Brown County State Park
by Marty Burton
Brown County, Indiana is not only the home of many great shops, music parks, theaters, and eateries, but also the home of the biggest park in the state.
The Brown County State Park, a sprawling 16,000 acres of wooded hills, caters to the nature lover. Beautiful camping sites for both RV’s and the primitive tent are just a couple of places a person can stay while relaxing and enjoying the outside splendor of Mother Nature. If you want rustic accommodations with a touch of luxury, you can stay at the Abe Martin Lodge in rooms or cabins.
The park was opened to the general public in 1929 and has grown in popularity due to added facilities and trails.
There are about 70 miles of bridle trails. For the seasoned hikers there are over 12 miles of hiking trails leading through steep and wooded hills in varying levels of difficulty. Visitors that prefer a less challenging walk through the park can enjoy an easy-access trail that was donated by the Friends of the State Park or can follow self-guided interpretive trails through gardens and nature areas.
For bicycle enthusiasts there are four new trails to travel; two moderate trails, a 1.2 mile trail at the North Gate, and a 3.5 mile trail at the North Tower Loop; and two difficult trails, a 3.4 mile trail at Aynes Loop, and a 2.1 mile trail at Hesitation Point.
Picnickers can choose from several picnic areas, some with shelters and fire pits, and others with comfort stations located nearby. Playgrounds are available for the kids at several picnic sites.
The park has a Nature Center in which a snake exhibit, bird-watching room, and other displays are housed. Naturalists are available there year-round. Wildlife in the park includes a variety of critters. Mammals such as the white-tailed deer, raccoon, and gray squirrel can be seen scampering through the park. You can spot birds around the grounds including wild turkeys, robins, white-breasted nuthatches, bluejays, cardinals, juncos, and sparrows. The Nature Center offers daily programs for the whole family where you will learn more about the current vegetation and wildlife and hear tales of the animals that once roamed the park, such as bears, wolves, and cougars.
According to Jim Eagleman, manager and naturalist of the Nature Center, the Girl Scouts will sponsor Bird Appreciation Day on July 22, 2006. “There will be games, activities, learning, and hands on projects,” Jim said. “There will also be a Hawk released into the wild for everyone to see. We are looking forward to this and really want to promote this special day.”
The daily interpretive programs allow visitors to experience Indiana’s natural and cultural resources first-hand. There are guided hikes, crafts and demonstrations, talks, and exhibits. The outdoor educators, first called “nature guides” when the program started in the 1920s, have been providing Hoosiers with a special connection to the park for more than 80 years.
If the day gets a little too hot, you can join friends and family at the Olympic size swimming pool, or cool your heels at one of the two lakes.
For more information you can go to
<www.dnr.in.gov> and click on any Brown County State Park links that interest you, or call the park office at (812) 988-6406. For lodging accommodations call the Abe Martin Lodge at (812) 988-4418.