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Sugar Creek, IN

Narrows Bridge in Turkey Run State Park

If you’re convinced that there is nowhere between the Boundary Waters and the Appalachian Mountains to legally canoe camp, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by Sugar Creek, in west-central Indiana. A 15-mile float takes you through two state parks, past stunning sandstone cliffs and under several picturesque covered bridges.

The first leg of an overnight trip begins a couple of miles upstream from Shades State Park. Wind through the old growth forests of the park and then spend the night amidst the tall trees at Shades Canoe Camp, a pleasant, primitive riverside campsite. A morning concert by the birds, including the gobble of wild turkeys, eliminates the need for a human-made alarm clock. The remaining 13 miles of the float are spent in the company of butterflies, dragonflies and various species of swallows as they flit by you, snapping up insects on the wing.

As you float past hemlock-lined gorge walls, you’ll easily forget that you are in the middle of the corn belt. You may experience some sensory overload as bald eagles soar overhead, warblers sing from the trees and huge fish dart beneath your boat. The rock outcroppings and historic covered bridges also compete for your attention.

Stop to hike one of the Turkey Run State Park trails that connect to the riverbank and keep an eye out for the rare broad-headed skink (a little reptile) with its distinct orange-striped head. And, during lunch, don’t forget to look for arrowheads on the sandbars. In May, a special treat along the way includes the raucous chorus of hundreds of awkward juveniles in a great blue heron rookery.

If you are a fisher, bring your rod and reel to catch the large mouth bass, small mouth bass, pan fish, and catfish that hang out in deep pools. Going mid-week assures you more solitude. With several large cities nearby, Sugar Creek is quite popular on the weekends.

Where it’s at: About 1½ hours from Indianapolis, take US 36 west about 40 miles from the Indy outerbelt; at US 41 turn north and go about eight miles to IN 47 and take a right into Turkey Run State Park

Contact: Indiana Department of Natural Resources,

Digs: Turkey Run Inn, or (765) 597-2211; The Cabins at Hobson Farms, or (765) 376-7663

Grub: Up The Creek Boat-ique’, or 800-422-6638; The Narrows Restaurant at Turkey Run Inn, or (765) 597-2211

Outfitting: Turkey Run Canoe Trips, or (765) 569-6705; Sugar Valley Canoe Trips, or 800-422-6638; Clements Canoes Outdoor Center, or 866-372-7285