During the past year, many people have come to realize just how much fun it is to stop and smell the roses while not being too far from home. If you haven’t thought about it, now is the time—starting this Fourth of July. Our thinking so often has been that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But in these tough economic times of conserving money and resources—even during holidays—there is no reason not to enjoy the lake in your backyard. It can be a completely new experience for you.
Celebrating this July holiday by watching a great local firework show from your pontoon or deck boat makes good sense and good cents in today’s circumstances. Because money is tight, or we’re being conservative in an uncertain economy, these times on the water can be the most enjoyable and memorable experiences for the children and you. Putting off those fancy vacations at faraway places just makes a close family destination a lot more fun and special, without a huge amount of hassle.
Indianapolis, Ind., is a good example of that “backyard” boating by having a beautiful lake near the city. Geist Lake is big enough to enjoy the cruising, fishing and toy pulling as on any other big lake, with select coves for the children to enjoy and swim safely. It also has a great fireworks show every year that is sponsored by the Geist Lake Coalition.
Geist Lake is Indianapolis’ water supply, started back in 1938 by damming up the Fall Creek River, and finally finished in 1943. In the formative years, Clarence Geist started purchasing over 5,000 acres of the Fall Creek Valley, including the small town of Germantown, which lies at the bottom of the lake. The town is now a prime fishing location.
Access For All
The lake history had continued in its tumultuous evolution with strong debates and emotionally-charged groups wanting access for recreation, fishing and shoreline development. Yet each group seems to have won the prize.
Today there are premier, upscale neighborhoods surrounding the lake from large single-family homes overlooking the main lake, to condominiums with their own boat dockage in secluded coves. The frequent visiting boater is welcomed at the large Olio Road, multi-ramp public boat facility for tournament fishing access, along with seasonal boat dockage at several boating clubs with beautiful yacht clubhouses. Shorewood Corp., the initial community developer, even has their own Geist Lake Marina with over 700 boat slips, where pontoon and deck boats reign supreme.
Being in the city proper means you‘re just minutes away after the neighborhood cookout. It also means getting the kids in for the night relatively early in their own beds, after a tiring day outside. Those long weekend lodging and food expenses can be saved for another time and place.
Only about 20 minutes from the heart of downtown, Geist Lake has about 30 miles of shoreline. In places, the water can be 30 to 200 feet deep, or as shallow as four feet, making it great for bass fishing, and safe for the children to swim in the coves. The water depth averages between nine to 20 feet with most deep pockets around 35 feet. Safe boating practices are watched carefully, while different entities try to manage the lake properly for consumption and lake use.
Planning for the reservoir started in 1913 as a means of supplying Indianapolis its water supply, which finally happened 25 years later, after colorful visionary Clarence Geist became sole proprietor of the Indianapolis Water Company. At a time when water supplies are dwindling, this reservoir is increasing its water capacity by as much as 25 percent or 100 acres!
Thanks, in part, to the area developers around the lake, now called the Marina Limited Partnership. A joint venture was established to make more land outcroppings around the lake for home development by the IMI Corporation (the land reclamation company), and Marina Limited Partnership.
Spokesman, president, and early founder Allen Rosenberg said that of the 1800 acres available, only 1500 are currently useable to interested people. He takes pride in showing how the current properties have matured, while the lake has not deteriorated from use, but instead improved in its water quality. Proper usage seems to be the key, while still letting all interested parties take part in the responsibility of keeping the lake unspoiled.
Two counties have the major portion of the lake, Marion and Hamilton Counties, located in the northeast part of town.
“The lake is relatively small, which is about eight miles long and a mile and a half at its widest section, but we try to please as many people as possible on its use,” explains Rosenberg. “The reservoir follows the Old Creek channel loosely, while filling in old gravel pits and mined sites in other areas. Most of our users live locally, but we have to make sure the homeowner is accommodated, as well as the boater and fishermen. Our goal is to create as beautiful a community as we already have.”
Ever the proud papa of beautiful children, the home sites are as varied as in any family. Two contrasting developments are the Cambridge Neighborhood with hundreds of home sites having different lake views and home styles, to Hampton Cove with 14 lakefront sites, all with beautiful, majestic, floor-to-ceiling glass and cathedral window views of the sunset.
The Main Marina
These homeowners need a place to service and fuel their docked boats. To this end, the largest marina with the most amenities on the lake is the Geist Lake Marina, owned by the Marina Limited Partnership and directly off route 100 by the main bridge. Very congenial Kent Duckwall, director of operations, who took over responsibility for improvement and constant upgrading some 27 years ago, manages it. Daughter Ellen helps during the summer while home from college.
The season at the marina runs from mid-April to mid-November with a full service facility with plenty of parking for our over 700 boat slip patrons available. The slips can hold boats ranging from 18 to 28 feet and this is also a full service repair department, which will store and winterize the boat, as well as have it ready for the owner at the start of the boating season.
There is a gas dock, and several pontoon boats for rent to our homeowners at the foot of the marina store. Full service includes a marine construction division that will build homeowners’ seawalls, docks or boat hoists.
“At our facilities, we have three different restaurants which will suit most everyone’s taste buds from Bell Vita Ristorante, an upscale restaurant on the waterfront, to Eddy’s Bar & Grill with great American contemporary cuisine, and Puccini’s Smiling Teeth that includes Italian food and pizza pies,” boasts Duckwall.
The marina store sells the latest Crest Pontoon boats, along with water toys, safety gear, and marina supplies. This is the place to obtain the Geist Neighborhood & Reservoir Map for orientation, good fishing information and depth contours.
“I’m about making people enjoy the water,” adds Duckwall. “We are even renting space to store your kayak, not only your pontoon boat, just so you can get out there and enjoy our beautiful lake.”
“This lake is the ideal water for a pontoon boat with a smaller engine,” states Ken Hansen, who lives in a community close to the lake and has had a boat on Geist for 24 years. “The lay of the lake enables you to idle along the coastline, see what the neighbors are enjoying, and then go to a nearby cove to let the kids swim safely with their floats and enjoy the day while probably finding children they already know from down their street.”
Hansen has also seen the controlled growth in that amount of time, but continually enjoys taking his grandchildren out on the water in his pontoon boat with his wife Carol, as they evaluate the land progress. Five acre lots with secluded homes behind large oak trees border much of the waterfront in the older developments, while new larger three-story homes with cathedral windows line other parts of the lake.
Every Tuesday night, about 50 to 60 boaters join in an open to the public, largemouth—catch and release—bass tournament at the Olio Road boat ramp. Reasonable boat ramp fees during off hours are instituted, with a general time of day pricing agreement established for better use management.
Popular gathering places are normal on any lake, and included on Geist Lake is “Cocktail Cove” that may have some good crappie fishing during the week, but look out on the weekends. That is the place for the younger generation to gather for fun and to socialize. However, it is not the best place to watch the Fourth of July fireworks show.
The best place would be in front of the Indianapolis Sailing Club, or anywhere in the widest part of the lake of that same vicinity. Many places in the surrounding area are great fishing locations, so be sure to bring your fishing rods while you wait for the fireworks to start, just as the children hunker in with their popcorn and drinks.
The colors are spectacular and the booms will long be remembered on that fateful night. Independence Day 2009 will surely be talked about as the year that America got back on its feet again, just as our forefathers did hundreds of years ago after a slightly different tumultuous economic period.