Whitewater Memorial State Park is an Indiana state park on 1,872 acres (7.49km2) in Noble County, Indiana, United States. The park was established to honor the memory of those American soldiers who lost their lives in World Wars I and II. It receives about 640,000 visitors annually. Whitewater Memorial State Park is located near the town of Albion, Indiana, a short distance from the Michigan border.
Whitewater Memorial State Park features camping sites, cabins, hiking trails, boat launch, playground, swimming beach, picnicking facilities, nature center, and lodge. The park receives approximately 640,000 visitors each year. Whitewater Memorial State Park has several different trail systems. There are two main trail systems. One begins North of the lake and goes Eastwest passing by the Nature Center and ends at the Arch Rock Overlook. The other starts across from the dam and heads south east passing behind the Picnic Area and Lodge before ending at the same point as the previous route.
There is also a shorter spur of this trail that connects to the other two. There is a smaller trail system starting North West of the lake and going ESE toward the Arch Rock Overlook Trail System. This loop passes behind some of the cabins and campsites and includes the Beech Grove trailhead. All these trails share a common feature; they are mostly flat with only gentle hills that do not exceed 500 feet (150m). There are four small lakes within the park. Two of the lakes are heavily forested and very shallow with steep banks covered in vegetation. The other two lakes are much larger than the first two and more open with sandy beaches and less dense vegetation. These two lakes are connected by a narrow channel of marshy grasses and trees. This marshy area can be crossed by a pedestrian bridge when the water levels are low enough.
There are three large ponds outside the park boundary. Two of the ponds are formed by dams that create lakes when the river is high. The third pond is natural and does not require any human intervention. It provides a habitat for rare birds such as the piping plover and the bald eagle. There are 13 miles (21km) of paved road inside the park. Most of them are two lane highways except for parts of the Cedar Run Road where it becomes 4 lanes wide due to heavy traffic. Some of the roads cross into neighboring states, but none enter the park itself. There are 17 miles (27km) of unimproved road inside the park. They are mainly gravel roads with some patches that need paving. Many of the roads provide access to fishing spots along the shoreline.
There are also numerous dirt fire roads providing access to remote sections of the park. Outside the park there are 45 miles (71km) of paved road and 57 miles (92km) of gravel road. There are 3,300 acres (13km2) of developed property inside the park. Of that amount 2,100 acres (8.5km2) are occupied by the various government offices responsible for managing the park, housing developments, and other infrastructure. Only 800 acres (3.2km2) are available for public recreation, including 200 acres (0.81km2) of woodland that is home to the rarely seen ovenbird.
There are 18 miles (29km) of hiking trails inside the park. Half of them start north of the lake and go east towards the Arch Rock Overlook Trail System. The other half start across from the dam and head south east past the Picnic Area and Lodge before ending at the same point as the previous section. There is also a shorter spur of this trail that connects to the other two. There are 7 miles (11km) of equestrian trails. Riders are allowed to ride anywhere on the roadway, although speed limits vary depending on whether you are in a populated part of the park or in sparsely populated areas. There are 5 miles (8.0km) of mountain bike trails. Mountain bikes are prohibited on the hiking trails. Boat launches are provided at both ends of the lake. The northern end has a ramp that allows motorized boats up to 20 horsepower. Non powered boats may either launch directly into the water or tie up to the dock. At the southern end of the lake, non powered boats must either launch into the water or tie up to the dock.
Swimming is permitted throughout the entire lake. The beach opens on Memorial Day weekend and closes Labor Day weekend. It is patrolled by lifeguards during daytime hours. There are no restrictions on pets at the park. Campsites range from modern to rustic. Modern sites have electric hookups and flush toilets. Rustic sites lack running water and have outhouses and hand pumps for toilet paper and water. No campfires are permitted in the campground. Cabins are available for overnight stays. Each cabin sleeps six people and has central HVAC, full kitchen, dining room, living room, and bathroom.
On November 11, 1920, a resolution was passed by the citizens of Allen County establishing a memorial for all Americans who served in the war. A local businessman, J.C. Wendling, along with Senator Burton K. Wheeler were instrumental in acquiring land for the park which opened in 1924. About 600 acres (0.24km2) of land had been donated by 1925 when another 400 acres (1.6km2) were added. Another 300 acres (1.2km2) came through the generosity of Mrs. Emma Riggs Wilson and Mr. Lucius D. Clay.
Additional lands totalling 700 acres (0.28km2), including buildings, roads and other amenities were provided by the City of South Bend. In 1927, the National Park Service designated Whitewater Memorial as one of the country’s first national parks. However, it did not have its own rangers or staff, but instead turned over day-to-day operations to the Army Corps of Engineers, whose employees were stationed at nearby St. Josephs Island State Park. That arrangement continued until 1941, when the island became available for use by the Navy for training purposes, at which time both agencies began looking for a new site for Whitewater Memorial.
Several locations were considered, but ultimately the decision was made to move the park to its current location just west of Albion. An entranceway was constructed on U.S. Route 31, and additional acreage around Lake Mitchell was acquired through the purchase of tax deeds. Development of the new facility was undertaken by the WPA, under contract to the NPS. Their workers arrived in June 1934 and stayed until July 1935 when the campground, bathhouse, picnic areas and shelters, parking area, trails, roads, etc., were completed. After that, the job fell to the regular army troops, many of whom were still there when I visited in October 1936. By September 1937, most of the work was finished and the campground officially reopened. The original facilities remain intact and are used year round.
Other woodlands are available for:
- bird watching
- horseback riding
- mountain biking