The Jessup River is easy to access from Route 30 between Speculator and Indian Lake (the hamlet), but once on the water, which direction should you go? Downstream toward Indian Lake (the lake) or upstream through a seldom-visited tract of Forest Preserve?
The answer: both.
But if you had to choose one over the other, the upstream trip has a wilder feel. From the put-in, you can paddle at least three miles up the Jessup, but you will have to carry around a few obstacles, namely beaver dams and blowdown.
The river winds through alders and marsh much of the way, but it does pull alongside the forest in places, offering welcome shade on a summer day. On a recent trip, we saw numerous plants in bloom, including joe-pye weed, cardinal flower, and red osier.
If you push on, you might be able to make it all the way to Perkins Clearing Road, a dirt road that runs through forestland owned by Lyme Timber. If the river is high enough, this road could serve as an alternative put-in for a one-way downstream paddle to Route 30.
When you’ve paddled upstream as far as you want to go, return to Route 30 but pass under the highway and keep going. You’ll enjoy flatwater for another mile and a quarter before reaching a cable stretched across the river, signaling the start of a long stretch of rapids.
Most people will want to turn around here, but if you have a sturdy canoe and whitewater experience, you can paddle and/or line your boat through the half-mile-long rapids (how much walking you’ll do will depend on water level.) You could then paddle down a narrow arm of Indian Lake and eventually take out at the Indian Lake Campground (day-use fee required) or at the Route 30 bridge over the Miami River.
It’s also possible to carry around the rapids on a rough foot trail on the right bank.
If you do paddle to Indian Lake, be sure to check out Dug Mountain Brook Falls. Dug Mountain Brook enters the Jessup a quarter-mile beyond the rapids. Land on the north side of the brook and follow an unmarked path about a quarter-mile to the falls.
DIRECTIONS: From the junction of Route 8 and Route 30 in Speculator (the Four Corners), drive north on Route 30 for 6.5 miles to the bridge over the Jessup. The best place to park is on the northwest side of the bridge. If coming from the north, the bridge is 11.8 miles south of the intersection of Route 28 and Route 20 in Indian Lake.