Improvements Underway Along the White River in 2024 and Beyond

The White River Vision Plan, released in 2020 after two years of stakeholder engagement, seeks to weave together recreation and community experiences into a regional amenity akin to a national park using a healthy and restored White River as its backbone. It’s a generational endeavor, and projects big and small are already underway. Here are just a few happening this year and beyond.

Dig Indy Water Quality Improvements

Two years ago the White River Deep Rock Tunnel opened, the largest investment in water quality improvement in the river’s history. An 18-foot wide tunnel 200 feet below ground, the tunnel is part of a 28-mile long, $2 billion network to capture and treat wastewater in Indy. The remaining two tunnels on Fall Creek and Pleasant Run are on schedule to open next year, capturing more than 97% of combined sewer overflows in Indianapolis. Upstream, Noblesville is also addressing its system. CSOs are a common century-old problem in cities and towns across Indiana where wastewater from buildings and stormwater from streets enter the same pipe, and during rain events is discharged into streams as the pipes fill. 

Riverside Park Upgrades

Under construction this year are the first round of improvements at the new Riverside Adventure Park, a former golf course fronting the river that is part of the larger Riverside Park. A newly paved trail network, a pavilion and plaza with restrooms, a nature-inspired playground, and outdoor exercise equipment will be built, along with landscaping improvements and reconfigured parking areas.

Last year the 1.5-mile Riverside Promenade opened, celebrating the people and cultures of the area. Frank’s Paddlesports Livery also begins its first full season of operations at the park this year. You can earn rewards by visiting the park or Frank’s through the White River Rewards Pass.

Bridges Galore!

The new Pleasant Street bridge over the river in Noblesville is almost complete. Part of the city’s Reimagine Pleasant Street project, the bridge carries an extension of the Midland Trace trail and incorporates artistic reliefs in its piers celebrating several of the Guiding Principles from the White River Vision Plan. Several river overlooks are also included.

A new pedestrian bridge linking the communities of Carmel and Fishers is under construction. When complete in the fall of 2025, the bridge will link Carmel’s Hazel Landing Park with Fishers’ Heritage Park near 106th Street, offering pedestrians and cyclists an alternative to the busy 96th Street and 116th Street bridges and creating a new cross-county pathway. Carmel is also working separately on an extension of their White River Greenway trail.

In Indy, reconstruction work continues on the beautiful, historic 30th Street bridge that connects both sides of Riverside Park. Originally built in 1907, contractors are rebuilding the bridge as it was originally designed from the river-bed-up, requiring them to source new matching limestone since the original quarry has long since closed.

Just downriver, utility work has begun on the new Henry Street bridge, an iconic structure with illuminated rings towering over the roadway. The bridge will carry an extension of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail to the former GM Stamping Plant redevelopment. Animal health giant Elanco is already constructing their new global headquarters there, and planning is actively underway for an expansion of White River State Park.

New River Access

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources, in partnership with Indy Parks, is working to construct a new boat ramp just north of 10th Street in Indianapolis, providing boat access to the downtown Indy stretch of river for the first time.

Expanding Attractions

Several of the river’s signature attractions are opening new experiences this year.

The Indianapolis Zoo welcomes chimpanzees to the riverfront with the opening of the International Chimpanzee Complex in May. The innovative exhibit recreates important aspects of chimpanzee life, including elevated trails to venture and explore overhead, elevated community gathering places, engaging cognitive stations, and small group spaces. The Zoo continues to be a global conservation leader with the recent opening of the Global Center for Species Survival and host of The Indianapolis Prize, the leading animal conservation award globally.

A bit upstream at Newfields, three new outdoor sculptures will debut at the free, 100-acre Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park, which is also home to one of the region’s largest pollinator gardens, the Wild Birds Unlimited Pollinator Garden.

In Fishers, Conner Prairie recently opened Trails at Conner Prairie, two trails along the river on its campus that have been designated as a Certified Sustainable Trail by the Indiana Wildlife Federation. The trails are one of the first investments planned for a river-focused expansion that will include a new White River Education and Ecology Center in the coming years.

Reinvesting in Waterfront Villages

West of the White River is Noblesville’s Federal Hill District, established to expand the heart of historic downtown Noblesville, and create pedestrian-friendly and safe connectivity by building a community where people can work, live, and engage! In 2023, the Federal Hill Apartments opened with a front-row seat to Federal Hill Commons, a city park that houses community events such as the Noblesville Mainstreet Farmer’s Market and Concerts at the Commons. The goal for the development of this district was to build upon downtown as the central hub for jobs, arts, culture, entertainment, and an overall sense of community. 

The White River serves as a connector between the downtown square and the Federal Hill District via the beautiful Logan Street Bridge of Flowers. Just east of the White River, along the Conner Street Gateway into downtown, are the East Bank Apartments. East Bank, opening this year, is a new residential community with amenities that provide access to the downtown square, the Riverwalk Trail connecting them to the White River Greenway, Midland Trace and Nickel Plate Trails. Residents also have a range of dining and shopping options, all within walking distance of their home.

Dam Removal

Funding has been secured for the removal of the first low-head dam on the river in the coming years. Originally built in 1899 as part of Riverside Park improvements, the Emrichsville Dam partially collapsed in 2018 and was functionally replaced by a new, safer and more ecologically-friendly rock ramp several blocks upstream. Low-head dams are incredibly dangerous for people and harmful to aquatic life. This year the Indianapolis Department of Public Works received a federal grant to remove what’s left of the dam to promote fish passage. Engineering and permitting work are underway that will determine a precise timeline for removal.

Check out our implementation progress tracker for a complete roster of updates.