Downriver in Peru, we met with Mayor Jim Walker and members of the Wabash River Heritage Corridor Commission, who support programs that celebrate the natural resource of the river. In Lafayette, we met with Purdue University Professor Reuben Goforth, a renowned expert on invasive species, and we learned about innovative ideas for addressing Asian carp overpopulation. In Terre Haute, largest city on the Wabash, Mayor Duke Bennett and citizens are celebrating 2013 as “The Year of the River” to showcase the waterway with activities to encourage its full use and enjoyment.
Slicing through the river along the Indiana-Illinois border on my friend John Hughes’ Zodiac boat, I spotted five bald eagles and 40 or more blue herons, a testament to the wooded natural ecosystem on the banks of the Wabash. A spectacular view of the river awaited us atop the bluff at Merom, in Sullivan County, where we had lunch at the Downtown Diner with local folks who exuded Hoosier hospitality. Longtime residents told me that in some areas, the river has never looked cleaner, but in others, they worry about agricultural runoff into the waterway.
The Wabash’s connection to the early development of our state is seen in the city of Vincennes, Indiana’s first territorial capital prior to statehood. There we toured the riverfront and George Rogers Clark Memorial with Mayor Joe Yochum. The final leg of our four-day river journey took us to New Harmony, in Posey County, site of 19th-century utopian communities and still a peaceful hometown for residents who met us at the Red Geranium restaurant to share their love of the river and discuss Asian carp.
After observing by boat most of a 334-mile stretch of the Wabash before its confluence with the Ohio River, I came away with a new appreciation for maintaining the river’s ecosystem, water quality and heritage, a deeper admiration for those volunteers whose stewardship helps keep the river free of litter and pollution, and a determination to do what I can to help our state control Asian carp. We in Indiana truly are blessed that such a scenic natural waterway flows through our state, and I encourage all Hoosiers to visit the Wabash by boat, canoe or from the riverbank so they can appreciate why we must protect and preserve it.
Greg Zoeller is attorney general of Indiana and toured the Wabash River by boat from July 15 to 18.