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For the same reason the Lenape people (the inhabitants of the area when European settlers arrived) called the river “Wapahani,” or river of white sands. While erosion and sediment loads today obscure it, the river’s bottom is often white limestone or limestone sand, giving the river a gleaming white reflection on sunny days.
Check out the White River Alliance’s Live Conditions page to see risk levels associated with water level and pollution. There are two stretches that do meet EPA’s water quality standards for swimming: the river from about 66th Street to about 82nd Street in Indianapolis and adjacent to River Road Park in Carmel. Except for these two locations, the entire river is “impaired,” meaning that it does not meet water quality standards for swimming. This is particularly true after rain events (especially south of Fall Creek), when pollution is swept into the river. During dry weather we recommend “feet, not face,” meaning its fine to touch the river, just don’t do things like swimming that would splash water into your face (and also avoid getting water in any open wounds). Learn more on our water quality page.
It depends on the type of fish, who’s eating them, and how often. The Indiana State Department of Health maintains a map of fish consumption advisories for all waterways in Indiana. This site gives recommendations for sensitive populations as well as the general population and will tell you how much of a type of fish is safe to each over a timeframe.
Yes, unless the water levels are too high and fast. Check out the White River Alliance’s Live Conditions page to see risk levels associated with water level and pollution. We recommend “feet, not face,” meaning its fine to touch the river, just don’t do things like swimming that would splash water into your face (and also avoid getting water in any open wounds), particularly after a rain event.
The people do! The river and its riverbed are held in trust by the State of Indiana for use by everyone. This includes a small portion of the shoreline up to something called the “ordinary high watermark”, which isn’t always able to seen. Always assume that most of the land along the river is private property. Please be respectful of these owners and do not trespass. Learn more about river rights.
During normal flows, the river isn’t naturally very deep in most places, and in some places during the summer you can easily walk across it. The dams on the river do create much deeper pools though, and the closer you get to them the deeper the water can be (the tallest dam on the river is 20 feet tall). Never go near a dam.
Vision Plan & River Partners FAQs
Because the plan is a vision with guiding principles and illustrative case studies and not a master plan with specific projects, there is no way to say the plan is x% complete. Instead we look to individual partners who are inspired by the plan and want to use its principles to guide their own projects. We are keeping track of the progress our community is making in implementing the plan on our History & Future page.
Because the White River Vision Plan isn’t a master plan with a list of specific projects, there really isn’t a cost associated with it. Through its guiding principles and illustrative case studies, the plan is designed to inspire individual communities, organizations, parks, attractions, and even individuals to take action in their own places, big and small. When each of those places identify projects, they will also develop a funding plan to make them happen (and to maintain and develop programming for them once built). We do know projects will likely require public (including new public sources), private, and philanthropic funds.
Yes, but it’s also about quality of life for residents, environmental stewardship, recreation and wellness, neighborhood vitality, flood protection, equitable economic development, and more! The plan was intentionally developed by a wide array of stakeholders and is deliberately broad in its scope.
We don’t think so. We believe if the river is out of sight, it’s out of mind. The more reasons people have to connect with the river, the more a part of their lives the river becomes, the more they will fall in love with the river and demand its protection. That doesn’t mean every proposed project on or along the river is good: we have to be very intentional and careful, engage ecological experts, and follow the guiding principles outlined by the plan.
It’s a starting point. The two counties are the largest two counties along the river and have the greatest density of existing parks and attractions. We know communities upstream and downstream are doing good work too, and we hope the Vision Plan will eventually grow to incorporate and align their work.
Parks, Trails & Attractions FAQs
It varies by park and trail, and individual facilities within each park (like pools, nature centers, and family centers) will have their own hours too. Generally public parks are open from sunrise to sunset, but check individual park rules to be sure. Privately owned parks like Newfields 100 Acres and Central Indiana Land Trust preserves vary. Trails in Marion County are open 24 hours while those in Hamilton County are generally sunrise to sunset.
All of the public and private parks are open free of charge, although there may be activities (swimming pools or horseback riding, for example) that do have a cost.
Most of the attractions do have an admission cost. If you’re going to visit more than one, you might be interested in the Indy Attraction Pass, a discounted pass for multiple attractions in the region, including five on the river: Conner Prairie, Eiteljorg Museum, Indiana State Museum, Indianapolis Zoo, and Newfields.