Nature May 22, 2016
Guest Contributor You Must See These 8 Stunning State Parks In Southern Indiana
Indiana has many fabulous parks to visit, especially in the southern portion of the state. These parks feature fabulous hiking, camping, and picnicking possibilities. Many offer boating, fishing, and equestrian activities as well. Many, like Spring Mill, Lincoln, and Harmonie State Park feature historic as well as recreational opportunities. Brown County, Spring Mill, and Clifty Falls have inns for visitors to stay in style while enjoying the parks activities, which allows wintertime visitors to relax in a restful atmosphere.
Indiana State Parks provide a great experience for families to spend time together enjoying outdoor or learn about history. Whether it is hiking, biking, horseback riding or boating, visitors are sure to find a great place to enjoy themselves at one or more of these fabulous state parks.
During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.
1. Clifty Falls State Park
Perched high on bluffs above the Ohio River, Clifty Falls State Park boasts great hiking, scenic waterfalls, and a wonderful campground. Taking its name from the falls on Clifty Creek, the park got its start from a 570-acre gift given to the State by Madison residents.
Numerous picnic areas and shelters allow families a good spot to relax while enjoying a picnic meal. Visitors wanting to stay in comfort can book a room at the Clifty Inn. The Inn has a restaurant, swimming pool and sitting area that overlooks the river.
Hikers can traverse a historic railroad tunnel on one of the trails. The tunnel formed a part of the Madison and Indianapolis Railroad, which went bankrupt before the tunnel saw use. The park has four waterfalls; most are accessible only by trail. The main falls, a sixty foot cascade, is near Clifty Shelter and accessible to picnickers.
2. Charlestown State Park
Charlestown State Park offers some fantastic hiking opportunities along the Ohio River and Fourteen Mile Creek. There are over 72 different species of birds that have been sighted here, including Bald Eagles and bluebirds.
All three plants in the park ceased operation by 1992. The company ceded 4,500 acres of the property to the State of Indiana for use as a state park. The park also contains the remnant of the Fern Grove and Rose Island Resorts. In 2011, the Portersville Bridge (moved from Dubois County) allows visitors foot access to the old amusement park site via Trail 3 and 7. Still standing... or at least partially standing... is the old stone fountain, a retaining wall, and some stone steps from the hotel, the ticket booth that admitted people from the boat landing, and a few other relics of the past.
3. Harmonie State Park
Harmonie State Park combines history, outdoor recreation, and stunning river vistas to provide a wonderful family friendly vacation spot.
Its location on the banks of the lovely Wabash River provides a wonderful place for fishing and boating. Trails and picnic tables line the bank and an access ramp allows boaters to lower their watercrafts into the river. The picnic area is a wonderful place to watch stunning sunsets over the river.
Harmonie State Park also has a campground with electric sites and family cabins for visitors to extend their stay. Several of the 200 campsites are ADA accessible, as are two of the cabins.
Hikers have a multitude of trails to hike that offer a variety of hiking experiences. Mountain bike and horse trails add to the diversity of the outdoor experience.
An Interpretive Naturalist Service and Nature Center round out the amenities found at Harmonie State Park. History buffs will enjoy nearby Historic New Harmony. This fascinating village provides a unique look into two experiments in communal living in New Harmony. The Rappites and Harmonites both tried to establish communal living here, but ultimately neither community succeeded; however, they left behind a fascinating story, architecture, and community that survives for people to study and enjoy.
4. Lincoln State Park
Abraham Lincoln spent his boyhood years in southern Indiana. Lincoln State Park preserves some of the sites and memories important to Lincoln as he was growing up. Nancy Hanks Lincoln and her husband Thomas gave birth to Abraham on February 12, 1809. He was born on the Sinking Spring Farm in Hardin County, Kentucky. When Abraham was a boy of seven, Thomas moved the family to southern Indiana. Thomas had been a wealthy Kentucky farmer until 1816, when he lost all his land due to faulty property line disputes. He moved his family to Indiana, where the property laws provided better title to land. Thomas was also staunchly anti-slavery. Kentucky was a slave state while Indiana was not.
