Did you know Clinton County and its dozens of named waterways are part of two different major watersheds?

Watersheds are regions of land that drain into a lake, stream, or river and are an important natural division of water resources. According to the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Report called “Water Resources of Clinton County, Indiana,” the Wildcat Creek and Sugar Creek Watersheds comprise most of Clinton County, with the Middle and South Forks of the Wildcat covering the northern and central parts of the county, and Sugar Creek covering the south.

Sugar Creek Indiana

What you may not know, however, is that these watersheds are part of the larger Wabash River watershed, which is the largest in Indiana and flows into the Ohio River and then the Mississippi River. So, left to drain naturally, rainwater from Clinton County would eventually end up in the Gulf of Mexico!

Often we don’t think of our tributaries as part of a whole waterway system, though. Instead, we think of them as the dozens of named rivers and streams flowing through our communities. The following are just some of the many surface waterways that flow through northern and central Clinton County:

  • Campbell’s Run, Cripe Run, and Hog Run flowing from the Middle Fork of Wildcat Creek
  • Boyle’s Ditch, Swamp Ditch, Swamp Creek, Heavilin Ditch, Lick Run, South Fork of Kilmore Creek, and Prairie Creek all flowing from the Kilmore Creek

In the southern part of the county, Little Potato Creek, Brush Creek, Reagan Run, Taylor Ditch, Davis Ditch, Scott Wincoop Ditch, and Stowers Ditch all flow out of Sugar Creek.

Rivers and streams can make for fun summer activities: fishing, swimming, canoeing, observing wildlife, and more. But be aware that there are laws governing who may access waterways. Even though the water itself is a public natural resource, the land around and below the water may be private.

According to Kokomo Tribune outdoor columnist John Martino, the key to knowing how to access a waterway depends on its designation as “navigable” or “non-navigable.”

“In Indiana those who own land adjacent to ‘non-navigable’ rivers and streams actually own the land under the stream, yet the water and everything in it is public,” writes Martino. “So if you float through without touching the bank or bottom you are not violating any rules. Step out of your boat and by the letter of the law you are trespassing. Remember, the key word is non-navigable.”

For navigable waterways, however, the state owns both the water and the ground beneath it up to the “high-water” line, making it public. Unfortunately, no waterways in Clinton County have been officially designated “navigable” by the Department of Natural Resources, so be sure you have permission before accessing (or standing in) any Clinton County rivers and streams.

Rivers and streams aren’t the only surface waters included in watersheds, however. All lakes and ponds also are included, as well as wetlands. While they are no major lakes in Clinton County (unless you count the Lagoons and Little Lake), there are 6,106 acres of wetlands, which is a little more than 2 percent of the total area in the county.

So get out there and enjoy (and take care of) Clinton County’s waterways this summer, just make sure you have permission.

Photo by USFWSmidwest via Flickr, used with permission. Originally published at Clinton County Daily News on June 11, 2016.