Ouabache State Park
Ouabache is pronounced Wabash, since it is the French spelling of the Miami Indian name for the river. Ouabache State Park has a few unique features for an Indiana state park:
- The wildlife exhibit in the north central portion of the park features a herd of American bison on 20 acres
- Along the southwest edge of the park is a three mile paved bike trail
- There is an area set aside for horse and buggy parking because of the high number of Amish in the area
The park is located in Wells county near the county seat of Blufton. Wells county is named for William Wells, an early settler.
Wells County State Forest & Game Preserve
In the 1930s the state acquired the present day parkland, which was seriously eroded. It was then known as Wells County State Forest and Game Preserve. The Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration planted many trees to combat erosion.
Game birds were raised at the facility from the 1930s until the early 1960s when the program was terminated. There were approximately 100 brooder houses with over 3,000 quail and 5,000 pheasants. Eggs and chicks were turned over to Indiana conservation groups to raise and then turn loose to provide game for hunters. The facility also raised and released raccoons. Today raccoons are so numerous that the idea sounds crazy. Apparently there weren't that many when they were being raised in Wells County.
The State Park
In 1962 the name was changed to Oubache State Recreation Area. In 1983 it became a state park. Located in the park's center is Kunkel Lake, which covers 25 acres. There is a boat launch, and boats can also be rented. The lake was drained in the fall of 2013 to remove the existing fish. Most of the fish were either carp or small crappies, so few serious fisherman were going there. The lake was refilled over the winter. In March of 2014 it was restocked with 19.000 1.5" bluegills and over 5,000 3" - 4" largemouth bass. A fish survey in June of 2014 found only those two species present. Fisherman will be able to keep bluegills they catch in 2015. The minimum size for bass is 18", so it will be a few more years before anglers can take them home.
Be sure and check out the bison at the wildlife exhibit. They are magnificent animals, and have become the symbol of Ouabache State Park. The Indiana state seal shows a buffalo leaving. Early pioneers looked forward to that day, since bison could wreck your crops pretty quickly when you were trying to farm. Today we have a different view towards wildlife.
There are five hiking trails in the park, none of which are particularly difficult.Trail 4 is three miles long and circles Kunkel Lake. Trail 5 roughly follows the perimeter of the park. There is also a three mile paved bicycle trail in Ouabache. Blufton is less than 10 miles away. From the park you can ride your bike on the trail and then take roads to go into town for dinner.
If you are looking for other activities, the park has an Olympic size swimming pool with waterslide that is open during the summer months. There are also tennis and basketball courts. The campground has hot showers and flush toilets. Be sure to visit the 100 foot fire tower. From there you have a great view of the park.
If you are looking for a place near the park to get a bite to eat, the town of Bluffton is just a few miles away. It's the county seat, with a population of about 10,000. There are a number of restaurants there, but one that seems pretty popular is Tyeger's Pizza Parlour. It's rated as the best in Bluffton by TripAdvisor, and all 27 reviewers give it 5 out of 5.
Aerial View of Ouabache State Park
- Day Trippin' Ouabache State Park - YouTube
- Ouabache State Park Fire Tower - YouTube
Two minute video showing views from the fire tower
- The 10 Best Bluffton Restaurants 2015 - TripAdvisor