By Jane Ammeson
Considered the River of Lakes, the Tippecanoe River, fed by 88 natural lakes, flows through Pulaski County past woodlands, pastures and charming villages and towns.
“The Tippecanoe is one of the top-10 most important freshwater systems in North America,” Krysten Hinkle, Project Coordinator for the Pulaski County Community Development Commission, tells me.
Indeed, I remember the Tippecanoe River when I attended a Girl Scout camp situated near the riverbank just miles from Winamac, the county seat. Of course, my memories are mixed because, sneaking out of our cabins one night, we attempted to swing across the river and I missed my footing as the rope swung back, landing in the algae covered water instead. The plus? We never got caught and I learned to sleep in wet clothing.
But that was then. The Tippecanoe River is pristine now. As Hinkle explains, through a long effort of reclamation, it’s now earned a designation from The Nature Conservancy in Rivers of Life: Critical Watersheds for Protecting Biodiversity and is considered the gold standard of streams for its biological cleanliness by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
“It’s number 10 on the conservancy list,” says Ellen Boardman, a naturalist aide for the Tippecanoe River State Park. But even more amazingly, for a 225-mile river that snakes through Northwestern Indiana and is probably most celebrated in Pulaski County, The Natural Conservancy writes on their website that the Tippecanoe River is considered by many as one of the more beautiful waterways in the nation.
“It’s really historic,” continues Boardman. “The Potawatomi Indians lived along the river and in the late 1600s the French Voyageurs traveling from Montreal, came down the river and traded with the Indians.”
Even the name Tippecanoe, which is the Miami Nation word for “buffalo fish,” reflects the area’s vast heritage.
Clear, sparkling waters coursing through a lovely bucolic setting are just one of the many attributes of Pulaski County.
16 years ago, Connie and Dave Scott decided to buy Riverside Rentals, at the time a small canoe business on the Tippecanoe.
“In the beginning we had about 30 canoes,” says Connie. “Business was good, and we bought more canoes. Then kayaks became popular and so we got kayaks. After that it was tubes. Now we have 800 to 900 tubes as well as kayaks and canoes and we’re busy throughout the season. In the summer it’s best to make reservations on the weekends to make sure you get a spot as we’re often sold out.”
Riverside Rentals offers a variety of river trips including their most popular, a 7-mile canoe/ kayak trip that takes about three to four hours, raft trips, a two-day trip with an overnight stop half way through at the Tippecanoe River State Park Canoe Campground and a five-mile tube trip. The Tippecanoe River also flows through in the Scotts’ blood. Connie lived on the river when young and Dave spent most of his life on the river.
“When he was young they used to canoe for days from Monterey on south,” says his wife.
With its clear waters, Boardman says it’s a great fishing river, teaming with small mouth bass, crappie, blue gill, sunfish—and if you’re really, really lucky, you might snag a Northern Pike. Wonderful wildlife abounds and bald eagles nest here as well. The state park offers an array of camping, cabins and a small souvenir shop that I remember from my Girl Scout days.
Now the waterway that Dave Scott followed is a designated Canoe Trail connecting Monterey in the north and traveling through the 40-acre Winamac Town Park near the town’s downtown and under the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial bridge, a suspension footbridge built in 1923 that’s dedicated to all Pulaski County war veterans.
Downtown Winamac, with its wonderful Indiana historic courthouse square and three-story Romanesque Revival style limestone courthouse dating back to 1894, has a selection of good eating places. Personally, we like One-Eyed Jack’s, in the downtown, and known for their entrees such as their prime rib with onions, green peppers and mushrooms and also such fish dishes as grilled bass, whitefish and, more uniquely and a lot harder to find on restaurant menus—lightly buttered and fried smelt served with tartar sauce. For the brave—or super hungry—there’s the One-Eyed Jack’s Titanic 2 Handed Tenderloin Challenge.
The requirements are simple but arduous. Within an hour’s time span the winner must totally consume a huge five-pound fried tenderloin sandwich and a two-pound bowl of fried tater tots. You’ll need to do a lot of kayaking to work off those calories.
Tippy’s (get it—Tippy’s/Tippecanoe), also located in the downtown, is known for their specialty pizzas such as the Fire Out in the Hole—a jalapeno-infused Italian with Louisiana hot sauce and pepper cheese or their signature pie on a crisp crust with house-made pizza sauce and a great blend of mozzarella cheese.
“We may be somewhat off the beaten path, but people love us when they discover Pulaski County’s beauty and all it has to offer,” says Hinkle. “It’s what makes us special.”
For more information visit simplypulaski.com.