Nature Jewels of Indiana

Shades State Park near Crawfordsville, Indiana

A nippy wintery world is something I haven’t experienced since 2009. At first, I wanted to join the the black bears in their hibernation dens, but now I have acclimated to the snow and the below freezing temperatures. Winter holds it’s own beauty. Glittery snow and ice create the most captivating artwork painted by mother nature.  Exploring nature in its frozen state brings a whole new experience and awareness to flora and fauna, so go immerse yourself in the outside world.

Walking Fern on a vertical rock wall.

On a work trip to Indiana, we took the opportunity to visit some hidden nature preserve jewels: Turkey Run State Park, Shades State Park, Portland Arch Nature Preserve and Fall Creek Gorge.

Shades state park (5 miles from Turkey Run) had excellent hiking trails through ravines and stunning deciduous forest with some colossal trees. An observation deck overlooks a sandstone valley with Sugar Creek flowing through it about 100 ft below.

Tucked away in the glacial till plain between Lafayette and Terre Haute are several impressive gorges carved out by the regions many streams, which plunge into the scenic Wabash River. The region marks the edge of the formerly grandiose tall grass prairie of the Midwest and the eastern deciduous forest with extensive open oak savanna mixed in.

These gorges form oasis’s in a region dominated by industrial agriculture and contain a treasure trove of biodiversity. A few spots contain relics of northern species, such as eastern hemlock and white pine, which established during post glacial times and became disjunct as the climate warmed.

An eastern hemlock living on the edge of a sandstone cliff at Turkey Run State Park

Likewise, songbirds such as blackburnians and green-throated warblers, more typical of the north woods, breed here alongside their southern relatives, like Louisiana waterthrush, worm-eating, cerulean, and Kentucky warblers. These isolated patches are also very important and attractive to migrant songbirds in need of stopover habitat. Also, Bald Eagles congregate here in the winter.

Bald Eagles at Turkey Run State Park

Turkey Run State Park’s most famous feature is Rocky Hollow Gorge, but first we had to slip down 70 ice clad steps into the floodplain and cross Sugar Creek.

Turkey Run State Park after an ice storm

Sugar Creek
Rocky Hollow Gorge
Frozen waterfalls spewing out of sandstone
Admiring a frozen waterfall at Turkey Run
Rocky Hollow Gorge at Turkey Run