The Complete Guide to Indiana State Parks

The Complete Guide to Indiana State Parks


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Whether you are looking for a weekend hike in the woods, a family outing, or great locations to study the local flora and fauna, Indiana state parks provide something for everyone. Visiting all 25 state parks in Indiana, Nathan Strange and Matt Williams profile and photograph the features that make Indiana parks beautiful and unique. Each park profile includes an engaging history of the park's origins and interviews with dedicated staff members about their favorite landscapes, wildlife, and adventures available in each park. This complete guidebook also offers extensive descriptions of the best park trails, along with the authors' hiking experiences, helpful maps, and directions. Featuring 109 exquisite full-color photographs and inside facts, The Complete Guide to Indiana State Parks is a must-have for every Hoosier and visitor to the state.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780253025197
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Publication date: 03/14/2018
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 322,831
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 16.70(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Nathan D. Strange is a writer, naturalist, and author of A Guide to the Knobstone Trail.

Matt Williams has worked for the Nature Conservancy for the past 16 years and is a specialist in prescribed fire and endangered species management. He is author and photographer of Indiana State Parks: A Centennial Celebration.

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McCormick's Creek State Park

Established 1916 — 1,961 acres 250 McCormick's Creek Park Road Spencer, IN 47460 (812) 829-2235 39.294444, -86.727778

The region was at one time settled by Miami, Delaware, Potawatomi, and Eel River Indians who are thought to have hunted and made camps along the White River and McCormick's Creek. During the era of European settlement, the land was first acquired by John McCormick on September 20, 1816. McCormick never visited the land, but his two sons Thomas and Hudson operated mills on the creek, and his daughter Nancy, with her husband Jesse Peden, raised livestock and chickens, had a vegetable garden, and farmed hundreds of acres of wheat. In order to keep milk, butter, and eggs from spoiling, a springhouse was constructed, using old-fashioned ingenuity and the local geology to keep the building cold. Using the cold water from a spring, milk cans were placed in a trough to keep cool while butter and eggs were placed on shelves around the building.

When Jesse and Nancy's son Tom took over the farm, he constructed a large barn after the farm's original log barn burned down in 1857. The new barn, of massive proportion, was set on top of gigantic limestone pillars assembled by a stonemason from England. Large hickory timbers, 64 feet long, stretched the length of the pillars. As years passed, the land became a patchwork of smaller farms and properties, leaving barns and a schoolhouse to decay. Artemus Pratt's five-room home once stood where the Beech Grove Shelter currently resides. Sidney Henrick lived in a home just above McCormick's Creek Falls on the ridge, while his brother James owned a home where the Canyon Inn now stands. Near the McCormick's Creek Falls parking area, the Laymon family owned a five-room home with a log barn just west of the house. Fredrick Denkewalter continued to add to the structure, creating a hodge podge building known as the Denkewalter Sanitarium. Near the park superintendent's house, an original settler to the area named Dunn had a home, and Harrison Bean built a two-room home near the campgrounds near Trail 7. The one-room schoolhouse was located near the old stone bridge and at one time had 96 students enrolled at the school. With so many pupils, there was not enough room for desks, so benches were built around the interior walls.


When the Great Chicago fire devastated that city in 1871, the demands for limestone increased. In 1878 the Statehouse Quarry, a limestone quarry built on a bluff of solid stone along McCormick's Creek, began operating on what is now park property. Stone cut from the land was used for the foundation and basement of the capitol building in Indianapolis. The limestone boom hit as railroads capable of hauling the heavy stone were built across the state, and the newly invented channeling machine was used to cut the stone vertically with ease. Workdays were 10 hours long, and the quarry once employed 50 to 75 men at one time. A village of 13 buildings was located at the quarry site providing the workers a close place to live. Married men were provided private huts for their families, and single men were given a space in dormitory housing. Once considered one of the finest of its time, the quarry operated for two years before the operation was abandoned due to the constant washing out of the train trestle over the White River. Remains from the operation are still visible, including the old railroad trestle across the White River, which was used to ship the heavy stone, as well as a bridge foundation at the creek near the quarry.

