Outdoor destinations near campus

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Outdoor enthusiasts do not need to travel far to satisfy their hiking or camping needs with four state parks within an approximate 50-mile radius of campus.

McCormick’s Creek State Park is the oldest state park in Indiana and only a 40-minute drive from campus. The park offers miles of trails, a waterfall that visitors can hike to, horseback riding, hayrides and a nature center.

Karen Thatcher is the first face visitors will meet as they enter the park. Thatcher is 70-years old and has worked at McCormick’s Creek for nearly 50 years. She said she couldn’t handle a job indoors. “I’ve always been a country girl and enjoyed being in the woods.”

Thatcher has had a first-hand view of the park’s evolution over the years. “It used to be a bigger waterfall,” Thatcher said, as she described one of the park’s most iconic attractions. “People could actually stand under the waterfall, but over the years, the water has washed the rock away.”  

Janet Terrell is an employee at Canyon Inn, the lodge located in the park, and said many visitors enjoy traveling to state parks in Indiana due to how well maintained they are.

“If you like the outdoors, this is the place to be,” Terrell said. “There’s a lot of history and nature within this park. We turned 100-years old in 2016.”

Turkey Run State Park in Marshall, Indiana is the second oldest park in the state and a 40-minute drive northwest of campus. The park attracts close to 900,000 visitors a year. A 200-foot suspension bridge connects visitors to miles of trails where hikers can challenge themselves on a variety of terrains.

Senior Jared Prifogle, who worked as a naturalist at the park this summer, said trail three is  popular amongst visitors, offering ledge rock and ladders for hikers to climb.

“That’s the one people usually come to do. Trail nine is underrated. There’s a place called Boulder Canyon. You get to see granite, metamorphic and igneous rocks, while you’re surrounded by sand stone,” Prifogle said.

Prifogle met visitors from around the world during his time working in the park’s nature center. “We had someone from Barcelona visit this summer– just for Turkey Run,” Prifogle said. “It’s different from the rest of Indiana. When you get down into the ravines, you don’t feel like you’re in Indiana anymore. It’s like you’ve escaped the cornfields, and the soybeans, and the cows, you feel like you’re somewhere out west.”

Only 20-minutes from Turkey Run is Shades State Park in Waveland, Indiana. Prifogle worked at both locations. He described the Shades as, “Turkey Run with less people. That’s the place to go if you want to get away from the people but still see amazing geology and animals.” Visitors can explore the park via kayak or canoe as they embark down Sugar Creek, which runs through the park.  

A little over an hour south of DePauw is Shakamak State Park located in Jasonville, Indiana. The park is home to three man-made lakes offering 400-acres of aquatic adventure for visitors interested in fishing and boating. The park also offers a nature center, miles of hiking trails and numerous campsites.

All Indiana state parks require visitors to pay a daily admission of $7 per vehicle for in-state residents or $9 for non-Indiana residents.