Though northern Indiana doesn't have extensive public lands compared to those found in the region south of I-70, there are still plenty of places for campers to find relaxation and recreation in the upper half of the Hoosier state. Here are five favorites:
Prophetstown State Park- Indiana's newest state park is located at the junction of the Tippecanoe and Wabash Rivers, sitting on some of the most history-rich ground in the state.
Prophetstown is slowly being turned from a collection of agricultural fields and woodlots into a mature state park that will encompass a variety of habitats such as restored prairie and forestland. There are several other interesting attractions now open in the park such as the 1920's Living History Museum.
The campground is also Indiana's newest and features 110 electric sites, 55 of which provide full hook-ups. According to Lebanon resident Ken Campbell who recently stayed at Prophetstown, the campground is outstanding.
"While it is certainly not a Turkey Run (due to its young age)," Campbell said, "it's a very nice state park. We found the campground nicely spread out, making the sites roomy and those with trees seem almost private. The bathhouses are very clean and the staff was helpful. We like it."
Mississinewa, Salamonie and Huntington Reservoirs- These three upper Wabash reservoirs, operated by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, are located within a few miles of each other between Fort Wayne and Wabash.
Encompassing 3200 acres of water and 14,000 acres of land, Mississinewa State Reservoir includes several other recreation areas in addition to the main park near the dam. The campground is enormous, with over 400 available sites and is very popular with boaters and fisherman. Like other reservoir campgrounds, it is often bustling and more noisy than a similar-sized state-park camping area.
Salamonie Reservoir, a short drive east of Mississinewa, is slightly smaller but offers similar amenities along with a large 250-site campground. The lake is less popular with fishermen though the nearby countryside offers several interesting geological features such as the seven pillars of the Mississinewa and Hanging Rock. The dam spillway area is particularly scenic.
Huntington Lake is the smallest of the group and the farthest from Lafayette. It only offers 30 sites of primitive camping area and is usually much less crowded than its big sisters to the west.
Turkey Run and Shades State Parks- These popular, well-known state parks are both about an hour south of Lafayette in Parke and Montgomery counties. Both parks offer some of the best hiking and scenery in the state.
The campground at Turkey Run offers 213 electric sites and is very popular with both Indiana and Illinois residents. Campers should plan on making reservations for any weekend until winter fully arrives.
The Shades State Park campground is fully modern but does not offer electricity in any of the 105 campsites. This makes Shades less popular with trailer owners, meaning it usually has vacancies even when Turkey Run is booked solid. With less human traffic and a relatively smaller campground, this park is much more suited to tent campers and those seeking a less hectic experience, especially during the weekdays.
Raccoon State Recreation Area- Located on a peninsula in the middle of Cecil M. Hardin Reservoir (Raccoon Lake), this 4000-acre property is geared toward one thing: boaters.
The 279-site campground is usually buzzing with activity, even during the late hours as fishermen come and go. Since most sites offer electricity, it is very common for visitors to spend their entire vacation here, making this campground busier during the week than other areas.
Indiana Dunes State Park- Located among the sand dunes of the southern shore of Lake Michigan, this area is very popular with campers from northern Indiana.
Surrounded by Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the state park completely demolished and renovated the campground in 2004. According to DNR Property Manager Brandt Baughman, a major 2004 renovation turned the old, crowded 292-site campground into a 140-site area that "is very spacious, very nice and comfortable.
The campground is also extremely popular. "During the last week, for example, we were full every single night," he said. "We have the highest occupancy rate of any State Park campground."
The campground is only a short walk over the dunes to the beach and does offer some partially wooded sites. The newly renovated Nature center next to the campground has also reopened. Campers should realize that, unlike most State Parks, alcoholic beverages are forbidden in Dunes.