Dog Paddle

Last June, Neal Bogan, Evansville native and the Wesselman Nature Society’s Canoe Evansville’s program naturalist, launched Paddle With Your Pooch, a furry-friendly event that allows outdoor enthusiasts to bring their pets on a guided paddle tour of the Bluegrass Fish and Wildlife Area’s Loon Pit lake. Located a half mile off the Boonville-New Harmony Road exit from Interstate 164, these grounds boast 2,500 acres of open skies, more than 25 lakes, lush vegetation, wildlife sights and sounds, and a bevy of opportunities for hunting, fishing, and canoeing.

Each May through October, Canoe Evansville offers a variety of paddle trips throughout local waterways such as Patoka River, the Bluegrass Fish and Wildlife Area, and Cypress and Pigeon creeks. As a frequent attendee of the annual St. Louis Paddle With Your Pooch Boat Competition, Tim Jochim, Bogan’s assistant, pitched the idea to host a similar event (sans the race) in anticipation that the program will grow. “I know there’s a lot of people who are active with their pets,” says Bogan, “so we were curious to see how many would take interest.

Paddle With Your Pooch’s initial event met capacity by garnering 20 canoers, 17 dogs — cocker spaniels, Labradors, beagles, poodles, shih tzus, basset hounds, and others — and also served as a springboard for their second pooch outing one month later. The program is a two-hour tour of a reclaimed coal mine, which has been replanted with native and non-native vegetation — phragmites, cotton wood, willow trees, milfoil, etc. — and includes sightings of a beaver lodge, blue herons, song birds, and more.

The goal, says Bogan, is for owners to bond with their pets while familiarizing themselves with the mile- and one-quarter-long lake. Too much paddling can make the canines anxious, however, which is why there are plenty of breaks and recreational opportunities. “The dogs really enjoy getting out in the water near the islands,” he says.

Even if some participants and their dogs are rookies to canoeing, says Bogan, “it’s still a great opportunity to get people out and do something unlike they have ever done before.”

With two successful dog events under its belt, Canoe Evansville is looking forward to the summer. This year’s Paddle With Your Pooch is from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on June 29 and Sept. 14.

For canoe dates and more information, visit or call 812-479-0771.

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