Sights, sounds of the White River, the water of the people

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The sun shines on the surface of the water. Like blue-green brushstrokes on a canvas, small ripples capture flickers of light, a gently folding into the next.

As the world around it comes to life, the river dances.

Above, an eagle prowls not far from its nest. A pair of blue herons flies low towards the water. Red sliders and painted turtles glide from downed trees, falling like pebbles.

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The shores are covered with native sycamores, poplars, maples and invasive species of garlic mustard and bush honeysuckle.

Andrew Lang (left), Keith Cruz and Andrew's wife Emily Lang lead another group on the water, Indianapolis, Saturday, April 23, 2022, along a stretch of the White River between Carmel and northern Indianapolis.  Scott Salmon of Friends of the White River teaches the workshop to people who want to learn how to guide others on future rafting trips.

Wind, river and creatures fill the otherwise calm air – a symphony of whispers, not far from the city.

The White River belongs to the people, and they should take every opportunity to seize it, advocates say.

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Friends of the White River and others seduced by the charms of the river strive to share this right with all who wish to explore it.

“It’s our most precious natural resource,” said Scott Salmon, executive director of Friends.

Scott Salmon kicks off the instruction on a balmy morning for rafting, Indianapolis, Saturday, April 23, 2022, along a stretch of the White River between Carmel and northern Indianapolis.  Friends of the White River's Salmon teaches the workshop for people who want to learn how to guide others on future rafting trips.

The river is not without a difficult past, plagued by man-made pollution. But there is progress, Salmon said. And with these advancements, they are encouraging people to venture out on the waterway.

It takes practice to float downstream, a combination of steering, rowing and communication commands.

“All ahead,” said Montell Hendricks, a raft guide-in-training, during a Saturday spring float from Carmel to Oliver’s Woods, near the North Side.

Raft guides know their goals – to mitigate risk and marvel at the water. They lead the exit and return to land safely.

Scott Salmon (light shirt) gives directions, Indianapolis, Saturday, April 23, 2022, along a stretch of the White River that stretches between Carmel and northern Indianapolis.  Friends of the White River's Salmon teaches the workshop for people who want to learn how to guide others on future rafting trips.

Hendricks works for Groundwork Indy, where he helps lead youth programs focused on life skills and environmental awareness. They plan to get the kids on the water this summer.

For many, the Rivière Blanche is unfamiliar territory. Hendricks and Salmon think there should be a connection.

For better or worse, the river looks towards the people.

“That’s what we have,” Salmon said.

Contact IndyStar General Assignment Reporter Rachel Fradette at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter: @Rachel_Fradette.

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