Lincoln State Park provides visitors a place to walk in the places Lincoln walked. They can also enjoy a play, hike trails, or enjoy lake activities on Lincoln Lake. The park is 2026 acres in size, heavily wooded, and a beautiful place to spend a vacation.
5. Brown County State Park
Brown County State Park's resemblance to the Smoky Mountains the area has earned the nickname "Little Smokies." The twenty miles of roadways have several scenic vista lookouts. Brown County is Indiana's largest State Park. It boasts over 15,000 acres of nationally renowned scenic beauty. Established in 1929, it is a popular tourist mecca during the fall foliage season, but the park is busy at all times of the year.
Fall is the most popular time to visit, as the forested hills create stunning autumn scenes. Summer, spring, and fall are good times to visit, as the park offers fabulous hiking over the 12 miles of trails. During wintertime, visitors spend time reading quietly in front of the huge stone wood burning fireplace in the great room of the inn.
Abe Martin Inn features an aquatic center, which makes it a popular draw for families all through the year, but especially during the cold winter months. The dining room at the Inn has delicious food at family affordable prices.
6. Falls of the Ohio State Park
At 165 acres, Falls of the Ohio State Park is the smallest of Indiana's state parks. The park resides in the town of Clarksville, Indiana just across the river from Louisville, Kentucky. The Falls of the Ohio were a series of rapids that allowed the river to fall 26 feet in a little over two and a half miles. These rapids presented early river travelers with the only obstacle on the 981-mile course of the river. By the early 1800's, attempts to circumvent them were already under way. Today the McAlpine Dam obscures most of the cascades by raising the river level for better navigation. The park includes an Interpretive Center, the Devonian Fossil Bed, and hiking trails. A picnic area, public access to the Ohio River, and the George Rogers Clark Home are also within the park.
The park falls within the 1,400 acre Falls of the Ohio National Wildlife Conservation Area. The State of Indiana established the Falls of the Ohio State Park in 1990 to preserve the fossil beds that lay exposed on the riverbed. As the 20th Indiana State Park, The Falls of the Ohio specializes in public interpretation and education about the fossils.
7. O’Bannon State Park
O'Bannon Woods State Park boasts a variety of activities. Formerly called Wyandotte Woods State Recreation Area, the DNR changed the name to honor Gov. Frank O’Bannon. The former Indiana governor’s family lives and the area and has actively preserve local natural resources.
Hikers will find over 11 miles of trails, many overlooking the majestic Ohio River. Equestrians may ride their mounts on over 80 miles of trails. Cave enthusiasts can explore the dark regions of Wyandotte Caves. This cave complex includes two separate cave systems: Sibert and The Big Cave. The Nature Center is features a restored pioneer homestead. The campground contains 234 campsites. Picnic facilities, which are scattered throughout the park, feature nine shelters. The Blue River provides access to the Ohio River and serves as a route for canoeists and other boaters.
Relive history with a visit to the Pioneer Farmstead, which features a working hay press barn. The historic first Indiana State Capitol Corydon and Squire Boone's homestead are just short drive away. Canoeists can play in the waters of the Blue River, while speedboats have easy access to the Ohio River. Anglers may try their luck in the Blue River. Visitors can also enjoy two nearby cave systems outside the park.
8. Versailles State Park
Established in 1934, the 5988-acre Versailles State Park is Indiana’s second largest State Park. Visitors can enjoy a multitude of activities at the park, including hiking, boating, fishing, camping, and picnicking. Equestrians who own horses will find miles and miles of horseback trails for day use. The park operates a boat rental for use on the 200-acre Versailles Lake. The swimming pool offers hours of aquatic fun. Camping facilities include a group camp, modern campground, and well equipped camp store. Mountain bikers can explore the northern reaches of the park on several miles of trails, some of which overlook Laughery Creek.
Hoosiers who wish to learn more about Indiana’s state parks and other attractions must visit the Columbus, Indiana. Visit
Indiana Places for more information about Columbus and Indiana.