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7/11/2018 9:48:00 AM
Three rivers reborn in downtown Fort Wayne
River guides
Maps/advice: Northeast Indiana Water Trails offers paddling advice, maps and recommended trips at Also, waterproof maps that show launch sites can be picked up at the two outfitters below.

Fort Wayne Outfitters and Bike Depot: 1004 Cass St., Fort Wayne (260-420-3962,

Earth Adventures (outfitter): 1804 W. Main St., Fort Wayne (260-424-1420,

Canal boat rides: 45 minutes on Sweet Breeze cost $20 per adult or 90 minutes for $30.(260-420-3962,

Social paddles: On Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Cost is $10. Canoe or kayak rentals available. (260-427-6248)

Other boat tours: 260-427-6000,

Urban paddle No. 1: Cara Hall likes launching from Johnny Appleseed Park, north of downtown, and floating the St. Joseph to the launch site by her Fort Wayne Outfitters store on the St. Marys. This route passes an island, the cool architecture of North Side High School and the rivers’ confluence.

Urban paddle No. 2: Kyle Quandt, board member of the Northeast Indiana Water Trails, likes launching from the site by Fort Wayne Outfitters and paddling the St. Marys west to Swinney Park, “where nature abounds.”

Beware of dams: There’s a dangerous dam on the Maumee by St. Anthony Boulevard, about 1.5 miles east (downstream) of the confluence of the three rivers. Instead, you can launch on the east side of the St. Anthony bridge. Also, on the St. Joseph there’s a dam just south of Coliseum Boulevard and north of the launch at Johnny Appleseed Park. Thirty new signs are going up on the rivers to area warn of upcoming dams. Find a map of dams across Indiana linked to this story online.

Three Rivers Festival: Annual fest Friday through July 21 boasts more than 80 events across downtown Fort Wayne, with live music, parade, food vendors, carnival rides, bike tour and helicopter rides. Also, free 30-minute pontoon boat rides from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Headwaters Park. (

Joseph Dits, South Bend Tribune Staff Writer

FORT WAYNE -- Three sluggish rivers converge in downtown Fort Wayne with a constantly muddy look that makes you wonder if they ever come clean. Truth is, the naturally silty water is clean and starting to thrive. Not just with smallmouth and largemouth bass, or the swifts that pack dozens of nests under the bridges.

Every week, Margarita Monday easily draws 40 to 60 kayakers and canoeists onto the water — often newbies to paddling, or those looking for camaraderie. They launch downtown at 6p.m. near the boat rentals at Fort Wayne Outfitters & Bike Depot and cap it off with a stop at a nearby Mexican restaurant.

Cara Hall and her husband own the outfitters shop that leads the floats.

“When we first opened (11 years ago), people thought we were a little crazy, because the water wasn’t being used,” she recalls.

Old notions of stinky, dirty rivers had lingered from decades ago.

Traffic was light at first. But for the past five years, Hall says, business has grown steadily, causing the shop to fully rent out all of its boats each weekend. If you miss that, you can always hook up with social paddles led by the city parks every Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.

The gentle current makes it easy to paddle out and back in any direction on all three rivers: the St. Marys and St. Joseph (not our St. Joe), which feed into the Maumee. They pass city skylines, the sprawling urban Headwaters Park, the Historic Fort Wayne that recounts life in a centuries-old fort and levees covered with riprap rocks.

On any given day, you may also see people touring the rivers in an airboat with a huge wind propeller, or in a canal boat, or in the city’s 20-person dragon boat.

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