South-central Indiana is full of paths, parks and waterways that lead to great outdoor adventures
by Press Release [September 1, 2010]
Aug. 29--A steel staircase with open-platform steps descends the wooded hillside to a small cave. It then continues down, where the sound of rushing water to the left is the first hint of the waterfall at Shirley Springs. A bridge leads across the waters to trails through the woods to a wetland and beyond. That's part of the trail at Leonard Springs Nature Park, one of the many recreational areas in south-central Indiana.
Here are some of the places and activities that might make this fall more interesting, for both the newcomers at Indiana University and longtime area residents who may have forgotten about some of the recreational jewels that are tucked away in the hills nearby.
Hiking, biking and more
IU folks don't even have to leave campus to find a great walking trail. The Woodland Campus Tour winds through campus and past some wonderful trees and foliage. The tour begins at the northeast entrance to the Indiana Memorial Union's Biddle Hotel, where you'll find Tree No. 1, an American sweetgum. For self-guilding brochure on this tour, go to www.indiana.edu/~spea/pubs/woodland.pdf.
The city of Bloomington has been constructing several trails, including the Clear Creek Trail, which has several access points on Tapp Road and Church Road on the city's southeast side. There is also the B-Line Trail that wends its way through the downtown area and is open for walkers, bicyclists and in-line skaters and the newly opened Jackson Creek Trail.
A little farther off campus is Griffy Lake, which offers several woodland trails as well as canoes and kayaks that can be rented at the boathouse. The lake is also a favorite fishing spot for anglers and is a frequent stop for area birders.
One of Bloomington's lesser known parks is Leonard Springs Nature Park, which is southwest of Bloomington on South Leonard Springs Road. There is a rugged 1.1-mile hiking trail that has views of a wetland area, two caves, scenic Shirley Springs and other wild wonders.
Just on the edge of Monroe County is another forested area that has hiking trails, campsites and picnic areas. Morgan-Monroe State Forest includes 24,000 acres in Morgan and Monroe counties. There are three lakes: Bryant Creek Lake, Cherry Lake and Prather Lake, all open for fishing. There are boat ramps on Bryant Creek and Cherry lakes. Hikers need to be aware that hunting is allowed in the state forest. Trails include the half-mile Scout Ridge Nature Preserve Trail; a tree identification trail that's not much longer; the 3-mile Rock Shelter Loop and the rugged Three Lakes Trail that's 10 miles. For more, go to www.in.gov/dnr/forestry/4816.htm.
A more famous park full of hiking opportunities, miles of mountain biking trails and lakes for fishing is Brown County State Park near Nashville. The park has campgrounds, including one for horse riders, cabins and a lodge with a new 12,000-square foot indoor water park. The state park has trails ranging from one that's almost a mile long and easy to moderate trails up to 3.5 miles in length. There are ways to combine trails to get a longer hike through the woods. The state park also has two nature preserves, Ogle Hollow and the new Ten O'Clock Line Nature Preserve. The mountain bike trails include more than 25 miles of winding, single-track trail that are rated from beginner to expert. All the bike trails are shared with hikers and trail runners. For more about the park, go to www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/2988.htm.