In what most folks think of as the 'flatlands' in Indiana, northwest of Indianapolis, this run has considerable merit for its play potential and its scenery.
The run begins less than a mile southeast of Rainsville, where a gravel 'ford' (to cross thru the river at low water) exists. The creek is quite uniformly wide, and trips across a bedrock base in the next quarter-mile to create numerous playable waves. In general there is a lack of eddy service, so most features tend to be catch-on-the-fly, one-shot play, or a fight to regain, or a carry-up to re-play.
After the opening sequence, a few more playable waves (strung out a bit more than the first series) lead to S-curve. The river turns left, where it encounters a bedrock ledge extending at least halfway across the stream from river-right. At low water (under 2.5') the ledge will be dry, funneling all the water to the left, creating a playable wave/hole followed by good current through the large pool below, heading toward a wall of rock (the left bank) where it is diverted back to the right to proceed downstream. At high water (somewhere above 4'?) water will pour over the ledge on river right to create a potentially nasty, uniform hole. Beware!
The gradient then dies down for an extremely scenic float until the next features. The stream is regularly flanked on one or both sides by rocky bluffs (I believe mostly sandstone and shale). The presence of mostly deciduous trees make this an extraordinarily beautiful reach to paddle in fall.
Eventually one encounters a few more playable features in the lower stretch. The best of these are All Day Wave and Hawaii 5-0.
Many local boaters just do the initial 0.6 mile of river as a 'park-and-play', carrying up the country road which parallels this part of the river. However, the scenery of the rest of the run and the good eddy service for the playspots on the lower river make it worthwhile to do the full run.
Additionally, at the take-out at Twin Bridge, a side stream (Fall Creek) flows through a Nature Conservancy preserve. It has cut a very interesting gorge filled with potholes in the bedrock, and makes an enjoyable side hike at the end of your trip.Note: While it may appear tempting (if it has enough water) to carry up and boat this reach, be aware that all the best legal opinion suggests it is illegal to do so. There is a specific 'no swimming or wading' provision in force (subject to a fine, reportedly $90 per violation), as well as the fact that the stream is deemed "not navigable" according to state law.
For more information, check out the Natural Resources Commission - Navigability webpage.
Additional information about The Nature Conservancy, and this preserve, can be obtained at Nature.org, or by Email: Indiana@tnc.org.
The following slide-show presentation (of an April 2007 outing, from 'BoilerBlues', via YouTube) gives a fine feel for the features and the beauty of the run.
The put-in is at a 'ford' (low-water crossing) in the river. Immediately the boater encounters a fine series of ledges, waves, and holes. Many are playable (at good flows), but few have any eddy service, meaning most will be 'catch-on-the-fly', 'one-and-done' play. Not a problem, because the next wave/hole is always just downstream.
At most levels, this is the biggest and best playable feature on the run. A bedrock ridge extends from the right shore. At low-to-moderate flows, it diverts all water into a couple good waves and a wave/hole. Downstream current pushes through a large eddy and heads into the river-left wall/bank. At higher flows, water will spill over the ledge, and may form a bigger wave/hole.
A bedrock ledge/intrusion creates a sweet wave here. Boaters exclaim "You could surf all day on this," hence the name.
At high water, this area contains some wild wonderful waves.
Kayaked the full run from rocky ford to the bridge on 5/2/20. Level was somewhere in the 400-500cfs range on the USGS gage. It was scrapey in some places but overall very runnable. The first mile or so is the best part, some good surfing to be had at S-turn. Very pretty and relaxing float down the rest of the river with a few play spots and rapids scattered throughout the run.
On 1/22/2017, 12.1 ft/1940 cfs at Pine Village was just over 4' on Rainsville Bridge. A correlation from Ed R. Pine V. = Rainsville Br. (ft = ft): 13' = 4.5'; 12' = 4'; 11' = 3'; 10' = 2'.5'; 9' = 1.75 to 2.0'; 8' = 1'; 7' = 0.5'
Correlation to old gauge:
I ran this 5/10/14 (@173 cfs) out of desperation for some swift water, being based out of the flatlands of Champaign, IL. Just ran a 'PnP' from the twin bridges take-out and attained a 1/4 mile or so until the last three sets of ledges, there was just enough water to dig a blade in and ferry across the little waves. With the beautiful weather it was certainly worth the drive! Especially if you were coaching a beginner or for someone like me trying to get comfortable with eddy turns and ferrying in an open boat (recently traded in my LL playboat for a canoe when I moved to Illinois). The last ledge I was able to surf with my dagger impulse! This was the bare minimum level, but I'd go back at 200 cfs for sure. Looking for new paddlers to meet up with since I'm new to the area, let me know if anyone's going there in the future! Taylor.firstname.lastname@example.org
The lower WW section of the Big Pine from the Harrison Bridge (Below the confluence of the Mud Pine and Big Pine) to Twin Bridges, can be run at much lower levels than the Rocky Ford S-curve section. Down to around 200cfs on the Vermillion gage. It offer some fun class 1 Rapids and ledges with good easy surfing and is a very scenic paddle. In fact this section is excelent when the upper section is getting too low to run. Around 0.5? on the Chuck Weis (Rainsville Bridge) gage.
10 years ago
As of January, 2015, a USGS gauge now lies not far upstream of our put-in, giving very accurate info for this section. We are leaving the following info in place in case the gauge is only exists for a short time. (Often gauges are emplaced only to gather data for a few years, then go unfunded.)
The best indicator is to watch weather patterns, 'live' weather radar, and rainfall totals for the LaFayette, IN area. A boater's gauge is painted on the downstream end of the middle bridge pier in Rainsville. When there is rain there, the Hoosier Canoe Club Message Board has a board where actual readings of the painted gauge are posted. Some boaters report reasonable runs (and fun) at readings of 6" (usually skipping the first half-mile or so, which will be very boney). A reading of 1' gives a more enjoyable float trip with decent (tame) play possible. Two feet makes pretty good play, 3' is sweet. Above that is great, but gets pushy, and some of the features on the lower part of the run wash out (though some build to be very nice).
*The cited gauge is for the N.Fk.Vermilion in Illinois, which is the immediately adjacent watershed to the west of the Mud Pine / Big Pine. It is a relatively similar sized stream, and usually provides a pretty good indication of runnability here. Obviously, much will depend upon the track (and the overall width and size) of storms, so correlation is not assured. (I.E., cited gauge may imply river is too low when it may be runnable or vice versa.)
Boaters who frequent this reach have been reporting a pretty fair 'rule of thumb' is that each 1000cfs on the cited gauge equates to (roughly) a foot on the boaters gauge. Again, this correlation will not always be 100% 'on', but shouldn't be too far off most of the time.
Using this rule-of-thumb, the listed 'minimum' reflects this 6" level on the boater's gauge. While it is no doubt possible to float the stream less than this, it would be more of a bump-and-scrape swiftwater/flatwater trip than real whitewater.
The listed 'maximum' is only an indication of higher, pushier levels. Many boaters love these levels, and will look for this run to 'go purple'. In truth, with the requisite skill and knowledge of the river and the concerns any river in flood can pose, this reach should be boatable at virtually any high level.
Permits are not required for this reach.
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Rainsville Bridge Guage
S-Curve 1.5 ft 10-14-14
IN, Big Pine, Side Surfin
IN, Big Pine, Surfin the S-curve
IN, Big Pine, Rocky ford flat spin
IN, Big Pine, S-Curve
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