Topping the list of popular places to visit in Pulaski County is the 225-mile-long Tippecanoe River. The area’s crown jewel, it is one of the top 10 most biologically important freshwater river systems in North America and a hub of water-recreation activities and the laid-back river-rat lifestyle.
Called “the River of Lakes” because it is fed by 88 natural lakes, it flows past woodlands, pastures, and charming villages and towns.
“I remember the Tippecanoe River when I attended a Girl Scout camp situated near the riverbank,” said Krysten Hinkle, former project coordinator for the Pulaski County Community Development Commission. “We sneaked out of our cabins one night and attempted to swing across the river, but I missed my footing as the rope swung back, landing in the algae covered water instead.”
But that was then. The Tippecanoe River is pristine now. Through a long effort of reclamation, it has now earned a designation from The Nature Conservancy in “Rivers of Life: Critical Watersheds for Protecting Biodiversity” and is considered the gold standard of streams for its biological cleanliness by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. The Nature Conservancy writes on their website that the Tippecanoe River is considered by many as one of the more beautiful waterways in the nation.
“It’s really historic,” said Ellen Boardman, a naturalist aide for the Tippecanoe River State Park. “The Potawatomi lived along the river, and in the late 1600s the French Voyageurs traveling from Montreal came down the river and traded with them.”
Even the name Tippecanoe, which is the Miami Nation word for “buffalo fish,” reflects the area’s vast heritage.
Spend your days here canoeing, tubing, kayaking or just enjoying nature. Two livery services rent equipment for those who do not have their own, and there are a half-dozen public-access points across the county. Reptiles, fish, heron, otters and all sorts of mammals lurk along the banks, waiting to welcome visitors to this slice of paradise.
Another top place to visit in Pulaski County is Tippecanoe River State Park. Indiana might offer national and state parks and wildlife areas that are more popular or more accessible, but there may not be a single place in all 36,418 square miles of Hoosierdom that offers the perfect combination of easy access, opportunities for adventure, and the chance to escape and unwind that you’ll find at this idyllic retreat just north of Winamac. It is also the perfect spot to watch the seasons change as they do only in Indiana. Hugging the Tippecanoe River, it offers more than 2 miles of undisturbed wetland shoreline as well as old-growth pines and so much more.
When you’re not splashing in the water, take advantage of some 14 miles of hiking/horse trails and 10 miles of hiking-only trails. You can climb the 90-foot fire tower (one of only 13 in the state) and enjoy a 360-degree views, or just relax and watch the diverse types of wildlife that make this park their home.
Having too much fun to leave? Accommodations in the park include options that range from horse campsites and youth tent areas to electric-served sites and primitive spots. Great options for picnics abound, plus a nature center with interpretive-naturalist services. The WiFi here isn’t great, but you’re not going to care anyway.
Only a few Hoosier counties have both a state park and a fish-and-wildlife area, and Pulaski is one of them. The 8,179-acre Jasper-Pulaski FWA near Medaryville in the northwestern part of the county attracts tens of thousands of migrating sandhill cranes each year, a bafflingly wonderful sight to behold as they migrate north in the spring and back to the south in the fall.
The 22-mile Panhandle Pathway is also a top place to visit in Pulaski County. This rail-to-trail corridor runs from Winamac to neighboring Cass County on the old railbed of the Panhandle Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad line. It goes through farmland, shady wooded areas, the beginning of the Wabash Valley and across the Tippecanoe River, as well as across Mill Creek, Mud Creek, Indian Creek, Little Indian Creek and Crooked Creek. Providing views of farmland and a dedicated prairie preserve, it also goes through the communities of Star City, Thornhope and Royal Center. Smooth, wide and flat, it is ideal for walking, hiking, running, biking and skating, and it offers new things to see and hear on every visit.