During the late 1800s many towns began promoting the naturally occurring mineral waters for their rejuvenating nature. While recovering from sunstroke, an Indianapolis physician and minister named Fredrick Denkewalter visited the countryside seeking fresh air and a peaceful setting. Taken by the area, he later returned in 1880 and purchased 90 acres of McCormick's old property. His land purchase also included an old farmhouse located not far from McCormick's Creek Falls. With the intention of building a place of solace, he converted the old farmhouse into a sanitarium designed to offer others a place to rest, relax, and recuperate within the peaceful setting of nature. Due to demand by the public, Denkewalter had to enlarge the structure twice, eventually purchasing a total of 374 acres and selling his medical practice to operate the health resort full time. During the boom of the mineral water craze, health spas and sanitariums also opened in the nearby towns of Spencer, Gosport, and Martinsville, promoting the therapeutic benefits of the area's natural settings. With the death of Denkewalter in 1914, his children decided to sell the property at a public auction. With debate from the citizens of Owen County about converting the land into a public park, Richard Lieber was approached to work with the people of Owen County and the state of Indiana to raise the funds necessary to purchase the sanitarium and the property surrounding the canyon. With the influence of Richard Lieber, McCormick's Creek State Park was purchased by the state by combining state funds with money from Owen County. Officially established on July 4, 1916, McCormick's Creek became Indiana's first state park, setting a standard of distinction that remains to present day. Colonel Richard Lieber, being an advocate of protecting natural areas for their therapeutic benefits, relished the idea of McCormick's Creek being used as a quiet place to revitalize people. Returning multiple times throughout his life, he died in one of the rooms of the Canyon Inn in 1944. Over the years the park continued to increase in size, with the last large land purchase of the Deer Run area occurring in 1951. Today the park stands at 1,961 acres.

The park's premiere lodging, Canyon Inn, once served not only as a farmhouse but also as an orphanage for a short time before being purchased by Fredrick Denkewalter. After being taken over by the state of Indiana for a park, the inn underwent many changes and renovations. First remodeled by the park in 1922, a brick wing and entryway was later added in 1932. The original wooden structure of the inn was torn down in 1941 and replaced with a matching brick addition. Today the beautiful structure has stood the test of time for over 100 years, offering visitors six different types of rooms with 76 guest rooms and two conference areas.


The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Company 589 was assigned to work and live at McCormick's Creek from November 1933 until July 1935 — beginning the first construction of the park's gatehouse in 1934. The original CCC camp had eight barracks, a recreation hall, vehicle storage building, a mess hall, and several administration buildings. Other tasks included installing water lines, building many of the hiking trails, and constructing the often-overlooked Stone Arch Bridge. The bridge was said to be a masterpiece of stone masonry for its time and features the use of a center keystone that compresses the bridge's archway, holding the structure together. With a 50-foot span, the bridge's highest point stands 25 feet over the creek below. Today it remains the only self-supporting bridge built by the CCC in Indiana. When the CCC left the park in 1935, the recreation hall was converted into a nature museum and was used for over 30 years to highlight the park's native landscape. The nature museum was later used for storage before being converted to a rentable facility. One of the more notable members of the CCC camp was Euclid Dearing. While first assigned to work on the park's gatehouse and original driveway, he was later assigned to work as the camp's cook. A dedicated member of the CCC, Euclid worked in the park and later became a key component in the restoration of the park and CCC reunions in his later years. The amphitheater was constructed by the Works Progress Administration in 1936. The famous Stone Arch Bridge, park gatehouse, and CCC recreation hall/nature museum were all added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.


The park and most of its key features tend to center around the diverse geology of the landscape. The limestone used to build most of the park's buildings and bridges represents just how limestone rich the area is, while the sinkholes, the cave, and falls show what water and time can do to the ancient stone.


Created from the unique existence of two types of limestone, McCormick's Creek Falls was formed as water flowed over the upper, harder, less easily dissolved limestone while eroding away the lower softer layer of limestone that forms the falls and lower creek bed.


The park's first swimming pool was constructed in 1928 and was originally spring fed.

The limestone geology and karst topography of the area create many interesting rock formations.


Located in the northeast section of the park, the Wolf Cave Nature Preserve protects the Wolf Cave and the majority of Litten's Branch. Within the secluded valley, a mixture of tree types exist, including American beech along the area's cool slopes; sycamore, red elm, and black walnut in the drier valleys; and chinquapin, red and white oak, and shagbark hickory in the drier upland ridges. The areas around Litten's Branch also contain a large collection of mosses, liverworts, and ferns. Trail 5 leads through the entire expanse of the preserve, offering visitors an opportunity to explore Wolf Cave.


The park's southwestern corner containing the old quarry site and family cabins is protected by McCormick's Cove Nature Preserve — a 177-acre tract, old-growth, floodplain forest. Lindsey, Schmeltz, and Nichols first recognized McCormick's Cove Nature Preserve as a significant natural area in their 1969 book, Natural Areas in Indiana and Their Preservation. During a 1985 inventory of Owen County, McCormick's Cove was described as "probably the best mesic and drymesic forest seen in the county." Due to the diverse soil conditions, the area flourishes with a wide variety of wildflowers, ferns, and woody species.


One of the finest nature centers in the state, a large collection of displays educate on the park's history, geology, animal life, and flora. The CCC is well represented with vintage artifacts and a video, as well as a display about park interpretation.


