Ode to the Canal



The privately owned motor vehicle is the king of the road in Indy. Peasant pedestrians often have to bow down before their noisy lords. Even much of our beloved Indianapolis Cultural Trail: A Legacy of Gene and Marilyn Glick is punctuated by cars and traffic signals. It’s simply a fact of life that waiting patiently for cars to pass and tolerating their fumes and roars is part of citizenship for those who use their feet.

More than just an oasis from this, though, the Indy Canal Walk serves as useful and beautiful passage that is free from revving motors, angry honks, and noxious exhausts.

I am fortunate enough to work at IUPUI with an office at the HITS building at the north end of the canal path and another one at the NIFS building at the southern end.

Indy's canals may not have paid off like the original builders hoped, but they are an indispensable part of the city's character. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER DELGADILLO

My 30-minute walk from one office to another is filled with artwork, street musicians, coffee shops (Quill’s Coffee is my favorite), bistros and the smiling faces of city dogs. I see lovers share picnic blankets and young women roast themselves like rotisserie chickens on the grassy hills.

On the sidewalks, geese amble among runners, who sport, barely-there shorts, and entire families plopped atop Wheel Fun Rentals. People of all ages and colors; quinceañeras, brides and grooms, prom queens, health-motivated individuals and creepers who just like to watch.

Every time I walk by, the giant faces of Augustina Droze’s Morphos look at me. And I am still startled each time I hear a gondolier break into Italian songs with a heavy American accent.

There’s always something new to look at: a new sculpture or mural, a tree or flowering bush I haven’t seen before. Sometimes, Military Park’s festivals spill over with crew workers resting on benches, eating hearty sandwiches while more and more white tents appear. I used to pop in my earbuds and stride by to the rhythm of my own playlists, but lately I listen to my surroundings -- the song of the canal is the keyboard medleys of the dude by the Ohio Street bridge and the Indiana State Museum’s steam clock returning once more to Indiana. Looking to mix it up a bit on my hike back, I’ve even stopped (off the clock, for a late lunch hour) to watch a movie at the IMAX theatre or wander through the Eiteljorg galleries.

Augustina Droze’s "Morphos" mural graces the Indy Canal Walk. - PHOTOS BY JENNIFER DELGADILLO
  • Photos by Jennifer Delgadillo
  • Augustina Droze’s "Morphos" mural graces the Indy Canal Walk.

While traveling, I’ve sought out and strolled along canals in other cities in Europe and in my own hometown in Monterrey, Mexico. But this is the canal of my everyday life -- where I can taste the joys of the city without partaking in traffic jams. Even when I go it alone, I’m surrounded by art and diversity, by flora and fauna, by history of yesteryear and that in the making. I wonder if Governor Noah Noble knew in 1836 that his Mammoth Internal Improvements Act, which funded our canal, would birth so much culture.

Do you have some favorite spots on the canal walk or maybe another pedestrian-centric path in Indy? Let’s hear about it.

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