Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Cane Ridge / Gibson Lake Birding Guide



Southwest Indiana

Gibson County, Indiana

DeLorme Page 54, Grid G-6 and Page 55, Grid G-7 (Labeled "Broad Pond")

GPS:   38º 22' 15.5" N
87º 44' 48.78" W


From the East: From Princeton, IN go west on SR 64 for about 9 miles to CR 950 W. Go south on CR 950 W, cross the railroad tracks, and continue for 1 mile to the old guard station building on the right. If you have a letter of permission to bird on the property, turn right at the building and drive up onto the levee of the north side of Gibson Lake. Continue to the parking lot near the main plant and sign in at the new guard building at the end of the lot.

Without a permit, you can still bird from the public roads (which go completely around the property - see map) by continuing south on CR 950 W and following the levee as closely as you can around the lake. Continue on the same road which is now CR 875 past Base Road, past the closed Public Boat Ramp and over two small creeks, arriving at the unmarked T intersection with a road going the right of CR 875 W and CR 100 S. Follow the route around the south end of the lake by turning right onto CR 100 S and continuing west for a couple miles to Cane Ridge. At this point you will have to turn onto unmarked CR1075W going south (left) as the county road is now gated. You will go a short distance and find a parking lot on the right. You are permitted to go up onto the observation tower to look for Least Terns (in summer) and other shorebirds, ducks, and gulls but do not go any further. Continue south and then turn right (west) onto umarked CR 250S and continue turning north and west on CR 1200W, CR 175S and CR 1300W and evidently east on CR 100S and then north and you will finally get back to to Lake Gibson property. Should you decide not to continue going around the lake all of the way to the river, you can either retrace your path or continue south from the Cane Ridge observation tower and then turn left onto CR 275S, go east a mile, turn north on CR 1000W past some ponds being made and back to CR 100 S and turning right (east) onto CR 100 S and continuing back to your starting point.

If you continue around the property to the west, the riparian area to the west of the Cinergy property can be reached by continuing 0.5 miles past the closed West Fishing Area to a "T" intersection with a north-south road. This north-south road courses through a beautiful wooded area along the Wabash River. Here you must turn north as the dirt road south is now gated. Going north along the river takes you back to SR 64. You can also reach this area by going south on CR 970W from SR 64.

Note: Some of the county roads from time to time have the signs missing at various intersections.

Site Description

The entire Gibson property consists of about 6,000 acres of reservoir, ponds, and wetlands. Gibson Lake itself is a 3,000-acre cooling reservoir with a surrounding levee and a 2-mile-long breakwater down the center. Because the warm water discharge keeps the lake from freezing in the winter, it often accumulates thousands of ducks and geese when the local lakes freeze. Winter also brings eagles to Gibson Lake! A typical day's drive around the levee produces at least two Bald Eagles.

There are retaining ponds on the west and northeast sides of the lake, as well natural ponds and wetlands along the east, southeast, south, and southwest sides of the lake on the county roads. The Gibson Lake Wildlife Habitat Area (DeLorme p. 54 G6) is located on the Gibson property on the north side of the lake. This 160-acre area of natural wetlands is open to the public and accessible via two trails that course through woodlands and grassy areas on their way to the wetlands. In drought years the various ponds and wetlands around the property become resting areas for shorebirds that seek out mudflats during the fall flight.

The Gibson and Cane Ridge properties contain one of only two known nesting areas for Least Terns in Indiana. Because these birds are endangered in the state and need protection, all visitors should be careful not to disturb them. There are certain areas of the property that are off limits to EVERYONE during the breeding season, so visitors should refrain from attempting to gain access into the restricted areas set aside for their nesting.

Although not on Cinergy property itself, the adjacent property to the west along the Wabash River can be an excellent riparian birding area in the spring and fall. This narrow stretch of woods runs along a county road that varies from asphalt to dirt, with the dirt portion being prone to flooding when heavy spring rains occur. Immediately to the south of Lake Gibson is the Cane Ridge unit of the Patoka River Nationa Wildlife Refuge. This area is being developed for nesting Least Terns but also for ducks and shorebirds. East of Cane Ridge is property that is state owned and also being developed. Presently that area is closed to the public.

Typical Time to Bird Site: 1-2 Hours, but if you are with someone who has access to the central breakwater and some other areas you may spend 5 or more hours birding the Lake Gibson and Cane Ridge sites.


