Turkey Run State Park is an Indiana state park on 1,972 acres (7.98km2) in Noble County, Indiana, United States. The park was established in 1958 and named after the creek that runs through it, which has a large population of wild turkeys. It is located approximately 12 miles (19km) from the northeastern part of the town of Avilla and about 60 miles (97km) southeast of the city of Fort Wayne.
At one point there were almost 40 different factories operating within 30 miles (50km) of the park. All used waterpower from the river or stream flowing down the valley. Today only two remain, both owned by Weyerhaeuser Corporation. One makes pulp products and the other paper products. Both use the waters of Turkey Run. Water from the run flows into a reservoir called Mill Pond, where it joins another small tributary called Dry Fork. This confluence forms what is known as the Wilds, a region of shallow creeks and wetlands surrounded by steep hillsides covered in forests of oak and hickory trees. There are also many species of birds, butterflies, and fungi.
The park features seven separate picnic shelters, modern rest rooms, playground equipment, and a boat launch. There is a single camping spot available for those traveling with their RV or tent. No campfire rings are available, so campers must bring their own ring of firewood. Campsites are shaded by pine and oak trees. Toilets and showers are near the campsite. Modern restrooms are equipped with hot showers. Other amenities include parking lots, hiking trails, horseback riding stables, miniature golf course, archery range, disc golf course, basketball courts, tennis courts, volleyball court, pool table, horseshoe pit, sledding hill, toboggan slide, cross-country skiing trail, snowmobiling trail, scenic views of the countryside, pond fishing, and hunting.
The park hosts races ranging from 5K to full marathon distance. Entrances to the park can be found along most of its perimeter, though some are hard to find. For example, the main entrance is well hidden behind a rock pile just off U.S. Route 23. Another popular entrance is found along County Road 325 south of St. Johns. Still another entrance is accessible via Buckland Avenue SE. Parking is plentiful, especially on weekends, holidays, and summer days when schools are out. However, on weekdays, finding a space can be difficult. Performing animals at the park include horses, llamas, goats, sheep, and dogs. They often roam beyond the boundaries of the park onto nearby farms and ranches.
Many owners allow their pets to perform tricks and otherwise act like circus ponies because they enjoy having them around. Occasionally, a trained bear or tiger will make an appearance. When this happens, the animal usually remains inside the confines of the park. Although rarely seen, bobcats do visit the park. Birds of prey commonly roost in tall trees adjacent to the park. Owls hunt at night using sharp eyesight. Woodpeckers tap away industriously on tree trunks, searching for food. Squirrels, chipmunks, and rabbits live in the woods. They thrive in spite of the presence of hunters, since they are protected from gunfire in the park. Deer flies, ticks, and chiggers feed on mammals and birds. Their numbers are kept in check by predators and parasites, and by diseases carried by sick animals.
More than 200 bird species nest in the park each year, and many more pass through during migration season. Turkey Run State Park boasts a boat launch providing access to the White River. Motorboating is very popular on the river, especially during the summer months. Canoes, kayaks, sailboats, paddle boats, rowboats, and motorized pontoon boats are common sights. Picnickers frequent the park’s numerous picnic shelters. Most sites are shaded by pine and oak trees. Only one site may be occupied at any given time. Group shelter reservations may be made between April and October. Tent and RVs sites are available year round. Reservations are required. Campsites feature either three or four wooden platforms. Each platform holds up to five metal rings, enabling tents and recreational vehicles to be securely fastened to the trees.
Campfires are permitted weather permitting, in the discretion of the county environmental officer, in consultation with local law enforcement officials. Since fires are not monitored overnight, campers should take appropriate precautions regarding possible arsonists. Approximately 100 campsites are available at Turkey Run State Park. Half of these spaces are available on a first come, first served basis, while the remainder require reservations. Sites are generally filled by mid-May, although availability increases in July and August. Backflow from the campsite to the waterways helps mitigate odors emitted by sewage treatment plants.
Disposal of trash and recycling containers are placed at the entrance to the park. Two composting toilets are present, one being the group shelter toilet and the other a portable toilet. The former has a holding tank connected to a septic system, while the latter has no sewer connection. Neither has shower facilities. Visitors may choose between a flat rate per vehicle or per day for annual permits to leave personal vehicles in the park. Daily rates are $8 per car, and annual permit fees start at $75 for a single-day or $60 for residents with an Indiana license plate or Oklahoma plate.
On November 11, 2016, Turkey Run State Park was severely damaged by an EF1 tornado that struck the area around 9 p.m. CDT. Damage included uprooting trees, breaking windows, and injuring two people. By morning light, over 300 volunteers had joined forces to help restore order at the park. Signs warning of dangerous conditions were posted throughout the park, and visitors were warned not to enter until authorities deemed the site safe. As of December 21, 2016, more than 500 million cubic yards (370,000 m3) of debris had been removed from the park. Some areas still have unrepaired damage but are open for public use with signs cautioning against entry due to hazards of unexplored downed trees.
In May 2017, Turkey Run reopened under new management. Operated by the Woods Charities, the 250-acre (100ha) estate includes outdoor sports fields, hiking trails, picnicking facilities, and access to the White River State Forest. The land for Turkey Run was donated to the state by Mrs. Addie Lathrop, who originally homesteaded the property in 1885. A dam was built across Big Creek in 1928, creating Lake Wilhelm. The lake provided electric power for a short time before coal became the fuel of choice for electricity generation. After coal took hold, steam powered generators replaced the inefficient turbines. These in turn were superseded by the massive industrialization occurring all over America during the late 19th century and early 20th century.
Turkey Run offers a variety of opportunities for outdoors enthusiasts including:
- cross country skiing
- horseback riding
The park’s forest provides habitat for:
- white-tailed deer
- bald eagles
- owls such as
- barred owls
- screech owls
- garter snakes
- red foxes
- blue foxes
Mammals that inhabit the park include:
- house cats
- striped skunks
- Virginia opossums
- eastern gray squirrels
- meadow jumping mice
- northern grasshopper mice
- Carolina anole lizards
- yellow salamanders
- spring peepers
- mud turtles
- red foxes