"Fall for Autumn"
at Indiana State Parks and Reservoirs
In September and October, Hoosiers gather in campgrounds across the state for just a few more weekends outdoors. The mosquitoes are gone. The skies seem clearer, and the stars look brighter. The air is crisp, and the warmth of a crackling campfire is a necessity, not just a campsite formality.
This year, state park and reservoir properties offer a wide array of seasonal events to keep everyone happy. Pack up the sweaters and the Halloween decorations and join the fun!
See how to restore prairie at Potato Creek.
Get a close-up look at live hawks and owls at Hardy Lake's Raptor Days.
Listen to lively music during the Versailles Bluegrass Festival.
Enjoy a pontoon "hayride" at Monroe Lake.
Watch the 1850s haypress in operation at O'Bannon Woods.
Remember Charlestown State Park's early history.
Sharpen your nature photography skills at Summit Lake.
Try out your GPS unit at Pokagon's Geocacher's Campout.
Dance the night away at the "Monster's Ball" at Turkey Run Inn.
And everywhere, enjoy invigorating hikes, talks, crafts and games that are the hallmark of the interpretive services at Indiana State Parks and Reservoirs. Several sites feature family-friendly Halloween events. These events are sprinkled throughout October so campers can spend four weekends enjoying the flavor of fall! Some of them include:
Campsite decorating contests: Brown County, Brookville, Chain O'Lakes, Harmonie, Lincoln, Ouabache, Patoka, Prophetstown, Shakamak, Spring Mill, Tippecanoe River, Turkey Run.
Campground trick or treating: Brookville, Chain O'Lakes, Harmonie, Mississinewa, Ouabache, Patoka Lake, Prophetstown, Raccoon, Shades, Turkey Run.
Costume contests or parades: Brookville, Chain O'Lakes, Lincoln, Monroe Lake, Ouabache, Raccoon, Shakamak, Raccoon, Turkey Run.
Pumpkin carving: McCormick's Creek, Harmonie, Mounds, O'Bannon Woods, Raccoon, Shades, Turkey Run.
Pumpkin painting: Lincoln, Monroe, Ouabache, Patoka Lake, Prophetstown, Spring Mill.
Storytelling: Clifty Falls, Fort Harrison, Indiana Dunes, McCormick's Creek, O'Bannon Woods, Pokagon, Potato Creek, Spring Mill.
Haunted trails/buildings: Brown County (trail), Chain O'Lakes (trail), Mounds (trail), Potato (Trail), Harmonie (12/under building), Spring Mill (Pioneer Village), Lieber SRA (hayride).
Check out the list of autumn events at www.dnr.in.gov/fall/. For a complete schedule of interpretive programs at each site, visit www.interpretiveservices.IN.gov or call your favorite property. Make reservations for camping at www.camp.IN.gov, or state park inns at www.indianainns.com.
Some events require a small fee. Donations to help defray the cost of supplies for events are always welcome. The standard $4/car entrance fee ($5/car for out-of-state license plates) is in effect during the autumn season.
Sandhill Scouts Hit Indiana
Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area reports the fall arrival of migrating sandhill cranes has started. "The first big push of 600 cranes arrived on Monday, Sept. 26," said property manager Jim Bergens. "Usually we have between 2000 and 5000 cranes at J-P by the last week in September."
These early cranes are harbingers of vast greater sandhill crane flocks that gather each fall at the northwestern Indiana fish and wildlife area near Medaryville. These Hoosier marshes are the largest resting place in the nation for these huge, clattering birds during their fall migration to Georgia and Florida.
Large flocks of sandhills can be seen at Jasper-Pulaski FWA beginning in October. The J-P crane population peaks in mid-November and the sandhills normally resume their journey south in December. Sandhill cranes also are often spotted during the fall months flying south over Indiana in high-flying V's or circles. The best place and times to view the cranes at Jasper-Pulaski FWA is from a handicapped-accessible observation tower next to an area known as Goose Pasture around sunrise and sunset.
At sunrise, the cranes leave resting marshes in gigantic, noisy flocks and gather in Goose Pasture to mingle and gab loudly for awhile before ascending on 7-foot wingspans for short flights to feeding areas. During the day, cranes can be seen in nearby harvested farm fields and marshes. The cranes return to Goose Pasture about one-half hour before sunset to socialize before flying to roosting marshes.
In March, sandhills visit Indiana again on their way to nesting sites in the upper Midwest and southern Canada. For more information, contact Jasper-Pulaski FWA at (219) 843-4841.