It was the last week of March, the weather had been up and down, but Catfish was on spring break so I took a day off to get him out of the house and out into nature. As luck would have it, it was a clear day and temps climbed to 60. We decided to go somewhere we’ve never gone before, but that’s a tough decision since we’ve hiked most places within a 2 hour drive from home. We decided to check out a place we’ve driven by many times, Eagle Creek Park on the northwest corner of Indianapolis.
Eagle Creek Park is located right off of I-65 and is only about a 45 minute drive, so why we’ve never gone before might seem confusing. It is considered a municipal park, and when I hear that, I think “city park” and tend to overlook it. But this is more on the level of NYC’s Central Park, with woods, ponds, a reservoir, and miles of trails. Covering more than 5000 acres, it is actually larger than some state parks.
There is a $6 entry fee, as this park fully funds itself, no tax money supports it. We parked down at the Earth Discovery Center (same parking lot as Go Ape climbing adventure) and set off from there on the Red Trail, listed as 6.75 miles and the longest single trail in the park. You can really design your own adventure, as there are many trails here and they are all connected. We went north on the trail, which hugs the lake side for a good 3 miles. The highlight is the section of trail that literally goes out into the lake; on one side is the reservoir, and the other side is the bird sanctuary. The trail is barely above lake level, and is just so peaceful to hike on. We watched ducks swimming on the lake, and the constant honking of geese, along with a few small birds such as chickadees, finches, sparrows, cardinals, downy woodpeckers, swifts, etc. We did the small loop at the north end of the park, where we got to view several small butterfly species. Spring flowers were just popping up, including bluebells.
We made our way back around to the east side of the park, where the Red Trail meets up with the Fitness Trail. Of course we couldn’t resist trying out some of the workout equipment, but not too much because by this time we had hiked 4+ miles and were getting hungry for lunch. Eventually we made it back to the Lilly reflecting ponds where we picniced whiled watching the geese and sunbathing painted turtles. Afterward, we went to the Ornithology Center but it was closed. We still got to see their caged birds, including very up close with a turkey vulture. Catfish thought it was “cute”! We also viewed some of the birds and nesting geese through telescopes out in the sanctuary on the lake.
We continued on the Red Trail around Lilly Lake, although admittedly we did get off trail a couple of times when we…okay I…made the wrong turn, mistaking the Orange Trail signs for the Red Trail signs. Oops! But really the only downside was wading through all the mud, as some of the trails had standing water. We made it around the the south end of the park and back to the Earth Discovery Center, for about an eight mile hike total.
Eagle Creek Park definitely has more to it than I would have imagined, and am very glad we finally checked it out. Perhaps a return trip is due, once the beach opens for swimming and perhaps even some kayaking.
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