Flatrock River in Indiana

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The verbiage below was supplied by Indiana DNR's Canoe Guide. The information was last updated at least 16 years ago. Put-in points have disappeared and new ones have formed since then.

It is very important that you submit any trip reports that you have and include what the put-in and take out points look like. With your help we can build a new and improved Indiana Canoe Guide. We will revise the information below as new information presents itself.

 
If you have a favorite river, chances are that you know it best. You can adopt a river for this site, then write about it and describe the put-in points. You will get full credit and you will be doing ALL Hoosiers a big favor.

The Flatrock River originates in the rich farmland of Henry County and flows approximately eighty-eight miles before joining the Driftwood River to form the East Fork of White River at Columbus, Indiana. Once lined with mills producing essential materials for Hoosier settlers, the river now flows quietly, primarily through farmland with an almost constant narrow wooded strip paralleling the river.

The name Flatrock appears to be a misnomer since the river flows through some of the deepest and richest soils in the State. The name may have been given for the many water-powered mills whose "flat rocks" ground the white man's grain. Only one of the 30 mills that existed on the river remains today but many of the dams remain in place. There are also a number of unique and very ornate covered bridges which were built by a master bridge builder named A. M. Kennedy.

Section #1 (from St. Omer to St. Paul)

The access points were sent to me by a web viewer. They wrote:

The put-in is on Old 421 (or Michigan Rd.) at the bridge a short distance past St. Omer. The take-out is on River Road at the junction of a creek with the river (I believe it is called Conn's Creek). This is a mile or two before you get to State Rd. 9. For an average paddler, I would recommend running this section at flows of between 250 to 750 cfs on the St. Paul gauge. At this level it is a Class I-II float with small ledges and standing waves in the middle third of the run. Recent rainfall is a must, as the level drops rapidly. Above about 800 cfs some of the ledges wash out and the standing waves get quite high. The estimated paddling distance is only 7-8 miles, so it makes a nice 2-3 hr float in normal water.

The day we ran it, the river was at 1000 cfs. I have a royalex solo canoe which is quite buoyant, and the nose went under on a few of the waves. At this level a beginning paddler would have difficulty. I have run this section of the Flatrock several times, and it is one of my favorite runs in the State. Unfortunately I do not have exact shuttle directions (I just know where to go), but anyone with an Indiana Gazetteer could find it. The shuttle distance is about eight miles each way.

Section #2 (from St. Paul to Highway 9)

There is currently not much information on the river condition between St. Paul and Highway 9.

Website user Chris Harpring noted in September 2010 that there is not much parking available at the Conn's Creek Access Point (downstream from St. Paul). He further notes that you encounter a couple of dams between Geneva and the SR 252 Access Point.

Section #3 (from Highway 9 to Columbus, IN)

Four of us did this section several years ago. The river level was about 135 cfs. (I used to have to call a special number to find out the river levels back then.) We encountered 2-3 log jams and a couple of turns that could have been tricky in higher water.

A 23-mile section along its lower reaches provides a good canoe trip of moderate difficulty taking a little over seven hours canoeing time. There is very little development along this section and the banks include silver maple, box elder, sycamore, cottonwood, green ash and elms with sandbar willows predominating on the gravel bars. Fauna inhabiting the area include wood ducks, kingfishers, spotted-sandpipers, great-horned owls and fox squirrels. In September, 1974, the sighting of an osprey raised considerable interest as the presence of this species is rapidly decreasing. Fishing for suckers is usually successful and occasionally a catfish or bass is landed. There are no public picnic or campground facilities along the floated section, but these facilities can be found at Millrace Park in Columbus, south of the take-out point.

Website user Michael Roberts notes about fishing this section, "I have fished this beautiful river since 1964 and I can tell you that anyone who catches an 'occasional' bass is really not fishing. I have seen many 5 lb. smallmouth bass taken from Flatrock and know of several sections where I have caught up to 13 smallmouth and rockbass (redeye) from the same hole of water. I have had the pleasure of fishing just about every river south of Indianapolis and Flatrock is by far one of the best and most beautiful smallmouth rivers in this great state of ours."

Website user Michael Roberts further notes that just east of Highway 9, there is an excellent primitive camping area called "Flatrock Cave Campground" that is open to the public and has very cheap camping fees. Website user Mark Radford commented in August 2005 that the Flatrock Cave Campground was closed, though it may reopen in 2006.

The recommended put-in site is at the Indiana State Highway 9 bridge over Flatrock River approximately two miles north of Norristown, or about ten miles south of Shelbyville. The southeast corner is steep with large boulders, but passable with care. In addition to the two dams noted on the map, there are several log jams and rock dams which have been partially washed out. For this reason, we recommend that the river not be floated during periods of low water level. If the flow at the Saint Paul Gaging Station is below 100 cubic feet per second, several additional portage and wading treks would be necessary.

A note from IndianaOutfitters.com: The public access point at the Hwy. 9 bridge is actually very difficult. It makes for poor public access. The access point on 252 (see maps) is much better, with a nice parking lot.

The recommended take-out is at the U. S. 31 bridge near Columbus. The southeast corner of the bridge is the best path up to your car, which can be parked on the road shoulder on the east side of the river. It is possible to float on down to Millrace Park in Columbus, but this will necessitate portaging over a barbed wire fence on the right (west) side of a dam and is, therefore, not recommended.

Your car shuttle back to the put-in site should go north on U. S. 31 to Interstate 65, then north on I-65 to State Road 252. Head east on 252 to Flatrock, Indiana and continue east on the Flatrock Road to Norristown. Turn left on State Road 9 and go north to the bridge over Flatrock River, the put-in site.

Medical assistance is available in Shelbyville and Columbus.

 

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