WARSAW — Using a canoe dates back to a time when canoes were an essential form of transportation on waterways. Today they are primarily used for recreation and considered a relaxing, family friendly activity.
In Kosciusko County, it appears canoes are primarily found on the Tippecanoe River, said Ashlee Jackson, conservation officer with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. “I don’t see them very often on the lakes,” he said, noting kayaks, power boats and paddleboards seem to be more common on the lakes.
One way to find relief from the stresses of life is to get in a canoe and spend a few hours or even a whole day on the water. Though it takes some work to paddle a canoe, it is a very calming and relaxing activity. Canoes can be rented at a reasonable cost too.
Jackson said typically those who use canoes have a destination in mind or a trip planned. “It is more like a voyage somewhere,” he said. Canoes are often used for day or overnight trips as, for an example, part of a camping excursion. A camp will be set up at one location and the campers will then take a canoe trip and return to the camp site.
Money is not being spent on gas and canoeing is a healthy activity because it requires paddling, he added.
Canoes are typically used more on rivers, he said, “because they are easier to maneuver on a moving body of water.” More gear can be taken on a canoe, he noted, than on a kayak, but canoes are more difficult to transport.
Public access to the Tippecanoe River with a canoe is limited in Kosciusko County. There are only two official public access sites, one being west of Warsaw on Old Road 30, east of CR 350W near the Chinworth Bridge. The other site is the Mollenhour public access off SR 19, south of SR 10 between Etna Green and Mentone.
Canoes can also be launched at any of the public access sites at the numerous lakes throughout the county. There are also some county easements depending on the location.
Canoe activity on the lakes is often determined by the size of the lake, Jackson noted. It will likely occur on smaller lakes because the larger boats have to be at idle speed if they are within 200 feet of the shoreline on lakes less than 300 acres in size. Otherwise, on the larger lakes those in canoes will likely stay close to the shoreline.
Holly Hummitch, director of the Winona Lake Parks Department, said most of the people who rent canoes from the department will use them on Winona Lake. “Some will go around the perimeter of the lake and others will go down the canal and around the island,” she said. “It really depends on how busy people are. They may venture out to the middle of the lake.”
Jackson offered safety tips, most of which are of the common sense variety, but which people need to be reminded of. He said it is good to tell someone ahead of time where you plan to go, when you are leaving and when you plan to return. He noted recently a man in the South Bend area on a kayak did not let anyone know ahead of time his plan and a lot of time was spent searching for him before he was found.
Moving water is extremely powerful and if a canoe overturns, it can be a struggle to put on a life jacket. Life jackets are not required to be worn while in a canoe, but must be available on the canoe.
After dark, a portable lantern or flashlight must be turned on and be capable of being seen for 2 miles if another boat or canoe is approaching.
Traveling in pairs is highly recommended and never go alone. If a motor is put on the canoe, it must be registered.
Warsaw Parks Department offers free canoeing on select days during the summer from Pike Lake Beach. The last two days are from noon to 6 p.m. Thursday, July 11, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 27. All equipment and life vests are provided.
Canoes can be rented from Winona Lake Parks Department for $7.49 per hour or $21 per day. Call (574) 267-2310 for more information.