June 7th was National Trails Day, as if we needed an excuse to go for a hike. Prophetstown State Park is just 20 minutes from home, yet we don’t go there often enough. It is Indiana’s youngest state park, recently celebrating it’s 10th anniversary. I generally prefer parks with cool geologic features (canyons, bluffs, ravines, creeks to splash in), which Prophetstown has none of. It is a very unique park though, mostly former corn fields that have been restored to 18th century prairie lands. It is bordered on the west by wetland fens (created by water seeping from the hillside), on the north by the Tippecanoe River, and on the east by the Wabash River. These water features, together with the prairie plants & flowers, make the park a wonderland for birds, frogs, butterflies, dragonflies, and numerous other creatures. Also on the property is Historic Prophetstown, an early 20th century farmstead where the animals and fields are tended to the old fashion way. And then there is a small Native American village, something I wish they would expand on since the park is named after The Prophet (Tecumseh’s brother). We were in luck this weekend though, as Woodland Indians were in the village cooking up river fare, including crawdads, frogs, and fish.
We started the day visiting the farm, their Belgian Draft Horses are always a treat to see, and the horses are equally grateful for the company.
(Click on pics to enlarge)
We left the farm headed over to the park office, where they have a small nature center with a few animals and park history information. Then we took the trail out to the Native American village, even chatted with the Woodland Indians while they were cooking. They got Kaden hooked on Wood Sorrel…
After chatting with the natives for awhile, we went back to the Jeep and drove across the park to our hiking destination. This meant passing up the aquatic center, passing the campground, passing the playgrounds, and passing the original two trails of the park, to finally arrive near the fishing pond and the beginning of the park’s newest trails, only in their second year opened.
Trail 3 is the one we chose because it has the most diversity of all the trails, and at 3.5 miles, it is the longest (though it can be combined with trail 4 for an even longer hike.) Trail 3 has sections in the woods on a hillside with great views of the prairie to the east as well as the wetlands below; sections that follow both the Tippecanoe and Wabash Rivers; and a section through the prairie with all it’s native plants, flowers, and various creatures. It’s basically three different ecosystems within a single hike.
One of the most interesting things to happen on our hike was an encounter with a Killdeer Plover. These little birds make a nest in the gravel, and when a threat comes along (in this case us), one of them will pretend to be hurt and lead you away from the nest. I bet this little guy lead us a good thousand feet beyond their nest.
And finally, a plethora of pictures of the many plants & flowers you will encounter in late spring at Prophetstown:
That about covers our National Trails Day. If you ever find yourself there, trail 1 is almost entirely prairie land, but also includes closer wetland views, as well as a section through pine trees which once was part of a Christmas tree farm. Trail 2 also features prairie land and wetland views, as well as skirts the pond and then through woods that follow Harrison Creek. Trail 4 is beyond trail 3 and reaches the furthest outskirts of the park, and includes some prairie and a lot of Tippecanoe River.
Adjacent to the park is the small community of Battle Ground, which also includes the Battle Ground Memorial & Museum, and is also the northern most access point for the Wabash Heritage Trail. A short trail from the museum also leads to Prophets Rock. A little further west is the Pottawatomie Trail of Death. If you like Native American history, this area is full of it.
Prophetstown State Park: