Paddling Trip on East Fork of White River from Bell Ford (Seymour) to Brownstown


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This particular Sunday was sunny and about 85 degrees, with a slight breeze. It made for a perfect day of paddling - one where you really appreciate a nice dip in the cooling water. We went in our old Grumman canoe with our dog and joined two friends, one in a kayak and one in a solo canoe. We put in at the Bell Ford Public Access Site at Seymour and paddled 17.1 miles to the Brownstown Public Access Site. (Read more about the access sites at the end of this trip report.)

We saw no other people on the water, though we did see one group of guys fishing from the riverbank. This section of the river was most impressive for two reasons. First, around almost every bend is a nice, big gravel bar that is perfect for canoe camping. Second, we saw tons of wildlife! We all saw an immature bald eagle (just getting his colors) take flight from about 100 feet away, and we saw a mature bald eagle on 2 other occasions. The second mature bald eagle swooped down about 6 feet in front of one friend and offered her quite a view. The rest of us were about 60 yards back. We saw several single herons along the way, but at one point we watched 20+ great blue herons all take flight and fly down the river together. Plus, we saw a muskrat running along the shore, large schools of fish, a doe with two fawns all bounding away from the riverbank, and plenty of deer and raccoon tracks. We saw one small turtle sitting on a log, and our dog scared up (and left unharmed) another turtle at one of our gravel bar rest stops. An amazing sight was when a kingfisher stopped and hovered in the air, took a dive toward the river, then stopped and hovered again, then took a final dive almost into the water before bailing and flying away. We also heard the tail slap of a beaver, and heard the hoot of an owl.

Unfortunately, we also saw a fair amount of trash along the river, including a shopping cart, 2 refrigerators, 6 tires, a metal culvert, a half-buried chair, a metal 55-gallon drum, and a plastic 55-gallon drum. We didn't see any places where people had used cars, etc. as bank stabilization, though there were many stretches of riverbank with large slabs of concrete and rip-rap used to keep the bank from further eroding. We did also encounter one nice gravel bar that had been completely trashed with empty food bags and bottles, broken camping chairs, dead fish, and more.

The water level was about 450 cfs (or about 3.04 feet) according to the Seymour gauging station. (The hand-marked water level gage on the Ewing Road bridge we passed also showed about 3 feet of depth.) While the river appeared low, there was visible nice flow. We were able to paddle the entire day without having to get out and pull our boats (except once when we were talking and not paying attention to where the channel was). There was enough depth for a canoe or kayak, though perhaps not enough for a motor boat. We completed the 17.1 mile trip in about 8 hours. That included fairly steady (but not hard) paddling, a leisurely lunch break, and a few other breaks to stretch and cool off in the river.

The Bell Ford PAS is located on SR 258, a few miles west of Seymour. It is on the north side of the road and the east side of the river. From the river, the access site is upstream of the SR 258 bridge on the left bank. It is just past the pilings from an old covered bridge that fell in the river several years ago.

The Brownstown PAS (also a public fishing area with access to a couple small lakes) is on US 50 a few miles west of Brownstown. It is on the south side of the bridge and the east side of the river. From the river, the access site is just downstream of the US 50 bridge on the left bank. The concrete ramp points downstream, so you almost don't see until you're next to it.

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Outdoor Resources:
Other Information: - Indiana's Online Outdoor Recreation Guide