On the beautiful Blue, in rebel-held country

The Blue River didn't quite earn its name on Friday afternoon. So called for the aqua color the water assumes when levels are low, the river hue, reflected from a surface lined by lush, overgrown banks under a mid-afternoon sun, was closer to crocodile green.

But as a remote, pristine waterway that was relatively deserted on a shiftless weekday afternoon, the 90-mile long Ohio tributary did measure up to its pioneer name -- the Great Blue. With a reputation as Indiana's most beautiful -- the first designated as a state Natural, Scenic and Recreational River in 1973 -- the Blue's setting is unrivaled under any conditions.

With a couple major projects under control, I spent the afternoon exploring by wheel three stretches of the Blue's outback watershed in northern Crawford County, halfway between Hardinsburg and Milltown, a little more than an hour from home.

Culturally, I was deep in rebel-flag country, a region that on this day began declaring its Confederate roots at a gas station flag stand just south of the Lawrence-Monroe County line. You'll find CSA (Confederate States of America) etched into many a headstone in any 19th Century Southern Indiana graveyard.

About halfway down the two-mile Daugherty Lane east off State Road 66, the road turned to tire paths flanked by gently undulating cornfields, as I considered the potential that I might have to back out to each driveway I passed. Google maps said the road leads to the water's edge, where I found riverside parking; a turnaround; a couple active campsites; steps leading to the water; an uninspiring, dilapidated building; and an old port-a-pot.

I learned at my second stop in Milltown that Daugherty used to be a drop-off site for Cave Country Canoes, the dominant local industry. The Blue bisects Milltown, population 818, and is one of four rivers that, in their entirety, drain Indiana's Ohio River Valley. (The other three are the Whitewater, Little Blue and Anderson.) I roamed the grounds there, shooting the river from the empty campground and the bright blue bridge.

I also learned at Cave Country that what Google called the Buffalo Trace Loop is actually Totten Ford Road, my last stop, where I shot the river from a grated iron bridge.

Here's a Photo Album from the journey.

Photographs: Blue River, Crawford County

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