This entry marks the first WildIndiana post from Central Indiana paddling expert Doug Mark.
If you are looking for a place to paddle offering wildlife viewing, easy access and rental boats, Eagle Creek reservoir has it all.
The reservoir is about three miles long, and divided by the 56th Street causeway roughly two miles north of the dam. Paddling to the dam from the north end of the lake can provide a good open-water paddling workout. The south end can be busy with sailboats and pontoon boats, but there is a 10HP limit on boat motors for the entire reservoir, so powerboat wakes are really not an issue. Direct access to the south end is available at a boat ramp off of Dandy Trail near Rick’s Boatyard restaurant.
The north end offers two launch locations inside Eagle Creek Park. The 71st Street gate is closest to the launch points – one at the marina, the other at the Earth Discovery Center. Plentiful signs make finding your way to both locations easy. There is a park entry fee of $5 per vehicle for Marion County, $6 for non-Marion County plus $3 per boat.
The marina launch is near the parking lot, you won’t have to carry your boat very far. If you need to rent a boat, Eagle Creek Outfitters is located at the marina and they have a large selection of boats available; stand up paddle boards, sit-on-top and sit-in kayaks, and canoes. They also offer guided moonlight and sunset trips. Parking is available at the marina parking lot, or in the grass along the road.
The Earth Discovery Center launch also offers easy access. Signs at the edge of the parking lot mark the path that is mainly along an old road; except for the first 50 feet or so it is paved, and it is about 300′ to the water. The Go Ape zipline shares this parking lot, so you can glide through the treetops if that appeals to you.
Heading north from either launch point takes you out of the main body of the lake and into the Eagle Creek channel. In the spring and fall you will see many white floats marking the course for the Indianapolis Rowing Club, so you will need to be aware of their boats. Fishback Creek enters the lake along the west bank, and an old bridge flooded out when the reservoir was created is visible. Some areas are shallow, but depending on the water level it is possible to continue north up the creek to 86th Street and sometimes beyond. There is minimal current most of the way, and it’s a quiet area except for the vicinity of Lafayette Road and I-65. The Lafayette Road bridge is fairly low to the water; those in canoes should be prepared to duck, as my mom found out on a trip last summer.
East of the creek channel before you cross under the roads is a bird sanctuary, and throughout this area it is possible to spot great egrets, blue herons, Canada geese, several types of ducks, and turtles sunning themselves on logs.
My preferred access is outside the park (so it’s free) from Lafayette Road. About 0.2 miles north of the creek, across from an old feed mill, is a small gravel parking lot. About 50 yards across a meadow is a small berm, on the other side the trail bears left to a low bank where you can put in easily. It can be really swampy, so I recommend checking it out before you carry your boat back there. At times there are lot of bank fishermen in this area, but the creek is wide enough you can get by without disturbing their lines. From here it is about 1.5 miles to the north end of the lake, or you can go upstream.
Eagle Creek reservoir is a great place for novice and experienced paddlers alike, with both sheltered water for relaxed paddling and open water for distance workouts. Those without equipment can rent a boat that suits their needs, and everyone can enjoy being on the water without powerboats zooming around.