(0.14 miles) — The path begins at the northeast corner of the nature center and has 12 labeled stations, educating the public on topics such as trees, herbs, and wildlife. A pamphlet is available from the center that goes into more detail about each station and the successional forest. The trail ends at the southwest corner of the nature center.


(0.5 miles) Moderate — The trail begins and ends at the family cabins looping though the western edge of the park and through McCormick's Cove Nature Preserve.


(1.0 miles) Moderate — The trail begins at the CCC recreation hall and leads northwest into the northern section of McCormick's Cove Nature Preserve before turning south and ending at the family cabins. Trail 1 can be picked up from there. The trail passes several access points to other trails and serves as a good starting point to other trails throughout the park.


(0.8 miles) Rugged — The path can be accessed at several points, including Stoney Restroom near the amphitheater or from the parking lot near McCormick's Creek Falls. A connector trail creates a loop, ending the trail near the Recreation Center and Canyon Inn.


(1.4 miles) Moderate — McCormick's Creek is one of the few parks to still have a fire tower. Located on Trail 4, the 86-foot-tall structure with a seven-by-seven-foot cab was first constructed in 1935 by the CCC. Regularly used until 1967, the tower was officially listed on the National Historic Lookout Register on November 12, 2008.


(2.0 miles) Moderate — The trails of McCormick's Creek are scattered with large sinkholes — a result of the area's water eroding the limestone-rich landscape. Wolf Cave and Twin Bridges seen along Trail 5 are just a few of the outcomes the erosive power of water can create. While no longer housing wolves, the cave gets its name from a story about Nancy Peden being chased by wolves after passing the entrance of the cave. It is said that she survived by throwing down her bonnet and gloves to distract the wolves, allowing her to make it home safely. The cave was once closed to protect the spread of white-nose syndrome in bats. The cave was reopened in May 2014 and remains a fascinating stop for visitors, with its long winding corridor that leads to a modest-sized room. Unlike most of the caves in Indiana that have been closed, Wolf Cave's size, location, and lack of use by bats allowed the cave to continue to be used by visitors. Twin Bridges once formed a larger chamber of Wolf Cave, until the roof collapsed and the remaining parts of the chamber formed the limestone bridges we see today. The trail also passes a large portion of Wolf Cave Nature Preserve, which is protected as a nature preserve due to the importance of the area's subterranean features.


(0.6 miles) Easy — The trail loops from the east side of the campground to the Beech Grove Shelter. The short hike and easy access from the campground makes it a very popular trek for overnight visitors — leading primarily north and south near the youth tent area and the primitive camping area.


(1.8 miles) Moderate — The trail offers views of White River and McCormick's Creek with enormous sycamores and a long, wooden platform sprawling through the woods. Another trail that is very close to the western edge of the campground, the path follows a service road for a short distance on the northern section, while giving an easy access point to Trail 10 and the Old Quarry along the southern section.


(0.7 miles) Easy and Accessible — A paved path, located between campsites 14 and 15, connects the campground to the swimming pool and bathhouse, while passing two access points to Trail 5 and the Pine Bluff Shelter.


(1.2 miles) Easy — The trail features the remnants of the Peden Farm Site, including several old foundations and the springhouse that was used to store food. Restored in 2012, 18 inches of mud and debris were removed from the springhouse, revealing a flowing spring, a sediment pit, and a water trough. Remnants of the legendary Peden barn also still exist. While all of the wood from the barn collapsed years ago, the enormous limestone base still remains.


(0.7 miles) Rugged — This modest connector trail joins Trail 2, Trail 5, and Trail 7, while also connecting with the Quarry Loop. It crosses McCormick's Creek three times and is one of the best trails to connect other trails in any direction, leading to all of the key features of the park.


(3.5 miles) — This trail begins and ends at the park's saddle barn, crossing McCormick's Creek in the southeastern section of the park. The smooth path leads through the flattest area of the park through a young successional forest and crosses Trail 9 near the historic Peden Farm Site and Deer Run Shelter.


Excerpted from "The Complete Guide To Indiana State Parks"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Nathan Strange.
Excerpted by permission of Indiana University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

PrefaceIntroduction1. McCormick's Creek State Park2. Turkey Run State Park3. Clifty Falls State Park4. Indiana Dunes State Park5. Pokagon State Park6. Spring Mill State Park7. Shakamak State Park8. Brown County State Park9. Mounds State Park10. Lincoln State Park11. Tippecanoe River State Park12. Versailles State Park13. Shades State Park14. Whitewater Memorial State Park15. Chain O'Lakes State Park16. Ouabache State Park17. Harmonie State Park18. Potato Creek State Park19. White River State Park20. Summit Lake State Park21. Falls of the Ohio State Park22. Charlestown State Park23. Fort Harrison State Park24. O'Bannon Woods State Park25. Prophetstown State Park

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