Wabash River

For more up-to-date maps and additional information on the Wabash River, please visit the Wabash Heritage Corridor Commission Web site.

The Wabash has always been Indiana's most famous river. Occupying the heartland of the state, the river drains two-thirds of the 92 counties as it flows over 475 miles to its confluence with the Ohio below Mount Vernon. The river rises in Ohio near Fort Recovery and flows for only thirty miles before it becomes entirely an Indiana River.

It is a river of many faces and moods. At times it occupies a huge valley which was carved by a glacial runoff but it also flows through a partially filled valley formed before the glacial advances. In its upper stretches the Wabash moves across the fertile, flat land in a narrow, shallow trench.

The Indians had called it the Wah-Bah Shik-Ki which meant "pure white." When the French arrived they corrupted the word be calling it "Ouabache" and eventually of course, the settlers anglicized the word by spelling it "Wabash." But it was the Indians who first occupied the banks of the Wabash and many important villages were located along its length. French explorers, missionaries and fur traders were the first white men to arrive on the scene and the Wabash soon became the great trade route linking the lower Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. Much of the struggle for control of the New World by the French and British took place along the Wabash and later it was the scene of George Rogers Clark's surprise defeat of the British which eliminated the British hold on the Northwest Territory. The elimination of the British left the pioneer Hoosiers with only the Indians to contend with. In 1811, Governor William Henry Harrison and his army defeated Tecumseh at the Battle of Tippecanoe near Lafayette. This victory which should later launch the campaign slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too" probably propelled Harrison to the Presidency.

The river was not only the site of war and bloodshed, it was also a center of learning and social advance. This "civilizing" influence was epitomized by the Rappites, a religious group that formed a communal colony at New Harmony on the lower Wabash. Their experiment lasted 10 years until they sold their holdings to Robert Owen who initiated another communal colony which was based upon education and science rather than religion. Owen's work at New Harmony was short-lived but led to the birth of the Geological Survey and the concept of free public schools.

Of course, the Wabash's greatest contribution to the growth of Indiana was its role as a vital transportation link. When the river proved to be too unreliable, the Wabash-Erie Canal, America's longest, was built along the river. Soon after completion the coming of the locomotive in 1865 resulted in the doom of the canal. It left a long lasting heritage however, in the diverse ethnic groups who came to work on the canal and then stayed to settle in the valley. The "canal towns" which developed soon became industrialized and their focus changed from the transportation of goods to the production of goods.

A little known fact is that during the early 1900s the Wabash and the city of Vincennes in particular was a center of pearling activity. Mussels in the river were gathered in huge quantities to be used in the manufacture of buttons from the shells. Finding pearls in the mussels set off an unprecedented rush of activity. Most were imperfect and of little value but occasionally pearls in the $700 to $4,000 class were found.

A trip down any other river in the state will not give as complete a view of Indiana as the Wabash. You will not experience a pristine natural environment (except in isolated sections) but you will see Indiana today and a glimpse of the past. The river is usually muddy and slow moving as it drains much of Indiana's fertile farmland. This factor alone should not deter you from trying the Wabash. The upper end of the Wabash is very shallow with numerous log jams clogging the river and making navigation of the river tiring in all but high water (and then it may be dangerous).

Huntington Dam to Andrews

Put in below the dam on the left bank (south side) at Arrowhead North Recreation Area. Parking is available. This 10 mile run should take 4 to 5 hours. Watch for a low dam about 2 miles downstream. The best portage is on the right bank (north side). Some small islands, and heavy riffles are found as the tree lined Wabash flows northwest. About 3 miles below the small dam the Little River enters from the east. The area is known as "The Forks of the Wabash". The Wabash and Erie Canal followed the Wabash from this point on south and west. Remains of the old canal are visible in places. Good fishing (bass and catfish) is found west of the State Road 9 bridge. Take out at Andrews on the left bank (south side) about 1,000 feet before passing under the bridge. A high bank makes take-out a little difficult. A short trail goes up to the river road. To Andrews by car, from the Huntington Dam, go north on S.R. 5 to U.S. 224 and into Huntington. Take U.S. 24 west to S.R. 105 turn south, cross the bridge and take the first road east, about 1,000 feet, to the take-out.

