Recently, we took a kayak trip on the Driftwood River from Tannehill Public Access site to the next ramp downstream at Lowell Bridge (formerly known as Lowell Mills). The objective was to see and enjoy the natural sites of one of Indiana’s waterways.

Although this stretch of waterway could use some TLC, in the way of a cleanup crew to retrieve and dispose of articles left behind by others who are ambivalent to the “Leave No Trace" practice, we did have an enjoyable trip.

The entire excursion took about three hours with little paddling (just enough to stay in the shade) because the current was surprisingly swift for this time of year. Also of note, and to our delight, there were no areas requiring a portage.

Other than nature of the human type, we did manage to see fish, a turtle, a variety of birds, including a juvenile bald eagle, and a great many and different types of trees, especially buckeye. We saw so many buckeye trees I began to think perhaps we were in Ohio. But the natural site I found most intriguing as we rounded a bend about two thirds of the way into our ;trip was an island in the Driftwood River.

Seeing the island immediately caused me to remember reading an account of a battle on the Driftwood/East Fork White River about the year 1813. Of course I had to come home and do a little research to refresh my memory.

Seems there are contradictory accounts. The general belief is this battle occurred in the East Fork White River. However the Driftwood River is named in documents and there is no Driftwood River in Jackson County.

In early 1813, before this skirmish, a Shawnee war party killed some settlers in the area of Fort Vallonia in Jackson County. Major and later Brig. Gen. John Tipton was sent out to deal with the local Indian problem. The result was the Battle of Tipton's Island in which a few of the renegade Shawnee were killed. One was shot and maybe three or four died in the swift water attempting to escape the island.

Just a year earlier, and it is speculated the British encouraged the Shawnee as we were at war with England, natives killed 24 settlers south of Scottsburg at Pigeon Roost. Maj. Tipton, whose father was killed by Indians in Sevier County, Tenn. only incorporated one method when dealing with the problem natives. He was commissioned on several occasions to invoke frontier diplomacy to keep the natives north of a line running roughly from Brookville across the territory to Vincennes.

Maj. Tipton founded the town that is now Columbus. He envisioned that it would be known as Tiptonia, but due to disagreements and politically irreconcilable differences, the Whigs named the town Columbus to his displeasure. So that's why we have a Tipton to our north rather than Tiptonia as our county seat today.

It was Maj. Tipton, with 13 commissioners sent by Governor Jonathan Jennings, to pick a site for the new state capital. It seems reasonable that these waterways were likely the route the commissioners took to get to present day Indianapolis. Waterways were the pre-20th century interstates and Maj. Tipton was well acquainted with the East Fork White River as well as the Flatrock and Driftwood Rivers.

We do know that Maj. Tipton was familiar with our Driftwood River as he reports in his journal ;that on one expedition the party had stopped at the rapids north of the mouth of the Driftwood (today’s Lowell Bridge area) to construct canoes to transport injured men back to Fort Vallonia.

And how does this relate to the island we ran upon as we kayaked down the Driftwood? It would seem possible that the Battle of Tipton’s island, which is generally held to have taken place near the southern border of Bartholomew County or northern Jackson County in the East Fork White River may well have occurred on an island in the Driftwood north of Lowell Bridge.

Does it matter? Not really but the extra added little historical story complementing our lazy, relaxing float trip afforded the opportunity to do a bit of imaginative mental time travel as well ;simply seeing the sites of the Driftwood. Should you have a canoe or kayak, you may want to consider this stretch of water. It's worth an afternoon. And who knows, if you listen closely as you round the bend in the southern stretch, you may hear the sounds of battle from long ago.