July 11, 2004
Driving home from French Lick, we passed through the central portion of Patoka Lake minutes later. Sailboats, fishing boats, and houseboats drifting on glistening blue water caught our eye and prompted us to turn west on highway 164 for a closer look.
While touring West Baden, I'd heard quick mention of a combination tour that included a boat ride excursion on Patoka Lake. Harvey Edwards, one of the managing partners of Patoka Marina, provided more details. On mid-Fridays, small groups tour West Baden, board one of his double-decker party pontoons for an evening cruise, and enjoy a catered chicken meal in a scenic spot overlooking the lake. "And when the moon comes up over the bridge...there's not a prettier place," he claimed.
Enthusiastic about 9,000 acre Patoka lake and proud of what his marina has to offer, Harvey volunteered to take us to his latest addition, floating cabins. We followed him to the bay. Beyond his houseboats and pontoons, we saw ten green-roofed beige-sided homes in the water, not cabins. "They're built with an aluminum hull and squared, just like regular home construction," he said. "And mighty popular too. Fully booked every weekend all summer long. C'mon," he said, "I've known this family for years. They won't mind us taking a peek."
Harvey was already leading us down the dock and introducing us before we could protest. Assorted water toys and rafts sat on the deck near the cabin's boat slip. The congenial group celebrating a birthday party offered us cake–but we declined and went inside. The spacious living area had a full kitchen and soft green furnishings against light paneling. Comfortable bedrooms in the back had views of the water. And the bathroom? Normal. The place felt airy and modern, and I liked the gentle rocking motion–which apparently ceases at night when boats are docked. Too bad they didn't have a vacancy. We were toying with staying in the region an extra night, and were interested in something with a lake view.
Which at Patoka is limited to these cabins we discovered, as Indiana DNR regulations prohibit lodging within 300 yards of the shoreline. The floating cabins fall under houseboat regulations even though they never drift from the dock.
We drove around the lake, slipped into the nature/visitor center to grab brochures detailing hiking and biking trails, and stopped for lunch at the Patoka Grill. After eating gigantic fish tackler sandwiches, fripes and chocolate malts, we spent the afternoon at the beach to my toddler's delight.
She didn't mind that the beach was flooded five-feet from rains (which incidentally never prevents boats from launching). She built sand castles in a narrow band of wet sand near soggy grass, unconcerned that her masterpieces collapsed with each new wave.
French Lick may have magical mineral springs, but Patoka has fresh, clean water to play in.
From journal Weekend in French Lick