KOSCIUSKO COUNTY — Canoeists may remember traveling down the Tippecanoe River years ago. It was an incredible experience. Wanting to share that adventure with the new generation, however, has not been possible the last 10-20 years.
Log jams have hindered easy navigation down the river. Until now.
Efforts to clear the 30 miles of Tippecanoe River in Kosciusko County, from the dam in Oswego to the Marshall County line, are almost complete.
The efforts of Gilbert Drainage & Excavating LLC and a volunteer group in removing the log jams is expected to be completed this fall. The efforts have also created a new group: Paddlers For Conservation Kayak & Canoe Club.
Coordinating the efforts is the Center for Lakes & Streams at Grace College under Dr. Nate Bosch, director, and coordinated by Amy Bloemendaal, staff member.
“From our initial survey, the largest jams were in the southern part, or downstream portion of the river. It was likely heavy equipment would be needed,” said Bosch. “The northern part could be handled by canoes with handsaws, chainsaws, winches. They would meet in Warsaw. The final part we are working on this summer.”
Bloemendaal has been coordinating the efforts. The contractor, starting in the fall of 2013, has removed 108 jams. Volunteers began work in 2015. To date they have removed 130 jams. A final work day is scheduled for Sept. 17, working from CR 300N to Hidden Lake where 35 log jams remain. By fall a total of 273 log jams should be removed.
(Note: Any one wishing to volunteer contact Ed Roberts or sign up on its website: www.p4cpaddleclub.com)
The Center for Lakes & Streams focus is in three areas: research, education and collaboration. This project is one of its many collaboration efforts.
Flooding of homes at Lake Tippecanoe, Center and Pike lakes caused by the jams was brought to the center’s attention, a source for water related issues. Some of the jams spanned the width of the river, which reaches 30 feet to 60 feet.
Bosch stated the river has been designated as one of the 10 most important rivers in the country by the Nature Conservancy. Using “nerdy” terminology this is due to its biodiversity. “The river is home to a lot of different species, and home to some endangered species which are important to protect. This was another reason to get involved,” said Bosh.
“It is amazing to be on that river. During the initial survey it felt like you are in the Amazon Rain Forest. While the plant species are different and the fish and insects are different, it looks and feels like it. The greenery, wildlife you see. You would not guess you are in agricultural Indiana … but a lot of vegetation and wildlife. It’s peaceful.”
Students at Grace College recorded the location of major jams. The center sought and received a $100,000 matching grant from the Department of Natural Resource’s Lake and River Enhancement fund in 2013. It was matched through private, corporate, property owner and lake association donations.
Support was also received from various federal, state and local government agencies.
The clearing of the jams, beneficial to those experiencing flooding, will also benefit the economics of the county. “Now there will be opportunities not there before,” said Bosch. “It is a great educational opportunity,” not afforded before “due to lack of access to the river in order to understand the value and experience the opportunity you get on the river.
“A part of the strategy is making these efforts sustainable in the future,” said Bosch. “Our best strategy is encouraging a canoe livery on the river,” said Bosch. The operators of the livery could pick away at a jam when it occurs.
“The seed has been planted. I’m really excited not only to give some relief to some of the flooding problems as well as more recreational options to residents and visitors,” said Bosch.
Bosch does stress not all jams have been removed. “We didn’t remove every single jam,” Bosch said. “The woody debris is beneficial as habitat of insects and fish, it slows the water in a natural way,” Bosch said, adding it provides a hiding place for predators, bits of food and shade.
A ribbon cutting is being discussed in the fall when the project is completed to officially declare the river open for recreational use.