Short trip in the Midwest

I am looking for recommendations on a river trip within 5 hours of northeast Indiana that offers a short paddle (2-4 hours) to an area that has primitive camping (prefer water access only) followed by another short paddle (2-4 hours) the following day.

The intent is a short weekend trip to introduce a couple of father and son teams to paddling and camping. The adults have some canoe experience, so a little excitement on the water is fine. Something with mild to moderate current and nothing more then class I rapids is desired (shouldn’t be a problem in the Midwest).

Do you have a favorite in the area that meets these criteria?

Lower Wisconsin River
Check out the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway west of Madison, WI. I paddle between Spring Green (put in at Rt 23) and take out at Muscoda before going under the bridge on the south side of the river. Check out this site:

Also check out Tower Hill State Park along the river.

Midwest trip
Try the white river in Whitehall/Montague, Michigan.

not sure about the 5 hrs…
…but Ohio’s Little Miami river–if we ever get

some rain–might fit your bill. There are a couple of liveries that offer camping and a

campground that caters to paddlers.

The LM is a 1+ class. It’s a designated senic river.

Starts near Xenia, Ohio and goes to Cinci.

lower wisconsin
The Lower Wisconsin Riverway is a wonderful place to paddle. Since it’s a state natural area, you can camp on any island or sandbar, and even though the 90 mile stretch of river is close to some small towns, it feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere. It’s spectacular, and the camping is the best anyway–pull up on a sandbar and watch the cranes and sunsets. Too bad it’s probably more than 5 hours from Indiana! There are plenty of places that rent canoes and do shuttles (or just do shuttles).

Some year when there’s water, try the
Middle Fork of the Vermillion near Danville, IL. No water this year.

Little Muskegon, White, Pere Marquette just to name a few. All about 5 hrs to South Bend.

michigan rivers
The Whitehall Area River is a lovely spot.

Muskegon River is good.

Hastings Michigan has the Thornapple

Have you considered Sugar Creek going into Shades SP canoe camp then continuing on to Turkey Run SP as a short,easy trip?An added bonus is the scenery but avoid weekends if possible.

Christine (From NE Indiana)

Eleven Point in Missouri is a little far
but Greer Spring gives it fairly reliable water even in droughtish years. I remember driving from Chicago to the Eleven Point in about 5.5 hours. OK, maybe six.

The Eleven Point has class 1 rapids, decent current, and well set up campsites in mid-run. Runs of various lengths are possible.

I’m from Ohio and would recommend the Muskegon River in Michigan for you. I raced on it for the first time this year and it seems like a great river.

Where can u get 8n and out?

I’d second the Lower Wisconsin - its my “home waters” - I live 11 miles from it. Its nice all the way to the mighty Mississippi. But coming from Indiana, the stretch from Sauk City to about Spring Green might be a little closer for you and there are stretches (between Ferry Bluff and the Hwy 14 bridge leap to mind) where you won’t hear a man made sound, assuming you don’t go on a mid- summer weekend when that section gets pretty heavy usage. If you sandbar camp, try to get a foot or so above river level. The river won’t rise more than an inch an hour, though there is a dam just upstream from Sauk that can release and cause some worry if you camp lower on that stretch of river. Unique to that river in my experience, is under rising water conditions you’ll see little rafts of sand lifted by surface tension in the shallows. Its a tip off that the river’s rising. Its a big 90+ mile beach with a river flowing through it. Beware of poison ivy on the wooded edges on islands, there’s lots of it, often encountered while looking for firewood in the gathering dusk. Currently there’s construction on the hwy 23 bridge in Spring Green that forces all river traffic into a buoyed channel. If you take out at Spring Green, try the “stinky burger” (blue cheese) at Shifflet’s, a short distance downstream from the hwy 23 bridge. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin is right there as well, and if the gathering ban is lifted, there’s American Players Theater just across the road from Tower Hill SP… Not many places where you can top off a canoe trip with a live Shakespeare play…

You might also want to look into the Fox River in Illinois from about Yorkville (Rt 47) to Wedron. There is (or at least was) a pretty good paddler’s guide to Northern Illinois that might help you decide on trip details. Check with the libraries. There’s now a small white water park at Yorkville (Marge Klien) that might be fun for you to try out. I haven’t been on that river in over a decade and perhaps there’s been development on it - I just don’t know, check a more current guidebook - but it used to be pretty nice for a mid western river and would be several hours closer for you. The islands are mostly privately owned but unoccupied and when I was a kid we never had any problems camping on them, assuming you don’t attract attention by making a huge bonfire or get loud and rowdy. Below the dam at Dayton you’ll be in Asian jumping carp territory and motor boat traffic from the Illinois River might be a problem. And there be mud on that river…

Pere Marquette. National Forest, twisty - keeps you busy, several primitive sites.

I’ll second the sugar creek suggestion but I’m not sure the camping is as primitive as you want. Save some time to hike around. Very pretty area but it can feel a little busy.

The whitewater river in Southern Indiana (Connersville/Brookville) is set up much like the Little Miami (OH). You could boat to one of the livery campgrounds and then continue on the next day. Several rivers in Iowa would fit the bill, Wapsipinicon and Upper Iowa, but you are over 6 hours away driving time.

Not actually in the Midwest, but 5.5 hours drive east of Angola, IN, is Tionesta Creek in the Allegheny National Forest in NW Pennsylvania. I’ve canoed and camped along it several times (last time was the run from Kelletville) and there are numerous islands in the river suitable for camping.

Here’s a link to a photographer’s report on a 2 day trip down the creek: Two Days Down the Tionesta - Ron Lutz II ~ Photographer