A float trip is one of the most fun and simple ways to spend time outdoors during the peak of summer. It’s doesn’t take much equipment, because just about everything you need can be rented. Liveries exist on many rivers throughout the Midwest. Canoeing, kayaking and rafting can be enjoyed on just about any flowing body of water. When it’s too hot for most outdoor activities, head for the river and float the day away.
Having your own equipment, like a canoe or kayak, is a worthy investment if you plant to float often. This usually requires a little more work, but is well worth if paddling becomes a regular pastime for you. If you’re floating downstream without the use of an outfitter, you must stage a vehicle at your take out point, or arrange a shuttle service. Another option is to leave your vehicle downstream and have someone drive you upstream so you can float back to your car.
Personal floatation devices, lifejackets or floating seat cushions are a must. Accidents occur all the time on rivers. Even the strongest swimmers are in danger of being swept under a log jam. Wearing a lifejacket would be best, but if you don’t, you to at least have one readily accessible so it can be grabbed easily in a time of need.
A good cooler is an essential element of all float trips. A great tip for taking a cooler along, is to stretch a deflated inner tube around the cooler, then fill it with air. The cooler should be snuggly secured in the tube so it won’t fall through into the river, and should be balanced so it won’t tip over. If you use a cooler with a handle, you can tie a rope from the handle to the tube. This way, if the cooler was to fall out, it would remain tethered to the tube. Additional essential equipment includes a first aid kit and a sun screen.
Here are three of my favorite places to float that offer canoe liveries.
Sugar Creek – Marshall, Indiana
Sugar Creek is in my opinion the most beautiful waterway flowing through Indiana’s wild and scenic landscape. Paddlers flock to this destination each summer for the breathtaking scenery. . The limestone bluffs along much of the shoreline are gorgeous. There are covered bridges spanning the creek you must explore.
There are numerous canoe rental operations along the creek and numerous private campgrounds. Two state parks, Turkey Run and Shades are on Sugar Creek. Turkey Run State Park offers 213 electric campsites. It is also home to Turkey Run Inn, which offers rooms and cabins. Shades State Park is located just down the road and offers primitive camping.
Current River – Salem, Missouri
Current River and the Jacks Fork make up the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. This national park is far different from what most people think about when considering a visit to a government-operated park. There is no entrance fee. Out in the wilderness, there is no camping fee. We were able to simply pull our canoes over on the riverbank wherever we wanted and set up a camp. It’s an incredible sense of freedom to simply become part of the flow of the river. When you feel like taking break, you stop and do so. There is no designated area. It’s public land that belongs to you and me and every other American.
There are outfitters along the river from its headwaters at Montauk State Park all along its course to Doniphan. Beautiful little town – Akers, Round Spring, Eminence, Van Buren and more – welcome floaters all summer long. If you don’t want to camp along the river, private campgrounds, Echo Bluff State Park and the national park all offer more modern conveniences.
Middle Fork of the Vermillion River –
The Middle Fork of the Vermillion River is an oasis of beauty in the otherwise bland flat lands of west-central Illinois. Gravel bars, towering bluffs and lush expanses of bright green vegetation line the banks of this protected river.
In 1986, the Middle Fork of the Vermillion was the first river in Illinois to be designated as a State Scenic River. Then in 1989, the river was again recognized for its beauty and value, and was designated as a National Wild and Scenic River. Making it the first river in Illinois to be included in the National Wild Scenic Rivers System.
There are over 8,400 acres of public parks and preserves along the river. Rarely do you see any sort of manmade structure from the water along this special 17-mile stretch of river. Middle Fork State Fish and Wildlife Area, Horseshoe Bottom Nature Preserve, Windfall Prairie Nature Preserve, Middle Fork Woods Nature Preserve, Kennekuk Cove County Park and Kickapoo State Recreation Area are all public areas along the Middle Fork. These parks offer walk-in anglers plenty of opportunities to access the river via walking trails.
See you down the trail…
Pic: During the heat of summer, a float trip is a cool way to spend a day.