Wabash River Map 

Andrews to Wabash

The float to Wabash should take about 7 to 8 hours for the 14 mile trip, depending on the time spent sightseeing. The put-in site at Andrews is described in the previous section. The Wabash flows south and west from this point. Several small islands offer interesting canoeing in this stretch of the river. Watch for a prominent landmark, Hanging Rock, on the south side, about 6.5 miles below Andrews. One half mile below Hanging Rock the Salamonie River flows into the Wabash from the south. Another half mile downstream is the small canal town of Lagro. A well-preserved canal lock can be seen in the canal park about 3 blocks from the landing under the bridge. A rocky passage may challenge the canoeist just below the bridge. Take out at the access site in Wabash on the north side of the river three blocks west of the S.R. 15 bridge. By car from Andrews, follow U.S. 24 to Wabash. Turn left on S.R. 13 into town. go south through town and turn west just before crossing the S.R.'s 13 and 15 bridge.

Wabash to Peru

From the city of Wabash to Peru is a distance of about 15 miles by water which should take approximately 6 hours to navigate. The water is usually slow-moving and makes an easy float for the novice. The tree-lined banks are quite scenic and fishing is mainly confined to channel catfish, smallmouth bass and rock bass. The Mississinewa River is a major tributary entering the Wabash from the south. A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dam has created a large reservoir on the river and the State of Indiana operates facilities for camping, boating, fishing, hunting and hiking. Begin your canoe trip by putting in at the launching site located on the north side of the river three blocks west of S.R. 15 in Wabash. Take U.S. 24 west from Wabash to Peru. In Peru turn left (south) on Wayne Street and continue to the river. The take-out site is at the Wayne Street Bridge on the north bank of the river and the east side of the bridge. There is a power generating station there and ample parking area is available. If a shorter trip is desired you can cut the trip in half by utilizing a rest area at Rich Valley; watch for it on the north side of the river about 1 mile below the first bridge out of Wabash.

Wabash River Map 2

Peru to Logansport

Continuing down the Wabash from Peru to Logansport should take about 7 hours and will take you another 15 miles down the river. The character of the river is very similar to the previous section and the only hazards to watch for will be submerged rocks during low water. There are no state-owned recreation facilities nearby. Put in above the Wayne Street Bridge in Peru (northeast side). You will pass under the U.S. 31 bridge in about 1.5 hours. By car, continue on U.S. 24 to Logansport and locate 18th Street. Take out on the southeast side of the 18th Street Bridge in Logansport (the first bridge you will come to in Logansport). Parking is limited along the road.

Wabash River Map 3

Logansport to Pittsburg

It is about 20 river miles from Logansport to Pittsburg and you should allow about seven hours to make the trip. Here again the Wabash is a wide, slow-moving, meandering river which seldom clears. The banks are tree covered with cropped fields beyond. Game fish species present include smallmouth bass, sauger, rock bass and catfish (channel, blue and flathead). Put in at the previously mentioned 18th Street bridge in Logansport. To reach the take-out by car take State Road 25 south from Logansport. At State Road 421 turn right and proceed to Pittsburg.

Take out on the southeast corner of the U.S. 421 bridge. This is not a very good access point because of the steep bank and inadequate space for parking but there are no other public areas available.

Pittsburg to Lafayette

During the trip to from Pittsburg to Lafayette the river becomes wider and in places is nearly 150 yards across. The 18-mile trip will take 7 hours and if you care to fish, bass fishing is good at the confluence of Deer Creek and the Wabash. Take out at Mascouten park in West Lafayette located on the west bank of the river about one mile downstream from the U.S. 52 bridge. To reach the take-out by car go east on S.R. 18 to S.R. 25 until you reach U.S. 52, turn right (west) and cross the river to S.R. 43, and turn left (south) and watch for Mascouten Park on your left. There is a large parking lot and cement ramp at the Park. A public access is also located on the left (east) bank at Davis Ferry Park. See Tippecanoe River (lower segment) for direction.

Lafayette to Attica

This float is about 23 miles in length and should take about 7.5 hours. Putting in at Mascouten Park, drive south on S.R. 43 to S.R. 25. Proceed south on S.R. 25 and then turn west on S.R. 28. Take State Road 28 to U.S. 41 in Attica. Go north on 41 and just before the bridge take a left on Market Street then a right on Jackson to the river.

Attica to Covington

The trip from Attica to Covington is about 20 miles by water and will take about 6 hours to float. Launch at Attica at the U.S. 41 bridge and take out at the launch ramp in Covington. Take U.S. 41 south from Attica to Veedersburg then take U.S. 136 west to Covington. To reach the ramp, go to the north side of the Court House square in Covington and go west about 3 blocks to the river.