Gibson Lake is a stopover site for shorebirds, gulls, and waterfowl, and a wintering site for gulls and waterfowl. The adjacent riparian areas are good for many passerines in spring and fall.
Bird Checklist for Gibson Lake:
Bird Checklist for Gibson Lake / Gibson Power Plant
Specialty Species:
Least Terns breed at Gibson Lake and Cane Ridge and may be seen anytime between mid-May and late August or early September.
Bald Eagles are common during the winter and are usually encountered on a drive around the levee. They nest in the area.
Noteworthy Records:
Red-throated Loon
Pacific Loon - (03-Nov-1991)
Eared Grebe
Red-necked Grebe
Western Grebe
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican - (21-23-May-1999)
Plegadis ibis - (13-Sep-1987); (22-Sep-1990)
Snowy Egret
Ross's Goose - (26-Nov-1989 through 03-Dec-1989); (05-Jan-1997)
Cinnamon Teal - (18-22-Mar-1984)
Tricolored Heron - (22-26-May-1996)
Wood Stork
White-faced Ibis
Glossy Ibis
Black-Bellied Whistling-duck
White-winged Scoter
Surf Scoter
Golden Eagle
Peregrine Falcon
Wild Turkey
King Rail
Piping Plover
Snowy Plover - (23-26-Apr-1989)
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper - (23-Sep-1988 through 02-Oct-1988)
American Avocet
Black-necked Stilt
Marbled Godwit
Hudsonian Godwit
Purple Sandpiper
Red Knot
Red Phalarope
Laughing Gull - 13 records since 1986
Little Gull - (02-Apr-1988 through 03-May-1988); (22-Apr-1989)
Sabine's Gull - (12-Sep-1993)
Glaucous Gull - (23-Feb-1992 through 05-Apr-1992); (06-Dec-1992)
Iceland Gull - (01-Mar-1987)
Thayer's Gull - 7 records since 1987
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 17 records since 1986
Black-headed Gull - (19-Feb-1989 through 19-Mar-1989)
California Gull - (10-Oct-1987 through 27-Mar-1988); (08-Oct-1988 through 09-Apr-1989); (16-Feb-1992); (31-Oct-1993); (23-Jul-1995 through 17-Sep-1995); (03-Nov-1996)
Black-legged Kittiwake - (06-Nov-1988); (17-Dec-1989); (17-Apr-1994)
Arctic Tern - (20-Aug-1987)
Pomarine Jaeger
Parasitic Jaeger
Black Skimmer - (23-May-2005)
Swainson's Hawk
Prairie Falcon - (26-Feb-1989)
Snowy Owl
Northern Wheatear - (31-Mar-1991 through 06-Apr-1991)
Mountain Bluebird - (13-14-Feb-1993)
Le Conte's Sparrow
Henslow's Sparrow

General Site Information


Duke Energy (Previously Cinergy/PSI)
Restricted areas are accessible during daylight hours with a permit. The Public Boat Ramp is typically closed November through February. The Wildlife Habitat Area is open year-round.
Access Restrictions:
Access to most of the property requires a permit. To receive a permit by mail, phone the Facility Services Team Leader at Gibson Generating Station at 812-386-4286. Be sure to observe any restricted areas due to nesting or construction. Access to the central breakwater and some other areas may be on foot only unless you are a guest of someone who has special access to these areas. Even foot access to some areas is limited at some times during the year.
Portable facilities are available at the Public Boat Ramp on the east side of the lake and at the Wildlife Habitat Area.
Accomodations are available in nearby Princeton, IN.
Special Considerations:
Arachnids: Grassy areas in the Wildlife Habitat Area may harbor chiggers and ticks.
Terrain: Waterproof footwear may be required in the fall when mudflats occur.
Temporal Considerations:
Although summer may be the least productive time of year at Gibson, all seasons can be rewarding depending on the birds of interest. Waterfowl are generally present October through April, whereas gulls can be found September through mid-May. Shorebirds first appear March through May, then return to the area early July through November. The spring passerine flight occurs early April through mid-May, while the fall flight takes place September through October.


Bowman, Gary.

"Northern Wheatear Occurrence in Indiana."
Indiana Audubon Quarterly 69.3 (1991): 133-34.
Bowman, Gary, and Lisa Bowman.
"Southern Invasion at Gibson PSI."
Indiana Audubon Quarterly 75.1 (1997): 17-8.
Brock, Kenneth J., James H. Campbell, and Scott F. Jackson.
"Reexamination of the Gibson County CBC Jaeger."
Indiana Audubon Quarterly 71.3 (1993): 142-8.
Castrale, John S., Charles E. Mills, and Timothy Hayes.
"Growth of the Least Tern Population at Gibson Lake, Indiana."
Indiana Audubon Quarterly 77.3 (1999): 150-8.
Jones, Denny.
"Arctic Tern in Gibson County."
Indiana Audubon Quarterly 66.4 (1988): 154-6.
Keller, Charles E., Shirley A. Keller, and Timothy C. Keller.
Indiana Birds and Their Haunts: A Checklist and Finding Guide. Second Edition.
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986.
Mills, Charles E.
"First Physical Evidence of the Snowy Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) in Indiana."
Indiana Audubon Quarterly 68.1 (1990): 55.
Mills, Charles E.
"Indiana's First Least Tern Nesting Record."
Indiana Audubon Quarterly 65.2 (1987): 42-4.
Seng, Phil T., and David J. Case.
Indiana Wildlife Viewing Guide.
Helena, MT: Falcon Press, 1992.


Authors: Gary & Lisa Bowman
Editors: Darel Heitkamp and Dick Patterson
Last updated: November, 2007

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