Guide to Canoeing at Turkey Run State Park
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by Kristin Young | Updated On: June 14, 2020
Canoeing at Turkey Run is a can’t miss activity at the park and one of the most popular canoe trips in Indiana. There are several options for canoe trips with scenic cliffs and views of some of Indiana’s famous covered bridges. With plenty of hiking and exploring in the area, it’s a great spot for a family getaway.
Turkey Run Canoe Rental Options
If you’re interested in Turkey Run canoeing, there are 4 options for local rentals. But, keep in mind, that only 2 of the options, Sugar Valley Canoes and Turkey Run Canoe & Camping, are in the immediate vicinity. The other 2 companies are located upstream, requiring a bit more driving. Three of the 4 companies offer canoe trips through Turkey Run, with the other having trips in the vicinity.
This is the company that we went with, as they were the closest to the entrance of the state park, where we were staying, and they offered a 3 mile trip leaving every half hour.
Also a great choice, they were just a tiny bit further down the road from the inn at the state park, and only leave on the hour, so that’s why we opted for Sugar Valley. However, both were highly recommended by the staff at the Turkey Run State Park Inn.
Located a 20 minute drive from Turkey Run State Park, they weren’t really an option for us. The only trips they offer going through Turkey Run are the 15 mile and overnight trips, which weren’t right for our family. However, if you have several days in the area, or are returning, they have plenty of alternative canoe routes that might interest you.
Although commonly listed as an option for canoeing at Turkey Run State Park, none of their trips actually go through Turkey Run. They do however, offer 3, 5, and 11 mile trips on sugar creek, north of Turkey Run and are a good alternative option for nearby canoeing in Indiana.
Where to Stay: Check our Guide to the Best Turkey Run Cabins.
Check out our top pick, the Turkey Run Inn. They offer cabins and hotel rooms, a pool, game room, fire pit, playground, and they are the only lodging option located directly on the hiking trails- no packing and driving!
Turkey Run Canoe Trips
If you want Turkey Run State Park canoeing, and not just canoe trips nearby, you’ll have a few options for both day trips and overnight trips. It can get confusing, as not all of the trips go through the state park. Although you can bring your own canoe, many people look for a Turkey Run State Park canoe rental, and these are the trips that are offered. Entry and exit points are marked in blue, points of interest are in red, and state parks are marked in green.
*Always make sure to call ahead and check that your desired trip is available. The options all depend on the current water level, and can change from day to day.*
3 mile Narrows to Cox Ford Bridge– Offered by Sugar Valley Canoes and Turkey Run Canoe & Camping
- This is the route we chose, and what our review is based on
This route is the perfect route for a short day trip- which is what we were looking for with 2 small kids. Just as we were nearing the end of the trip, the boys started to get restless. However, if the kids were a bit older, or if it was an adults only trip, this route would have seemed a bit too short.
Sugar Valley: $20 per canoe; $5 per extra person
Turkey Run Canoe: $21 per canoe; $5 per extra person
Sugar Valley: every half hour
Turkey Run Canoe: every hour
10 mile Narrows to Jackson Bridge– Offered by Sugar Valley Canoes
Running first through Turkey Run State Park, this is an extension of the 3 mile trip that will take you past a third covered bridge.
Sugar Valley: $28 per canoe; $5 per extra person
Sugar Valley: 9a.m., 10a.m., & 11a.m.
15 mile Deers Mill Bridge to Cox Ford Bridge– offered by Turkey Run Canoe & Camping, Sugar Valley Canoes, and Clements Canoes
On this route, you will start by canoeing through Shades State Park and make your way down through Turkey Run State park. If you have the time, and kids that don’t mind an all day canoe ride, this is a great option.
Sugar Valley: $34 per canoe; $5 per extra person
Turkey Run Canoe: $31 per canoe; $5 per extra person
Clements: $45 per canoe; $6 per extra person
Sugar Valley: 9a.m. & 10 a.m.
Turkey Run Canoe: 9a.m. & 10 a.m.
Clements: 8, 8:30, 9, 9:30, 10, 10:30 am
Clements Canoes offers 20, 25, and 30 mile options, all running through both Shades State Park and Turkey Run State Park, with the overnight spent at Canyon Campground.
Canoeing Turkey Run Experience
We chose the shortest of the Sugar Valley canoe trips, the 3 mile scenic trip through Turkey Run. When we were there, the water was pretty low, so some of the longer trips were not an option. Plus, we were taking our 2 year old and 5 year old, so 3 miles, which is supposed to take between 1 ½ and 3 hours seemed like the perfect amount of time.
We were there on a Sunday toward the end of the season, so we were able to jump on the next bus leaving without any problems. However, when we drove past the parking lot on Saturday, it was packed. So for mid-summer and Saturdays, it would be best to make a reservation if you have your heart set on a canoe trip. Check in was quick and easy, and for $30($20 for 2 adults and the canoe plus $5 per child), we grabbed life jackets and cushions and were off on the bus.
After a short ride, we walked 100 yards or so down a hill to the narrows launch site. There was a group of young boys there to assist, but for the most part everyone simply picked some paddles and a canoe and took off.
As you round the first bend, you’ll see the Narrows Bridge, which is the first of the two covered bridges on the 3 mile trip.
Although there are plenty of signs saying no swimming in sugar creek, we stopped to let the boys out to wade in the water. We figured the signs meant no swimming near the bridges, since that’s where they were usually posted. But, I checked with the Turkey Run park office, and no, swimming is not allowed at all. If caught swimming or even wading in the water without waders on, you can be ticketed. That seems a bit confusing, as they do allow tubers, but apparently tubing is okay as long as you remain in your tube. You will see plenty of rule breakers- yikes- apparently that was us- but those are the rules.
Canoeing through the main crossing at the state park, you’ll go under the suspension bridge and see people hiking, and even- gasp- splashing in the water!
After the bridge, on the left you’ll pass the tall rocky overlook located behind the inn.
Bring some snacks, and grab an extra cushion for the kids to relax and nap along the way.
Finally, you’ll arrive at Cox Ford Bridge, which is the exit point. Just after the bridge, you’ll canoe over to a set of stairs where you drag your canoe up to the vehicles waiting to haul them back up the creek. Shuttle buses arrive every half hour from Sugar Valley Canoes, but we didn’t have to wait at all.
Although the water was low enough when we were there that we considered not going for fear of portaging the whole trip, we only needed a small push twice. They say the trip should take 1 ½ hours, but they allow you up to 3 hours. With little current, we feared that it would be a slow trip, so we probably paddled a bit too much and finished in just over an hour. Andrew and I would have liked a bit more of a trip, but the boys were just starting to get restless, so it ended up being about the perfect length.