Wabash River Map 4

Covington to State Road 234

This float should take about 6 hours if launching from the ramp in Covington and taking out at the State Road 234 bridge. To reach the take-out go west on U.S. 136 from Covington to State Road 63. Turn left (south) on S.R. 63 and cross I-74 and State Road 32 before intersecting with State Road 234. Turn left (east) on S.R. 234 and proceed to the Wabash bridge. This is not a developed access site but you should be able to take out on the southwest side of the bridge.

Wabash River Map 5

State Road 234 to Montezuma

This float should take about 6 hours to complete as you travel approximately 15 miles by water. Use the southwest side of the S.R. 234 bridge to get to the river. Two of Indiana's most beautiful streams enter the Wabash through this section (Coal Creek and Sugar Creek). Take S.R. 234 to S.R. 63 and turn left or south and continue to U.S. 36, then turn left (east) to Montezuma. To reach the take-out in Montezuma, go one block east of the Wabash bridge (U.S. 36) then go south three blocks to the ramp at the city park along the river. By river, watch for the park on your left after passing under the U.S. 36 bridge.

Montezuma to Terre Haute

This trip is about 22 miles in length and you should allow yourself about 6.5 hours floating time. Dominant fish species through this section include carp, quillback, catfish, gar and sturgeon. The park in Montezuma has plenty of parking space and a boat launching ramp. To reach the take-out point by car go west on U.S. 36 to S.R. 63, then take S.R. 63 south to U.S. 40. Fairbanks Park approximately one block south of U.S. 40 on the river is the best take-out point. There is adequate parking near the new boat ramp at Fairbanks Park. Watch for signs to the boat ramp in the park. If a shorter trip is desired, you can take out in Clinton at Waterfront Park located at Water and Blackman Streets.

Terre Haute to Darwin, Illinois

This 20-mile section, like most of the lower Wabash, is not very scenic with mostly tilled land on either bank and a wide muddy flow. Put in at the new boat ramp at Fairbanks Park in Terre Haute and take-out at the Darwin Ferry ramp on the Indiana side. To reach the take-out site from Terre Haute go south on S.R. 63 approximately 5.5 miles beyond Prairieton to County Road 141 or the Darwin Ferry Road. Continue to the end then turn left and continue south then west as the road turns to the river where the ferry crosses to Darwin.

Darwin, Illinois to Hutsonville, Illinois

This 16-mile section should take about 4.5 hours on the river. Put in at the Darwin Ferry ramp as described above and take out at the State Road 154 bridge in Hutsonville. To reach the take-out return to State Road 63 and proceed south to S.R. 154 then turn right (west) and continue to the bridge.

Hutsonville, Illinois to Russellville, Illinois

This trip is 29 miles long, necessitated by a lack of good access sites. Put-in at the S.R. 54 bridge in Hutsonville, Illinois and take-out at the public launching ramp in Russellville, Illinois where there is also adequate parking. If a shorter trip is desired you can take out at the ramp at Merom, Indiana along S.R. 63. The car shuttle from Hutsonville should head west on S.R. 154 then turn left (south) on S.R. 1 in Illinois and continue to S.R. 33 then go southeast to Russellville. A public access site is also located in the town of Merom on Bluff Road.

Wabash River Map 6

Russelville to Vincennes

This section terminates at Vincennes near the George Rogers Clark National memorial, a facility you will not want to miss. The trip only takes three and one-half hours and covers about 14 miles by water. Put in at the launch ramp in Russellville and take Illinois route 33 south to old U.S. 50 and proceed left on U.S. 50 to the Clark Memorial Bridge. The launch ramp is under the bridge on the Illinois side of the river (north side of bridge). There are camping facilities in Vincennes at Kimmell Park.

Vincennes to St. Francisville, Illinois

Put in at the ramp located on the Illinois side of the river under the U.S. 50 bridge. To reach the take-out by car, cross back over the state line to Vincennes and take County Road 725 W south out of town to 750 W and continue south to 950 S where you will turn west and proceed to the water where you can take out with some difficulty. This trip is about 10 miles in length. If you would like a longer trip you can double the length by taking out at the bridge in Patton, Illinois.

Wabash River 7

St. Francisville, Illinois to Mt. Carmel

From St. Francisville to Mt. Carmel allow about 4.5 to 5 hours to make the trip. You will pass by the mouth of White River on your left and about 1.5 more miles downstream you will come to the Mt. Carmel bridge. Take out on the right side at the access about 100 yards upstream from the bridge. By car, take State Road 1 in Illinois to Mt. Carmel and turn left at State Road 64 then right at the dirt road at the beginning of the bridge, winding under the bridge to the access site.

From this point south there are few places to get to the river to facilitate a one-day trip. Therefore, we have terminated trip discussions at this point.