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Island Time

Under a July sun, boaters on the Ohio River began to circle near the Evansville riverfront waiting for the semi-annual, man-made sand bar to pop up. The small island is created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredging the river to clear silt from the main channel to maintain its required 300-feet-wide-by-9-feet-deep measurements.

While the purpose of the island’s creation is technical, local water sports and outdoor enthusiasts use it for a plethora of summer fun.

“It’s like having an ocean beach right in our backyard,” says Ryan Sermersheim, a sand bar visitor for the third year in a row. “The sand is super clean and soft, the surrounding water is much cleaner than the Ohio typically is, and it’s fun to hang out with everyone.”

The Evansville resident, who took photos of the popular weekend spot with his drone, grilled, floated, listened to music, and socialized well into the night. But some boaters go even further, actually spending the night on the sand.

Bloomington native and Evansville resident Leslie Martin is one such adventurer. She has been camping on local sand bars for the past five years, often ending up on similar islands close to Angel Mounds State Historic Site near Newburgh, Indiana. Martin says the anticipation can be just as exciting as camping on the sand bars itself.

“I do love watching how they pump out the sand,” she says. “I watch on a bench by Mickey’s Kingdom. I get excited because I know we have more beach space coming in ideal locations. We have met some awesome folks on the pumpouts.”

The sand bars are all about community. For Mary Clodfelter, it’s also about family.

Mary and her husband Greg have been avid boaters for more than 20 years, visiting local sand bars on a regular basis. This year, the Evansville natives frequented the island during the week, instead of a weekend when crowds increase, to spend time with their grandchildren Jillian and Ian.

The siblings spent the day swimming, playing badminton, and enjoying some quality time with Mary and Greg.

“(The sand bar) is definitely a welcome site for us boaters. Probably by the middle of June, we are all asking, ‘Do you think there will be a pump out this year?’” says Mary. “Without the sand bar in front of the Evansville riverfront, all of us boaters are scattered around the river at different locations.”

The community of boaters, campers, fishers, and swimmers know how to have fun, but over the years, they have also developed respect not only for the sand bar, but all nature-filled environments that play host to their entertainment.

“Those of us not new to boating respect the wildlife in the area and clean up our messes and clean up after those who chose not to be responsible,” says Martin.

While this year’s season is coming to a close, the sand bar will be packed with patrons as soon as it is formed again next summer. Read more about the island’s creation in the October/November 2019 issue of Evansville Business.

Photos provided. Drone shot by Ryan Sermersheim, camping shot by Leslie Martin, and badminton by Mary Clodfelter.

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