story by GLENDA WINDERS
“Parke County is a wonderful place not only to visit but also to live,” said Jim Meece, President of Parke County Convention and Visitors Commission and a county commissioner. “Nestled in one of the most picturesque areas of rural Indiana, its geographic features provide terrain for two state parks, a state recreation area lake, a county park lake, and multiple streams for canoeing. Camping, hiking, fishing, boating, and wildlife observing are all readily available.”
One of the parks he mentions is Turkey Run State Park, which has been awarded “Midwest’s Best Hike” by Midwest Living. The rugged terrain for hiking, gorges cut out by glacial meltwater, and virgin old-growth trees will immediately transport you to a peaceful mecca of long ago. The park was planned in the early 1900s as a way to save it from being purchased by a timber company and stripped of its beauty. Part of the park is devoted to the 1,609-acre Rocky Hollow-Falls Canyon Nature Preserve.
While you’re here you’ll be able to canoe, kayak and tube down Sugar Creek, ride horseback, swim in the pool, fish, visit historic sites scattered throughout Turkey Run State Park, learn about wildlife at the interactive Nature Center, picnic and play volleyball, basketball, or tennis. Lodging won’t be a problem since you’ll have cozy Granny’s Farm and Farmhouse B&B, Gobbler’s Knob Cabins, Hilltop Guesthouse, Wilkins Mill Guesthouse, and Up the Creek Camping Cabins from which to choose. You might also decide on the Turkey Run Inn, which combines rustic and modern in a comfortable place to stay in the middle of nature.
Camping opportunities abound here, too, but if you’ve brought your boat you might want to head over to Raccoon State Recreation Area and Raccoon Lake, with its 300 camping sites and five boat-launching ramps. Check-in with Raccoon Lake House Rentals or Raccoon Lakeside Lodge.
If you want to experience a day of nature, Shades State Park is another great option. While it doesn’t have all the amenities of Turkey Run, it is the perfect spot for quiet-loving nature enthusiasts. Look here for sandstone cliffs and fossils, Sugar largest festival, in October, but lots more special events going on all year long. The Brick Street Market is a one-day festival of folk art and antique furniture on the courthouse square with Model T rides available to put you in the spirit. Fireworks light up the sky around Independence Day, and the Parke County 4-H Fair is also in July. August will see Bridgeton Civil War Days, and Mansfield Cornbread Days and Bridgeton Milling Days both take place in September.
Plenty to do awaits those in your group who might rather stay in town, too. Parke County is arranged around the Rockville Square, so that’s where to head for shopping. For those who would rather stay in town, the Creek for canoeing, and Silver Cascade waterfalls. See it all from Lover’s Leap, an observation deck built out over a cliff.
With its 31 covered bridges, more than any other county in the United States, Parke County is naturally famous for the Parke County Covered Bridge Festival, Indiana’s Rockville Square offers a wide range of shopping choices. Be sure to peek into Rubies for unique clothing and gifts, home décor and coffee at Urban Farmchic, numerous antique stores, and hand- poured candles at Rusted Root Co. on the Square. If you’re a lover of nostalgia, look no further than G & M Variety, a five and dime store that’s been around since 1939. Nearby lodgings include the Old Jail Inn, Dragonfly Guesthouse, Bubble Gum B&B, Covered Bridge Motel, Monarch B&B, and Parke Bridge Motel.
All of these things to do and places to go will work up a big appetite, and plenty of options for refueling await your consideration. If you’re not cooking over a campfire or enjoying the breakfast that comes with your room at a B&B, start the day with a bagel sandwich breakfast at Aaron’s on the Square or have heartier eggs and pancakes at Past Time Café.
For a lakeside lunch, try Tiki Hut Deli and Gelato or The Ranch for upscale sandwiches, pizzas, coffee drinks and more. The Narrows Restaurant at Turkey Run Inn offers family-style meals that feature such Indiana favorites as a giant tenderloin sandwich. Up the Creek Boatique is a gas-station-turned- restaurant with a Jimmy Buffett vibe where you can order taco salad or pizza to go with your margarita. Turkey Run Gas and Grill, another gas station makeover, is the place to go for burgers or their daily lunch specials.
For an adult beverage before dinner, visit Cross at a Walk Britton Winery or the Drunk Tank Winery. Plan to have a cocktail at the Thirty-Six Saloon and stay for their tasty barbeque, wings, and burgers.
And this doesn’t begin to exhaust the treasures you’ll find on a visit to this area. As Meece said, “Life lives in Parke County.”
For more information visit: coveredbridges.com.