How shared values led to a 15-year partnership


A family business to its core, Brian Cooley founded the White River Canoe Company with the goal to bring his family together and spend time outdoors.

“I wanted our family to be together on the journey, making a living doing something we love, and controlling our own destinies. Lesa and I raised three boys who loved the outdoors.We spent our free time hiking, camping, hunting, beach-bumming, and fishing in the years they were growing up,” he shared. 

This summer is the company’s fifteenth season offering canoe, kayak, and tubing trips along the White River. And given Brian’s priorities at the start, it’s only fitting that he and his company partnered with Conner Prairie—a place where family memories are created, and time spent outdoors is treasured.

Each year since its founding, hundreds of Conner Prairie campers have joined the White River Canoe Company for a canoe trip along the river. Since then, our partnership has continued to grow. Last year, the company sponsored the Conner Prairie Golf Classic and will be returning sponsors this year.

“Giving back was an easy decision, given the number of kids we’ve served over the years and the fun they had on the river and in the camp,” Brian shared.

Conner Prairie and the White River Canoe Company also believe deeply in the value of the White River and the importance of protecting its health.

“The health of the river is everything to us,” Brian explained, “The White River is our office and our home field where we get to play and work to help people enjoy this amazing resource. I’m extremely passionate about leaving it better than I found it because my boys will be working to do the same long beyond my years.”

As we celebrate National Rivers Month this June, Conner Prairie is proud to highlight donors like White River Canoe Company. Conner Prairie, White River Canoe Company, and many others collaborate together with organizations like the White River Alliance and support the efforts of the White River Vision Plan, a community-driven plan to protect and enhance the White River. And through upcoming projects like the White River Education and Ecology Center, Conner Prairie plans to create opportunities for visitors to experience the White River and understand its role in the regional ecosystem.

Thanks to the White River Canoe Company, thousands of Conner Prairie guests, including hundreds of summer campers, have an opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty of the White River each year—from in a canoe or from a lookout on our grounds.

Together, we look forward to creating more opportunities for the community to enjoy the White River and work to protect its health and future.  

Learn more about how you can support Conner Prairie’s mission through our Mission Impact Fund, which makes possible the many activities, exhibits, and educational experiences that take place at Conner Prairie.

To learn more about Conner Prairie’s plans to integrate the White River into our guest experience, read more about our Conservation Campus.