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Brown County State Park

Updated on December 14, 2015
The north entrance to Brown County State Park is a two lane covered bridge
The north entrance to Brown County State Park is a two lane covered bridge | Source

Brown County State Park is Indiana's largest state park, with over 15,000 acres. It is also the most visited state park. It's always a very popular spot in the fall, when the leaves are turning colors. It has an inn, hiking trails, mountain bike trails and bridle trails.

Creation of the Park

It seems that early settlers tried to farm all parts of Indiana. Perhaps no portion of the state was more ill-suited for this purpose than Brown County. It's very hilly, and once the trees were cut, erosion quickly became a big problem. Around 1920. many small farmers in the area were not doing well, and their futures looked bleak.

Lee Bright of nearby Nashville Indiana realized that Brown County's future was in tourism. He tried to interest Colonel Lieber in creating a state park in Brown County, but was unable to persuade him. He was able to sell the idea to George Mannfeld, head of the Division of Fisheries and Game. In 1923 Mannfeld convinced Lieber to create Brown County State Game Preserve, which opened in 1924. In 1929 it was converted to Brown County State Park.

After it became a state park, many amenities were added in the early years, including:

  • The entrances, including the covered bridge at the north entrance
  • Abe Martin Lodge
  • Strahl Lake
  • Swimming pool
  • Cabins
  • Saddle barn
  • Many of the roads & trails

Strahl Lake in Brown County State Park
Strahl Lake in Brown County State Park | Source

Civilian Conservation Corps

The Civilian Conservation Corps was created during the Great Depression to provide employment to men 18-25 years old on conservation related jobs. They built Ogle Lake, two lookout towers and cleared the vistas in the park. Perhaps the most important task they performed was the planting of trees to mitigate erosion. They planted thousands of black walnut, black locust, spruces and pines,

By 1940 Brown County State Park had grown to nearly 15,000 acres. Since then, about 1,000 more acres have been added.

A view from one of the vistas in Brown County State Park
A view from one of the vistas in Brown County State Park | Source

Mountain Biking

Brown County State Park offers some of the finest mountain biking anywhere. In fact, the International Mountain Bicycling Association granted it "Epic" status in 2011, a very high honor. There are over 25 miles of mountain bike trails in the park, ranging from beginner to expert ratings. The Hoosier Mountain Bike Association has been involved in the development of the trail network, so it was designed by people who know and love mountain biking.

Here's a breakdown of the trails by difficulty level:

Beginner:

  • North Gate Trail (1.2 miles)
  • North Tower Loop (3.5 miles)
  • Pine Loop (1.2 miles)
  • Limekiln Trail (2.4 miles)

Intermediate:

  • Aynes Loop (3.4 miles)
  • Green Valley Trail (5.0 miles)

Advanced:

  • Hesitation Point Trail (2.1 miles)
  • Walnut Trail (2.1) miles

Expert:

  • Schooner Trace (4.1 miles)

If you are riding your road bike into the park, mark sure you have low gears. It's a tough climb from the north gate up to the fire tower.

Abe Martin Lodge

Brown County State Park is one of seven in the Indiana state park system that has an inn. It is named the Abe Martin Lodge after a cartoon character. Abe Martin, drawn by Kin Hubbard, appeared in the Indianapolis News for about 25 years, beginning in 1904. Since Brown County was the home of this fictional character, it seemed appropriate to name the lodge after him.

The lodge has 30 rooms in the main building, which was built from oak trees cut in the park in 1932. There are another 54 rooms in the annex. The lodge also has a restaurant, plus rooms for meetings and other amenities.

Wildlife

Wildlife is plentiful in the park. You can find plenty of frogs and turtles around the two lakes. There are lots of birds, and in the woods you may be able to hear woodpeckers. Deer were once so numerous that the Department of Natural Resources had to close the park for a few days in late fall, so that professional hunters could thin the herd. They are still numerous in the park, but not nearly as tame as they once were, and therefore not as likely to be seen.

Frogs and turtles can be found around Strahl & Ogle Lakes.
Frogs and turtles can be found around Strahl & Ogle Lakes.

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