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Evansville’s Pigeon Creek

Monday, October 21, 2013

 

Pigeon Creek runs through the city of Evansville, Indiana to empty out into the Ohio River at around mile 793.  It makes for a nice day trip.  Today I accessed the stream by putting in from the Ohio River ramp in downtown Evansville (you’ll find that the mouth of Pigeon Creek lies only about ½ mile downstream from this point).  My intention today was simply to paddle upstream on the creek to see how far I could get, but if you don’t have your own boat I know that the Wesselman Nature Society (affiliated with Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve) offers trips on this stream (http://www.wesselmannaturesociety.org/canoe/index.php).

As you start your day in Evansville you’ll note that they have quite a nice put in amid the Riverfront/Dress Plaza complex (http://www.visitevansville.com/attractions/riverfrontdress-plaza).  This complex was completed as part of Evansville’s riverfront revitalization in the 1980’s when they refortified and re-designed their break wall, in the process making it much more recreation-friendly.  In addition to plenty of parking for both boaters and fishermen, you can also now walk or bike along a path that runs through this complex and beyond - the Riverfront Corridor Greenway Passage (http://evansvillegov.org/index.aspx?page=2102).  I know that this paved path runs a good 5 miles north and then west to Garvin Park in Evansville alongside Pigeon Creek, but they also plan to add to it so that it will eventually run about 10 miles in the other direction too – south and then east to Newburgh, Indiana. 

The break wall itself is interesting as well.   It has 3 river overlook points incorporated into it to go with placards placed at regular intervals which relate stories about the river and its history.  This spot is so popular, in fact, that they used to have hydroplane races here.  These made for a great event that was sadly curtailed and then cancelled, primarily due to the general economic malaise which resulted from the nation’s financial downturn.  I do hope they bring them back someday. 

On to the paddling…  As you get your boat in the water and start heading downstream (or Northbound from the ramp) you’ll find yourself in a stretch where the Riverfront Plaza begins to taper off to make way for the Tropicana Casino complex (formerly Casino Aztar) and then to the more industrial side of Evansville’s waterfront.  It’s in this latter section that you’ll encounter the mouth of the Pigeon Creek between Mulzer Crushed Stone (the navigation charts have it as Evansville Materials) and the Port of Evansville (pictured below).  I paddled in…

 

 

Today I would find the Pigeon Creek notable for its many bridges.  In fact, the stream itself is quite easy to spot due a red span right at its entry point.  This particular bridge looks like an out of commission railroad version (which they now use it as part of the bike path) but as you paddle in you’ll note that directly alongside it is another – a road span for Ohio Street.  Passing under these you’ll note remnants of even older bridges along the shoreline.

 

A little further on you’ll pass under a Lloyd Expressway span before you pass yet another – the Franklin Street Bridge.  I found the area around the latter to be quite interesting.  Just before you reach the spot you’ll note what looks like an ancient culvert on your right hand side and directly above that you’ll see what looks like a railing – that’s part of the recreation path I mentioned earlier.  Here you’re in the vicinity of Lamasco Park on Evansville’s near west side.  Lamasco is the name of a former town which used to comprise the west side of Evansville.  It later became part of the city.

 

 As for the Franklin Street Bridge itself, I found it notable because I couldn’t recall seeing another span with such an interesting reinforcement structure.  Look at how the beams underneath are interwoven and instead of solid metal in the beams themselves you’ll notice how there’s a pattern to them.  Also of note here is that you’ll have an unnamed stream entering on your right side.  I got in around 100 yards before it ended at some industrial buildings. 

 

…and guess what’s next???  3 more bridges!  The first two are road varieties for Delaware Street and Maryland while the third looks like an old railroad bridge.  After this point, however, you might note on a map that the more populated area of “West Side Evansville” is coming to an end, and as a consequence the bridges will begin to get a little fewer and further between from here. 

 Anyway, after these 3 bridges you’ll make a slight right curve in the stream to enter into a straightaway and it’s at the end of this straightaway that you’ll be in the area of a water intake (at the end of Dresden Street).  Here I noticed some remnants of what might have been an old docking structure and I thought that the site might make for a nice fishing spot – or perhaps a put-in point…

Then, coming up on your left hand side, you’re about to encounter what I thought was an absolutely beautiful scene at the point of another little incoming stream.  You might make it into this one around 100 yards as I did, but the beauty of this area compelled me to stop to enjoy it for a while…

 Incidentally, this was at about the same point where I was finally able to get my first decent picture of an otter (and yes, they are rather - ahem - “cute”!).  I had some time on my way back, you see, so instead of paddling I simply floated along and in so doing I was able to see a lot more wildlife – the otter below, a turtle, and many varieties of birds.

 Here, too, I began to wonder where the Wesselman Nature Preserve might be located.  I thought that it must surely be coming up and all the trees on the right side in here had me thinking that perhaps I might be near it.  Not so.  As it turned out the preserve would be much further upstream than I was thinking - about 2 miles upriver from the point at which my progress would end today. 

 Next up, you’ll meet up with a sharp right curve in the river and what’s essentially happening here is that you’re “bumping up” against the foundation for Route 66, the Diamond Expressway.  If you’re paddling in this direction you’ll find that the river hits it and then retreats, heading southward for a time.  Later, the path of the stream will revisit the expressway to pass underneath it, but in the midst of this particular curve you’ll encounter two more bridges - the Kratzville Road/Fulton Avenue Bridge and then the First Avenue Bridge.  A sign on the latter indicated that I’d come 3 miles, yet the shallow, flowing water I had to muscle my way through after this bridge really had me wondering just how much further I’d be able to get (the second picture below was taken looking back at this point.)

 From here you’ll begin to curve back to the left (or northbound) to revisit the expressway.  This is a very nice stretch of water where you’ll pass along the edge of Garvin Park, but after I paddled under the Diamond Expressway Bridge that was about the extent my progress.  No amount of muscle was going to get me through the next spot of deadfall debris/shallow water that I was to encounter.  In fact, a portage looks like it might have been an adventure.  I decided to head back.

 Here’s a point where I stopped for a rest on the way back to catch the stream from this perspective…

 …and check out this tree which looks like it wants to take a bite out of something (note the “mouth” and the “eye” that hang out over the water)…

 Here’s another pleasant scene which I thought might be nice to share…

 ..and here’s the scene that greeted my eyes when I got back to the mouth of Pigeon Creek…  Would I be able to pass back onto the Ohio?  (Note the gentleman standing amid the barges silhouetted against the sun.)

 Finally, here are some scenes of downtown Evansville and the ramp...

 

DIRECTIONS:

 

The ramp for this trip is right in downtown Evansville along the riverfront.  Just head downtown and take a southwest turn on Court Street.  It’ll take you right down to the water.  Court Street is the one between the Tropicana Hotel and Vectren Corp.