Whether your idea of outdoor recreation is camping, walking wooded trails, running on a people pathway system or exploring wetlands full of wildlife, Vigo County has a variety of outdoor experiences.
For outdoor camping, the Terre Haute Campground (formerly KOA Campground) is tucked away on the city’s east side on Sony Drive.
The campground features 77 sites for campers, motor homes and tents. And it includes three luxury cabins and five primitive cabins.
New owners Chet and Erica Kiefer of Effingham, Illinois, took over the property in November 2019 and have upgraded amenities. In addition to campsites, the property features a swimming pool for the summer months, a pedal go-cart track, basketball court, jump pad, life-size checkers and chess, and a mining station for children.
The campground also has a camp store offering supplies and has year-round propane sales.
Information and reservations for the campground can be made online at www.TerreHauteCampground.com.
Walking in the wetlands
One of the more popular venues for wildlife viewing and photography is Dewey Point, located off National Avenue in West Terre Haute.
Dewey Point is the trailhead to the Wabashiki Trail, a seven-mile and growing path around the lush, 2,600-acre Wabashiki Fish and Wildlife Area. Visitors can park in a paved lot, picnic under an electrified shelter, use restrooms and study maps for a hike.
The trail from Dewey Point extends seven miles in a U-shape to the small west-bank community of Dresser, where another trailhead has been developed. In its first two miles from Dewey Point, the trail follows a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers levee covered with fine crushed rock. It weaves south past West Vigo Elementary School and onto a gravel-lined agricultural levee through the forested Wabash River watershed, under two Interstate 70 overpasses and north into Dresser.
The bird-watching opportunities are varied and amazing, including eagles, cranes, and game birds such as turkey, doves, ducks and geese.
Hunting and fishing are allowed in the Wabashiki Fish and Wildlife Area for those with state-issued permits
Refuge for wildlife
Another gem for the Vigo County Park system is Hawthorn Park and J.I. Case Wetland Wildlife Refuge located on the east side of Terre Haute near the campus of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
The facility consists of 256.72 acres and total water area of 68.6 acres.
Inside Hawthorn Park is a wildlife observation shelter overlooking the wildlife refuge, with its 50.3 acre lake attracting fishermen and migratory birds.
Amenities include a campground, kayak rental, fishing, bird watching, hiking trails, a labyrinth, archery range and picnic shelters.
Pioneer life and a bicycle park
The Vigo County Parks and Recreation department provides several unique outdoor opportunities.
In southern Vigo County, for instance, Fowler Park has an authentic pioneer village with a covered bridge and a working mill powered by water.
The park has a woodland campground on the lake for those who want to enjoy one of the many weekend or holiday events scheduled throughout the year.
Located on Bono Road, Fowler Park is adjacent to the popular Griffin Bike Park.
With a variety of trails in a variety of difficulties, Griffin Bike Park attracts both casual riders and competitive bike enthusiasts, and it is accessible to people with limited mobility.
The bike park has a “warrior trail” that accommodates hand bikes, off-road wheelchairs or tandem bikes. It also has a trail segment crossing a lake, and includes a lake jump ramp.
Also located in southern Vigo County is Prairie Creek Park, consisting of 282.75 acres and total water area of 16 acres.
Syrup making and old growth woods
Sugar Camp is located within Prairie Creek Park, and is in operation January and February of each year.
Old growth maple trees are tapped throughout the park. Sap is collected and routed to an authentic log cabin where maple syrup is produced, bottled, and sold.
The campground, open year-round, has 42 modern sites.
Elliott Woods, the north addition to the park, is a unique woodland. Its canopy of trees has all but eliminated under-story making visibility good for woodland recreational activities. At least 26 species of trees, 11 varieties of flowers, and nine species of wildlife have been counted. A 1.5-mile nature trail crosses the woods as a nature study area.
Information about the parks – including activities, programs and rental rates – are available online at vigoparks.org.
Paved paths criss-cross area
For walking, biking and running enthusiasts who prefer a more paved setting, the National road Heritage Trail extends for about 7 miles from the Jones Trailhead in East Glenn and the nearby Twigg Rest Area along U.S. 40 to the Indiana State University campus in downtown Terre Haute.
The trail is friendly to bicyclists, skateboarders and rollerbladers as well as walkers and runners. Much of the trail follows rehabilitated railroad beds and skirts residential neighborhoods.
On the urban fringes
The Terre Haute Parks Department owns more than 1,000 acres of dedicated land, including, community parks, neighborhood parks, block parks, two golf courses, as well as trails, greenways and boulevards.
Two of the more popular parks with walking trails and outdoor activities are located on the east side of the city.
Deming Park is located on the East side of Terre Haute at Fruitridge and Ohio Boulevard. Deming is the largest park in the city park system, consisting of 177 acres. It is home to the Oakley Playground, Clark-Lansdbaum Holly Arboretum,an 18-hole disc golf course, a public pool and a variety of sport facilities including basketball and tennis courts.
The Torner Center is located in the heart of Deming Park, between the Oakley Playground and the Spirit of Terre Haute Miniature Train. The office offers classes, camps, leagues and events.
Dobbs Memorial Park, located on the east side of Terre Haute at 5170 E. Poplar St., is a unique city park which includes a nature center and a Native American museum with an heirloom garden.
Also at Dobbs is a three-acre pond stocked for fishing, a restored prairie, a butterfly garden, shelters for rent, and three-miles of trails which pass restored wetlands, pine woods, old growth and second growth forest as well as a 25-acre state nature preserve.
More information on outdoor recreation in the city is available online at www.terrehaute.in.gov
State parks nearby
For state-operated hiking and camping facilities, Terre Haute is also close to Turkey Run State Park and Raccoon Lake State Recreation Area in Parke County, Lincoln Trail State Park in Illinois, Shakamak State Park in Sullivan County, and Lieber State Recreation Area in Putnam County.
For more information on state recreation sites in Indiana, go online to www.in.gov/dnr.
For information about Illinois recreation sites, go online to www2.illinois.gov/dnr/Parks.
Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at TribStarLisa.