Drainage area at our listed put-in is approximately 175 sq.mi. (as calculated via USGS StreamStats Beta software).
Beware of VERY unfriendly land owner down stream. We ran this at 720cfs (on the wildcat guage which by the end of the day it was 1,200) on 5-17-14 and it was a great run. (bridge has a visual guage that said 2 1/2 feet) We were driving along the road to scout before running and the land owner must have seen us drive by. At the put in, we were minding our own business and he apparently got in his black pickup truck and drove up there. He pulled up and rolled his window down to which I said hello. He asked if we were going to paddle. In short he made sure we knew he owned the land below the first dam / falls and not to step foot on his property. I said we want to be respectful to his community, him, and his property. I asked about portaging the low head dam (which is adjacent to his property) and I explained the dangers of low head dams and that I wasn't sure but thought there may be an easement immediately around the dam. He said there was no easement, and I was not about to argue with this guy. I expressed the danger to my two boys and myself that the dam presented and that I would hope he would allow us to portage and not risk my children's lives. He said "That's your problem! if you paddle down there you go over the dam" (implying he could care les about the risk... step on his land we would go to jail). I asked him very politely stating that we were trying to be good stewards and neighborly... did he have a bad experience with paddlers or why would he not allow portage. He said they were dragging their boats across his land and trampling his wives flowers. The reality is this guy has some issues and there is NO changing his mind. Regardless it is his land so as paddlers we should respect it despite him being unfriendly. I explained to him that we had no intention of paddling down to his land. He then drove off without any further words. FYI the dam is breached in the middle 1/3 so it is not 100% uniform or all the way across, so scout from bridge and use caution if you run it.
We took out above the falls, and made the run twice. We met a VERY friendly lady named Nora who had no problem with us parking at the pull off right by widowmaker rapid. In fact they put the retaining railroad ties (4x6 wood) along the road to make pulling off easier. So be respectful to them, that's our last and only spot to park. There is one more rapid downstream before the falls which we didn't run. After meeting the land owner we decided to skip it and be extra careful. Turns out you can run it and safely get out and get back on the road to walk back up to your car. at 720 cfs (on the wildcat guage, 2' on the Putin bridge) it looked as if you could paddle right up to the lower low head dam (NOT THE UPPER 16' DAM) and probably get out onto the damn, get over it, and back into your boat (dam has center opening and is higher on the sides). I don't know if that is still trespassing. I called the local DNR and asked for clarification and he said he didn't really have the answer. Best bet is to avoid the guys property or don't portage. I will not recommend running a low head dam.
The rapids above widow maker had small surfable waves and eddys. I would call the rapids above at this level still class I or II- tops. The widow maker at this lever was a legitimate class II or II+. The wave surfed more like a class III in size. Great safe wave to play. Worth the trip.
*The cited gauge is for Wildcat Creek (about 30 miles to the Southeast), which could/should provide some indication of runnability. Correlation is not assured, especially since storms generally track Southwest to Northeast, thus could hit one watershed and largely miss the other.
The 'minimum' is purely conjecture based not upon any experience, but only upon historical flows and averages. Similarly, the 'maximum' is only a theoretical guess of possible higher levels, where the run will become bigger and pushier. Many boaters will love these levels, and will look for the gauge to 'go purple'.
Refinement suggestions (regarding correlations between the boater's gauge and this USGS gauge/stage reading) are welcome from boaters with experience by using the 'Add a comment' button which should appear in the "Comments" tab if you are logged-in as a 'registered' user of the AW pages.
This is NOT the 'paddlers gauge' which area boaters refer to for water levels. The paddlers gauge is painted on an 'I'-beam (river-left, just upstream of the bridge at the put-in). Runnable down to about 1.5', decent play begins at about 2' on this gauge, and by 4' things get pretty wild. Above 5', many features are either washed-out or catch-on-the-fly, and most paddlers will likley pick other options.
The best indicator is to watch weather patterns and rainfall totals for the area, as well as the Hoosier Canoe Club Message Board, where members are likely to post levels when it is 'up'.
Pipe tends to hold it's water a tad better than other whitewater rivers in the state (notably the Big Pine). Thus, will usually be boatable for a few days longer after rains hit it's watershed.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
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Josh Struble 5-17-14 720cfs
Jacob Struble 5-17-14 720cfs
Will at low water. 1 ft.
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