Seven Things to Do Along White River This Spring

Spring is a wonderful time to explore the White River in Indianapolis and Hamilton County. The river offers a variety of activities and natural attractions for all ages and interests. Whether you are looking for a relaxing picnic, a kayak ride, an opportunity to make a positive impact on the river, or a glimpse of wildlife, you will find it along the White River.

Here are some of the top things to do and see along the river this spring.

Many of these places and activities count toward the Discover White River Rewards Pass, where you can earn free stickers, t-shirts, canoe/kayak rental discounts, or even a guided fishing trip just for visiting the river!

1. Enjoy the Blooming Flowers and Trees

One of the most striking features of the White River in spring is the abundance of colorful flowers and trees that line its banks. You can see wildflowers such as bluebells, trilliums, and violets, as well as flowering trees such as redbuds, dogwoods, and crabapples. The best way to enjoy the floral display is to take a walk or bike along the the White River Greenway in Indianapolis, Carmel, or Noblesville.  You can also check out a few large native plantings, including the Wild Birds Unlimited Native Pollinator at Fairbanks Park, the largest native plant garden in the city (Note the Monarch Sanctuary on the Urban Wilderness Trail was mowed for ecological maintenance last fall and will slowly be returning over this year). There are also plenty of bloom-inspired events, from the colorful Spring Blooms celebration at Newfields to guided wildflower, bike, and tree hikes at Holliday Park.

2. Kayak, Canoe, or Paddleboard on the Water

If you are looking for a more adventurous way to experience the White River, you can try paddling on the river. You can bring your own equipment and launch from one of the 13 formal canoe/kayak launch points in Hamilton County and Indy. Or rent a canoe or kayak from White River Canoe Company in Noblesville (who also has tubes!) or Frank’s Paddlesports Livery in Indy (who also has stand-up paddleboards). Both offer multiple routes for different length trips and experiences. If you’re looking for a more guided experience for a larger group, Friends of White River’s River School program offers raft trips. However you float, check our our handy Paddling activity guide for complete information. 

3. Visit the Museums and Cultural Attractions

The White River is not only a natural wonder, but also a cultural corridor. Along the river, you can find many museums and cultural attractions that showcase the history, art, and science of the region. Opening this spring at the Indianapolis Zoo In White River State Park is the International Chimpanzee Complex, where you’ll be able to see these amazing and endangered creatures up close, while their annual xZooberance Spring Festival is a mix of art, music, nature, and animals. Also in the park you’ll find the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, which features a collection of Native American and Western art and artifacts. You can also visit the Indiana State Museum, which displays exhibits on the natural and cultural history of Indiana. The Newfields campus, home to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, sits on a bluff overlooking the river. The Indy Art Center offers community art classes and galleries, as does Noblesville Creates in downtown Noblesville. Further upstreamis Conner Prairie, where you can travel through history on the banks of the White River, experiencing a Lenape Indiana camp, early pioneer days, and life during the Civil war. In Strawtown Koteewi Park, the Taylor Center of Natural History showcases archeological history as well as full-scale reconstructions of American Indian structures.

4. Go Fishing for Bass, Catfish, and More

If you are looking for a fun and relaxing way to spend a spring day, you can try fishing along the White River. The river is home to many species of fish, including largemouth and smallmouth bass, catfish, crappie, bluegill, and carp. There are plenty of parks with accessible shoreline, boat ramps, or canoe launches, and we’ve put together a handy guide for all things fishing. This year’s first few Free Fishing Days are on May 12, June 1, and June 2, and other times you will need a fishing license, which you can buy online or at any local bait shop.

5. Attend the Festivals and Events

The banks of the White River come to life with community events beginning in the Spring with  many festivals and events that celebrate the spring season and the river’s heritage. Music returns to the river in April and May at Everwise Amphitheater in White River State Park with acts like Judas Priest, Chris Young, Bad Religion, and NEEDTOBREATHE. Art comes alive with the Naturally Inspired Paint Out and popular xZOOberance festival at the Indianapolis Zoo and the OneAmerica Broad Ripple Art Fair at the Indy Art Center. At Forest Park in Noblesville, you can ride the rails of the Nickel Plate Express, a fun train ride with a full spring schedule. The weekly Noblesville Farmers Market will kick off May 4 at Federal Hill Commons and is a must visit!

6. Watch the Birds and Other Wildlife

The White River is a haven for wildlife, especially in spring, when many birds and animals are active and visible. You can see a variety of birds, such as bald eagles, great blue herons, kingfishers, and woodpeckers, as well as mammals, such as beavers, otters, deer, and foxes. You can also spot reptiles, amphibians, and insects, such as turtles, frogs, dragonflies, and butterflies. We’ve put together a handy guide for observing wildlife and a list of the most commonly seen creatures. You can also check out events at some of our parks, including Holliday Park’s monthly Morning Bird Hike and Creature Feature activities.

7. Relax and Picnic at the Parks and Green Spaces

Finally, one of the simplest and most enjoyable things to do along the White River in spring is to relax and picnic at one of the many parks and green spaces that surround the river. You can find picnic tables, benches, grills, playgrounds, and restrooms at many of the parks, including Riverside Park, Broad Ripple Park, and Holliday Park in Indy, and Prather Park, Forest Park and Strawtown Koteewi Park in Hamilton County. You can bring your own food and drinks, or buy from the nearby restaurants and cafes in one of the villages that line the river like downtown Indy, Broad Ripple Village, or Noblesville.

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