this water can be dangerous, especially for canoeing. There are times when the creek is only suitable for experienced whitewater kayakers. And most kayak outfitters will not allow access to the water during these times. 

If the water level is high and the staff at the canoe liveries believe it is too dangerous for anyone in your party, your pre-booked Turkey Run canoe trip could be canceled at short notice. 

Occasionally, the water levels can be too low for a Turkey Run canoeing trip. This can lead to some canoe trips being postponed or rescheduled to canoe or kayak a different section. 

Covered Bridge at Cox FordPin

The Historic Jackson Covered Bridge

The historic Jackson Covered Bridge is one of several covered bridges that cross Sugar Creek.

The Jackson Bridge was built in 1861 and is the longest single-span bridge in the United States that’s still used by cars and motor vehicles.  

Turkey Run Kayaking Trips

Video: Canoeing in Indiana’s Turkey Run State Park

There are several Turkey Run canoeing and kayaking trips along the creek, depending on how long you want to spend on the water. Most outfitters will offer canoe and kayak rentals with fees to bring an extra person or a dog. 

It can be paddled 57 miles beginning at the launch at the Darlington Bridge and ending at Montezuma on the Wabash. Not all of the shorter length options go through Turkey Run. 

One of the great features of this area is that you can tailor the kayaking or canoeing trip to suit your skills or the available time you have. There are many points along the route where you can either launch or take-out. 

You can also plan a multi-day adventure with campgrounds at various locations along the creek.

Popular kayaking trips include the 12-mile trip from Deer’s Mill Bridge at Shades State Park to the Narrows Bridge at Turkey Run State Park.

You can also launch at the Narrows and take-out at the Cox Ford Bridge on a short three-mile kayak tour that takes you under two covered bridges and a suspension bridge.

From the Cox Ford Bridge you can continue another six miles to paddle under the Jackson Bridge. This is a quiet and more secluded section than the busier areas located upstream.

Many of the kayak and canoe outfitters in the area allow you to arrange canoeing trips where they will pick you up and drop you off at the start or end points. Departure times vary depending on the trip you want to do. 

If you have your own canoes and kayaks, you can also make use of the local canoe liveries to transport your gear to or from the water. Most of the outfitters will offer this service for a small fee, giving you the added advantage of using their launch sites and take-outs.  

Many of the Turkey Run canoe ramps at the launch sites and exit points have steps. So keep that in mind when you decide how much gear you want to haul. You will have to carry the canoe up and down steps.

The canoe trips can be very popular and often need to be booked in advance. This area is also very popular for tubing, so it can get pretty crowded during the summer, especially within Turkey Run State Park.

Sugar Creek Kayak Rentals

Sugar Valley Canoes

Sugar Valley Canoes is one of the closest canoe outfitters to Turkey Run State Park. It is located almost directly opposite Turkey Run State Park Campground. 

At Sugar Valley Canoes you can rent canoes and kayaks (as well as cabins if you want to extend your adventures). There are various canoe trips you can do, with regular shuttle buses to take you to the starting point and bring you back at the end of your canoeing trip. 

The longest canoe trip that Sugar Valley Canoes offers is the 15-mile trip from Shades State Park to Turkey Run State Park, which takes the whole day to complete. This trip departs twice in the morning and pick up times are every 30 minutes from the exit point.

The canoeing trips offered by Sugar Valley Canoes are self-guided, so you can paddle at your own pace. 

There are shorter canoe trips available if you don’t want to spend the whole day canoeing or if you have kids who might get restless. For example, the six-mile trip that takes in two covered bridges can be a good option to combine nature and historic points of interest.

Sugar Valley Canoes is a short distance from the Cox Ford Public Access point. Life jackets are provided with the canoe and kayak rentals.  

Sugar Creek Campground

Sugar Creek Campground is located in Crawfordsville, around 25 miles upstream from Turkey Run. You can rent kayaks, canoes, and tubes at the campground.

Sugar Creek Campground offers kayak and canoe trips with a shuttle to take you to the starting point or back from the exit. 

There are three kayak or canoe trips from here: a three-mile canoe trip; a five-mile trip; and an 11-mile canoeing trip that begins upstream, letting you paddle through the natural scenery as you make your way back to the campground.

Turkey Run Canoe And Camping

Turkey Run Canoe and Camping is located just two miles west of the entrance to Turkey Run State Park.

As well as offering camping facilities for tents and RVs, Turkey Run Canoe and Camping also offers rentals for kayaks, canoes, and inner tubes. 

There are two canoe excursion options with a shuttle to take you to or from the access point. The distances offered are either three-miles or 15-miles. The shorter Turkey Run canoe trip should take around three hours and can be suitable for taking young kids with you. 

Clements Canoes

Clements Canoes can be found on the edge of Shades Park, near the Deer’s Mill access point. 

At Clements Canoes you can book canoeing trips to suit how much time you have. There are shuttles that take you to the launch, roughly hourly every morning for each trip. 

The shorter canoe trip that takes you on a five-mile journey is ideal for families with kids. This also offers extended shuttle times, allowing for afternoon launches.

At Clements Canoes, you can camp in the Canyon Campground to make the most of the scenery and enjoy a more relaxed canoeing experience.

The canoe trips from here do not go as far as Turkey Run, as they remain in the upper stretches of the stream. 

Wrapping Up

A Turkey Run canoe trip can be a fun experience for kids and adults. You can journey through history and nature, with excellent opportunities to view wildlife and enjoy the beauty of your surroundings.

When choosing a Turkey Run canoe adventure, think about how long you want to spend on the water and the points of interest that you want to include.

Keep an eye out for bald eagles on your Turkey Run trip and don’t forget your life jacket.

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