White River State Park is an Indiana state park on 1,972 acres (7.98km2) in Noble County, Indiana, United States. The park was established in 1932 and designated a National Recreation Area by the Department of the Interior in 1978. It receives about 640,000 visitors annually. The park has many amenities for various activities, including camping sites, hiking trails, boat launch, picnic areas, swimming beach, cabins, nature center, etc. The park’s visitor center features interpretive displays, as well as opportunities to view wildlife, learn how maple syrup is made, and purchase maple products at the Visitors Center Store.
There are more than 200 campsites divided into tent or RV campgrounds and equestrian camping area. Toilets and showers are available at both campgrounds. The main campground contains all of the facilities with water and electric hook-ups. Advance campsite reservations can be booked through the park reservation system. Walk-in camping permits may also be obtained at the park office. Camping season begins with trout season in mid-April and ends at the conclusion of deer season in late December. A modern horse stable provides ample parking for those renting horses. Two miles north of the park there is a separate group camp site which accommodates up to 100 people and includes access to a swimming pool and playground.
In addition to these walk-in campsites, several cabin groups are available to rent year round. These cabins come fully equipped with heating, air conditioning, cookingware, linens and bathroom facilities. Some even have fire rings and picnic tables. One mile south of the park office there is a smaller cabin that accommodates up to four people and does not include kitchen or bath facilities. This property is only accessible by foot from the trailhead across from the Nature Museum. Several other properties are available for short term rental when not occupied by their owners.
These vacation homes feature between two and five bedrooms, along with three full bathrooms and one half bathroom. All homes have central HVAC, satellite TV, yard equipment, and indoor plumbing. Prices vary throughout the year. During the off-season, especially during winter, some homes remain unoccupied until spring thaw, so it is possible to have the entire house to yourself. When fully occupied, each home typically has six to ten occupants. Many different types of wild creatures inhabit this park, but due to the relatively small size of the park, humans easily outnumber most other species
Therefore, white river state park is unique in its ability to allow close viewing of both predator and prey. Fish, amphibians, birds and invertebrates are common as well. Over 240 bird species nest within 30 miles (48km) of the park. Deer flies, ticks, and mosquitoes transmit disease to unwary visitors. Poison sumac grows in the woods surrounding the park. Honeycomb oak trees grow near the park office.An old settlin’ tree stands watch over the waters of Pigeon Creek. The forest canopy blocks much of the sunlight needed for the survival of certain plants, thus creating the ecological conditions necessary for the development of poison ivy, which thrives in the cracks of rocky soil around the base of trees. More than 150 kinds of flowers bloom here every summer.
White River State Park offers approximately
- 20 miles (32km) of marked hiking trails
- 10 miles (16km) of cross-country skiing trails
- 6 miles (10km) of mountain biking trails
- 2 miles (3.2km) of equestrian trails
- 14 miles (23km) of snowmobile routes
- 7 miles (11km) of canoe routes
- 3 miles (4.8km) of fishing trails
Trailheads are located at the intersections of Mill Street and Main Avenue, east of the town of Albion, and at the intersection of Fountain Alley and Limecrest Road, west of the town of Albion. The Limecrest Spur of the Lake Wissota Rail Trail starts inside the park limits and heads northeast towards the village of Wissota. The rail bed was built by the Delaware, Lackawanna Railroad Co., predecessor to the Canadian National Railway, who used it to haul freight traffic until 1963, when CN abandoned it. After being dormant for almost twenty years, passenger service was provided again in 1983, this time by AmerenUE, successor to Gas City Valley Railroad, who use the line to provide seasonal tourist excursions. The spur connects to the larger network of trails in nearby White River State Forest.
Canoe rentals are available at the North Slope Sportsman campground. Located just outside the park entrance, the sportsman campground comprises 140 drive-up sites, 37 primitive hike-to sites, and 11 leantos. Toilets and shower buildings are provided at the Mill Street campground. Waterfowl hunting is allowed in season in the marshy areas of the park. Other hunters, including deer, turkey, and squirrels, may visit the park after proper licenses and permits are secured from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Approximately 120,000 visitors come to the park annually. The Friends of White River State Park organization led by volunteer Jim Burnett hosts numerous events for the park, including hay rides, corn maze, pumpkin chunking, apple bobbing, and more.
Every Labor Day weekend, the park plays host to the annual Three Forks Festival, where local bands perform, vendors sell food, and kids run amuck trying to start fires in the pancake breakfast batter buckets. Each June, the park holds its own St. Patrick’s Day Parade, complete with marching band and bagpipe players. On Presidents’ day, the park organizes a “Washtub” party, where participants take turns racing down a steep hillside using only a garden hose as a brake. At the end of August, the park puts on its own version of Mardi Gras, called Fall Fest. Attendance at these events often exceeds capacity, so advance tickets for popular shows are always recommended. The Nature Center is open daily except Tuesday and Wednesday.
The center piece for the original building constructed in 1953 was designed by Emmy Layton, wife of noted architect Csar Pelli. Mrs. Layton created a series of murals for the interior walls of the new facility. Unfortunately, these paintings were removed sometime after the building opened because they were deteriorating. However, since 1993, the Indiana state government funded a project to restore Mrs. Layton’s artwork. Her work can now be viewed in the renovated Education Building. Exhibits change monthly, and thousands of students from around the state visit the park each school year to study natural history, technology, art, music, literature, and ecology.
Visitors may enjoy:
- play disc golf
- explore nature exhibits
Commonly seen mammals include:
- cottontail rabbits
Trees commonly found in eastern forests such as:
- red maple
- yellow birch
- black cherry
- American elm
- green ash
The ground cover plant community consists largely of:
- rose shrubs
- mountain laurel
- pinxter azalea
- bee balm
- cardinal flower
- yew trees