Row, row, row your boat gently down the river… plan for a family adventure when you rent a canoe with the White River Canoe Company. Or, set out for a super adventurous Indy date. Every day is the perfect day to try something new together; especially with social distancing becoming the new normal.
About White River Canoe Company
Reservations are highly recommended and in the peak season/peak days most spots will sell out. Head to www.whiterivercanoe.com to find all the specifics and use the “book online” link for a variety of trip options. Their most popular canoe trip, especially with kids, is RUSTY OAR to River Road livery. This trip is suggested to take 2-3 hours. Depending on skill level of rowers, stops along the way, and river current times may be shorter or longer. First time canoers (or those who haven’t rowed in a while) may want to watch some videos or do some research on how to steer and paddle with your boat mate BEFORE your trip. Communication is very important and being able to effectively work together will make for a very pleasant trip.
Arrival and Check-in
When you first arrive at the check in booth at 17180 River Road they will verify your reservation and confirm you have signed their wavers. It is highly suggested to sign the waivers ahead of time to save you time checking in and to avoid the paper waiver fee. Once you have completed the check in process, which should take less than five minutes, you will be directed to drive down the hill towards the river to park. You will show your order form to the super helpful staff at the red barn and they will direct you to the life jackets and let you know when you should expect your shuttle bus (a school bus). Make sure you listen for the name of your route as not all buses are going to the same place. For the 2-3 hour canoe trip you are going to want the Rusty Oar bus. While you are waiting, find a life jacket that fits best. Most of the jackets hanging are adult sizes but the smaller sizes are 50 lbs and up. They do have a few life jackets for the 30-50 lb range but they are in the red barn and you will have to ask for one. If your child is less than 30 lbs you need to bring your own and it must have the strap that goes between the legs and clips into place. All guests under the age of thirteen must wear a life jacket at all times while on the water. The livery has a bonfire and plenty of picnic tables in the shade to relax at while you await your shuttle bus. They also have port-a-pottys to use as needed.
Once you are on the shuttle bus you will ride about twenty minutes north to the Rusty Oar launch site. Here you will again find very helpful team members to assist you with getting the right canoe, your paddles, and they even help you get in the canoe and will push you off into the river if needed.
Canoeing with Kids
When canoeing with kids you are going to want to pack ALL. THE. SNACKS. Also, pack anything that may keep them occupied for at least a couple hours while sitting very still and not leaning over the side of the canoe. Books would be a good thought but will probably get wet. Plastic bathtub books might work but are usually made for toddlers and probably won’t keep older kids occupied very long. Bubbles are a fantastic idea and delight others on the water as well. Tie a toy boat to a cord and let the kids drag it along aside the canoe. Grab some binoculars so you can see the wildlife along the shore better. Barbie dolls, action figures and any other plastic toy will be fun to pull out when the snacks are gone and the other entertainment has exceeded its use.
What to Bring
Do not forget the water bottles. Hydration will be very important with hot and humid weather. Bring a small cooler that can hold fresh fruit and string cheese or anything else your family likes to munch on that will need to stay cool. It will also benefit you to keep a cooler with cold water in the car ready for you when you get back to the livery.
Besides food, water, and entertainment you will also want to pack sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses. Wear shoes that you don’t mind getting wet and will provide traction on slick rocks and rugged trails. A wet bag or plastic zip-lock will be helpful when trying to keep your phone and car keys dry. Leave a towel in the car to help dry yourself off or maybe even a change of clothes.
What You’ll See
About half way into your trip you will come to Potter’s Bridge Park. This is a great place to dock the canoe and stretch your legs. Pull the canoe up onto the shore far enough that it will not float away. You can leave your paddles there but you will want to take your personal belongings with you. Potter’s Bridge Park has a great shady playground, bathrooms, a water fountain and lots of trails and shade. Stretch those legs and let the littles run around a bit.
Once you push off into the river again you will notice a few places that you can pull off to the edge and let the kids investigate. You may find shells, minnow and frogs or just a small patch of land to explore. Along your trip you will see beautiful landscapes, old bridges, and plenty of other folks on the water. People on the water are usually very helpful. It is a good idea to follow them as many are seasoned river navigators. They may move around a shallow area or know where the hazards are. And if you get stuck or cannot figure out how to maneuver your canoe away from fallen tree limbs these fellow drifters will be very helpful.
When you arrive back at the livery you will pull your canoe up to the shore, toss your paddles in the pile at the top of the stairs, and return your life jacket to its hanging position under the trees (or to the red barn for the little ones). And that’s it. You are free to hang out and dry off a bit, snack some more, or head on to your next adventure.
The best way to go into this is with a positive mindset and with the knowledge that this is an adventure. This is something the kids have not done before and seeing the world from the water can be intimidating yet exciting. Even if they are nervous remind them that this canoe trip will not last forever and they should try to soak all the goodness of nature in. They are certain to have a great time. For another family friendly option on the White River consider a Summer River Tube Float. Don’t limit your experience to the summer months; floating the river is beautiful in all seasons and the White River Canoe Company can assist you with all your river trekking needs from April through October.