Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Life

March 5, 2014

Elkhart River offers a peaceful paddle for the willing

The recent news in Goshen included the fact that the city’s stormwater board will put up $250,000 to help pay for the dredging of the Goshen dam pond.

I wrote that story and the news had a personal and positive impact on me. You see, I have used the pond often over the years.

In years past I would launch my 16-foot johnboat at the ramp next to the dam. I bought the used boat decades ago from a guy who needed money. I needed a boat that would travel up and down rivers and over their gravel bars. The deal worked out well.

That type of shallow-draft craft is ideal for moving across the dam pond and on upstream on the Elkhart River where Turkey Creek enters the stream.

While on my trips over the years I have watched as the silt in the dam pond rose ever closer to the surface. In many places it is now just a few inches below the surface and blocks even my johnboat.

In recent years I have switched from the johnboat to using one of my two kayaks to cross the pond and go upstream. If you know the channel, it’s still possible to paddle upstream without becoming mired in mud or stuck in the vegetation. But woe will beset the wandering paddler.

The plan is to dredge the pond to 6-feet deep. That would allow Goshen families to once again ply the waters with pontoon boats and pass under the C.R. 38 bridge. Fishermen too, would be able to use their bass boats instead of being limited to rowboats, or even kayaks. I like the dredging plan. http://www.elkhartriverrestorationassociation.org

Outdoor recreation is my passion and I like to see other Goshen residents join in. A trip up the river from the dam in the spring is a joy. Ducks are winging in from the South, great blue herons are in abundance as they prepare to nest in their colony near Turkey Creek, and skunk cabbage pokes up in the marshy areas while spring peepers sing in delight.

A trip up the river in any season is scenic and restful. It’s just a short way in distance, but is far from the hectic world man has created.

So why don’t more people enjoy the river? I don’t know. It’s something I have thought much about and have never been able to find a good answer for. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elkhart_River

Thousands of people enjoy a stroll or a bike ride along the millrace, which on it’s best day is only moderately attractive. But that interest in the millrace has not spilled over into more use of the dam pond, more canoeists using the river or even public concern about the heavy metal pollution found in the river’s fishes.

Goshen has three public access sites on the Elkhart River — one at Rogers Park, one at Shanklin Park and one at Violett Cemetery. So, I suggest that for a fun and different experience during the coming months, those with canoes and kayaks, and those who are willing to rent them from the parks department or borrow a friend’s boat, take a short paddle on the river to see if it’s for them.

While I enjoy the peace and solitude found on the river, I know that in order to protect the river, the best course of action is to promote its use. More interest from the public means there will be more river advocates in the future. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LABxZrHCHrE

The Elkhart River is not something that just flows through Goshen and occasionally floods Chicago Avenue. Its an important part of the city’s and county’s history and can provide a fun day away from the office. Take a trip on it this year. You will have a great time.

Roger Schneider is city editor at The Goshen News. Follow him on Twitter at @rschneider_TGN

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