He saw a bobcat.
That was a month ago. A short while later, he saw a golden eagle flying through the area.
It buoyed his belief that the Fawn River is special. This spring he opened a canoe and kayak rental business called T&L Country Canoes. He stocks the pond with choi (hey, no fishing here), sells ice cream, pop and snacks in the shop and offers a paved parking lot for 25 cars. It fits the "well manicured" feel that you find in Shipshewana, he says, but the river points you into the wild, where you're likely to see osprey, muskrats, beavers and heron.
Mullins says he grew up on the river and lived all of his life in LaGrange County. He's been working to set up T&L Country Canoes for the past 31/2 years.
Here's how to get there from Shipshewana, which is seven miles away: Go north on Indiana 5, east on Indiana 120, north on County Road 675 West, east on County Road 700 North, north on County Road 600 West and east on County Road 750 North for a tenth of a mile to T&L.
The address is 5775 W. County Road 750 North, Shipshewana.
Hours until Sept. 8 are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; then it goes to fall hours. Rates vary by the boat and length of trip, from $18.50 for a two-hour float on a kayak, to $40.50 for a 4.5-hour trip on a canoe. Add $3-$5 around holidays.
Call 260-562-2411 or visit www.tlcountrycanoesllc.com.
Also on the Fawn
Another business, Liquid Therapy Canoe and Kayak, rents canoes and kayaks on the Fawn River along with the St. Joseph, Rocky, Prairie and Portage rivers. Liquid Therapy is in Michigan at 221 S. Main St., Three Rivers. Call 269-273-9000 or go to www.liquid-therapy-paddling.com.
You can also rent on the Fawn from Pigeon River Outfitters Canoeing & Camping, 3490 S. 325 West., Pleasant Lake, Ind. Call 260-475-5512 or visit www.pigeonrivercanoeandcamp.com.
Paddle as a group
Looking for an experienced group to paddle with in Berrien County? The Berrien Paddlers Club has started its weekly paddles. Bring your own canoe or kayak. In each case, meet at 6 p.m. at Biggby Coffee, 111 Main St. in St Joseph. The evenings wrap up by 9 p.m. They'll meet Wednesday and then June 6, June 12, June 20 and June 26, with more dates to come after that. Details are at www.berrienpaddlers.com.
More in NW Indiana
More paddling resources are coming to northwest Indiana this summer, thanks to the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association.
- River camps: The club is working with LaPorte County Parks, county surveyor and the Kankakee River Basin Commission to create a primitive camping spot on the Kankakee River -- with hopes for more -- that would allow paddlers to take two- to three-day trips and camp along the way, says President Dan Plath. Volunteers and the county cleared the spot this week.
You can expect a sign on the river and a flat patch to pitch a tent. That's it.
No potty. Bring a shovel to bury your business.
No trash can. Haul out your own garbage.
And no fresh water.
The site is only accessible via the river. No road access. It's about a 1.5 miles downstream of the state launch site on County Road 650 West, which is north of North Judson and at the southwest tip of the Kankakee State Fish and Wildlife Area.
Plath says NWIPA is looking at another site or two downstream that could be turned into camping -- maybe this year.
- ADA accessible launch: NWIPA is working with Michigan City to install a handicapped-accessible launch for canoes and kayaks on Trail Creek at the city's Hansen Park, which is near the Blue Chip Casino.
It won't go in until after July. It would be a floating dock where a person could shift off his or her wheelchair onto a bench, then scoot onto a boat, then slide the boat down a ramp and into the water.
"We have a lot of senior citizens and some amputees who paddle with us," Plath says.
It's not cheap, so the city and NWIPA want to see much it gets used, then see if there are cheaper ways to do it in the future. It will cost a total of $86,000, which includes $25,000 for the dock itself, Plath says. Half will be paid for with a grant from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and half by the city, he says.
For now, you can put a boat in at the park along a muddy, stony shore.
From there on, Trail Creek is a pretty float into the woods. The current is gentle enough so that you can paddle out and paddle back.
Not long after you put in, you'll pass a pedestrian footbridge and an area that often has jammed up with logs -- until now. NWIPA volunteers spent a full day recently yanking out the wood pilings that were snagging those logs, Plath says.
The Hansen Park launch saves you from putting in at Washington Park on Lake Michigan, which requires that you paddle past behemoth pleasure boats and the Blue Chip itself.
To reach Hansen Park, take U.S. 12 (Second Street) east of Michigan Boulevard, turn right on Cook Street, then right on Union Street and follow the turn to the left and find the park on the left.
- Paddle events: Here are three easy paddling events that NWIPA is hosting, geared toward beginners. Admission is free, but a $5 donation is suggested. Boats will be available if you need it. Visit www.nwipa.org or call Plath at 219-871-9559.
The annual "fun float" on Trail Creek will be June 9. A reception and lunch will follow at the Lubeznik Center for the Arts. Meet at 8:30 a.m. Central time to register at the Washington Park boat ramps in Michigan City. Paddling will start at 9:30 a.m.
Beginners can try paddling an array of canoes and kayaks from noon to 3 p.m. Central time June 15 on Robinson Lake, just west of Hobart, Ind. Bring your own lunch. The lake is super blue and clear, Plath says. But be sure to clean off your boat afterward since the lake is infested with zebra mussels. From Hobart, go west on Third Street, left on LaSalle Street, right on 49th Avenue, left on Liverpool Road until you reach a parking lot that has access to the lake and the nearby Oak Savannah Trail for biking and hiking.
On June 22, paddle 3.5 miles, taking just over an hour, along the Deep River where NWIPA is establishing an eight-mile water trail between two dams. Plath says the river has great bird-watching. Meet at 11 a.m. Central time at Festival Park in Hobart, Ind. (follow Main Street northwest of downtown Hobart). Paddling will begin at noon. A shuttle will be provided.
Sea kayakers are needed to file trip reports after they've paddled on Lake Michigan. It goes towards an online guide for other paddlers about amenities such as access, parking, camping, restrooms, lodging and food. The Lake Michigan Water Trail Association is launching this guide to the 1,600-mile route along the lake at www.lmwt.org. To file a report, find forms for 479 individual legs of the route in four states. Starting on Memorial Day weekend, the first reporters are known as "Trail Blazers."
Reach Joseph Dits at 574-235-6158, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.facebook.com/tribune.josephdits.