Raining on Honest Abe's Anderson River, deep in the Hoosier National Forest

Sunday Morning Nature Missive - July 24, 2016

Unless you are a Lincoln or hardcore Hoosier nature buff, odds are you've never heard of the Anderson River. It's only 50 miles long, and about a hundred feet wide and 15 feet deep when it empties into the Ohio River at Troy in Perry County. That the Anderson forms the county line between Perry and Spencer and is only navigable for a little more than half its length is about all you will learn from an Internet search.

No, we didn't leave in the inky, 6 a.m. darkness on Friday to shoot the Anderson's headwaters because of its grandiose natural characteristics. Landscape photographer Gary Morrison and I stepped onto a bridge over the river at 7:40 a.m. for purely pragmatic reasons. I mention it in a slide show I'm creating for a presentation at IU's  Wylie House Museum on Oct. 20. The narrative names four rivers that, in their entirety, drain the Ohio. But I only have images of one -- the Blue.

Adding to the Anderson's appeal as a photo destination was the fact that the river rises deep in an area of the Hoosier National Forest that I've never photographed or explored -- but have long wanted to. And the return route up State Road 145 passes over and through Patoka Lake, for which I need better images in my archive. (SR 145 also passes by the West Baden Springs Hotel, literally the Eighth Wonder of the World, in which I never miss an opportunity to stand.)

Our arrival in northern Crawford County was timed to coincide with what, based on our map reading and time of day, seemed would be ideal lighting for the deep forest conditions we would encounter. We didn't expect much more than a creek. U.S. Forest Service officials told me we'd probably find only pools in the upper reaches. And our first stop was as upper as it gets. We were only a few hundred feet downstream from the rise.

Due to the recent rains, the Anderson offered a steady flow, albeit more creek- than river-like. And the light was -- for a few minutes -- just about what we envisioned. But before we made two riverside stops and shot a couple dozen images, the woods darkened -- as if a switch turned -- and my last image was raindrops on the water, for which I wasn't prepared gear-wise and snapped only one.

Suffice it say the weather did not relent. Between Anderson and a quick brunch at the West Baden Springs dining room, rain pelted the Patoka. And after finishing our sausage and bagel, the lake light was still a  flat-gray, as the stop's Photo Album shows. It was still raining when we passed Spring Mill State Park on the way home.

Search the net for the Anderson River and Abraham Lincoln, and you will find that the waterway played a significant role in the 16th president's life. Indeed, his Indiana life began there. Migrating here from Kentucky, his family landed on the Indiana side of the Ohio at the Anderson. They settled in the Anderson watershed. And young Abe's first venture down the Ohio to the Mississippi embarked from the banks of the Anderson.

Photographs: Anderson River, Hoosier National Forest, Crawford County


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