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Crooked Creek


Improve water quality in Crooked Creek and White River
Demonstrate the effect of wetlands on water quality in small watersheds
Serve as a local and regional watershed and wetland education center


Crooked Creek is an urban stream that originates in southern Hamilton County, flows southerly through Pike and Washington Townships in Marion County, and discharges into the White River through Lake Sullivan, a lake dredged from a large wetland complex in northwest Center Township in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Crooked Creek watershed drains an area of approximately 20 square miles and includes well established residential areas, highly intensive commercial uses, both light and heavy industry, and land in agricultural use, most of which is expected to be developed in the coming years. Crooked Creek has been dredged periodically and is degraded by urbanization. Water quality problems include heavy sediment loads from uncontrolled construction sites, septic effluents, the discharge of raw sewage from surcharging sewers during moderate rainfalls, and nonpoint source pollutants such as pesticides, fertilizers, and petroleum products that enter the creek in stormwater runoff. Flooding also is a problem in the watershed. More than 100 homes are located in the 100-year floodplain, and floods of record have resulted in significant damages.


  • April 6, 1934 – Lake Sullivan is constructed as a Civil Works Administration project to serve as an area for nature study and to provide habitat for waterfowl. The lake is created on 20 acres of “waste ground” in between Riverside Golf Course and Riverside Park. (Indianapolis News)
  • September 20, 1957 – Lake Sullivan, the city’s bird refuge and duck pond is threatened by highway construction. The article notes that the lake is use extensively for nature study and biology field studies by Indianapolis schools. (Indianapolis Star)
  • October 24, 1957 – Lake Sullivan is being dredged. (Indianapolis Star)
  • April 24, 1958 – Lake Sullivan reopens to the public. City crews have removed a reported 200,000 “loads of dirt”, amount unspecified. (Indianapolis Times)
  • March 24, 1971 – Lake Sullivan described as a marsh. City seeks $100,000 to dredge. (Indianapolis Star)
  • December 8, 1972 – City wins a $179,000 award from the state to repair damage to the lake from construction of I-65.
  • December 12, 1976 – Lake Sullivan is described as a “silt-laden swamp”.
  • February 13, 1981 – Lake needs to be dredged. (Indianapolis Star)
  • Spring 1983 – Lake Sullivan dredged, 8000 cubic yards of sediment removed.
  • Spring 1995 – Lake is sediment filled. IndyParks and Center for Earth and Environmental Science (CEES) enter into an agreement to manage Lake Sullivan as a center for wetlands education.