It’s time for a Friday favorite! Indiana State Park Ouabache is one of my favorite places to shoot, hike and enjoy God’s creation. . Hiking is something I and my whole family love. Someone recently mentioned to me they love hiking, but didn’t know where to go. So a blog about one of my favorite hiking places seemed like a perfect idea for a Friday favorite!
I grew up less than 10 miles from Ouabache and have so many fun memories at this park. The park has grown and changed over the years. As a kid I spent many summer days swimming in the now dismantled and filled in swimming pool. During my teen years I would bike from home to the park on a regular basis to the old park entrance off of 201. Now its fun walking the park trying to determine exactly where the old gatehouse stood.
I took my own kids to the park nearly every week during the summers as they were growing up, and I think they enjoyed it as much as I did. The park offers paddle boats, canoes and kayaks for rent to enjoy out on Kunkle Lake. Rent is very affordable and life jackets and paddles are included.
Ouabache offers five different hiking trails ranging from one to six miles in length. Half of the trails offer the opportunity to see the Bison in the wildlife exhibit. A small herd of bison call the wildlife exhibit at the park home…we’ve also seen deer in there before, but its been a few years since we’ve seen them in there. If you’re lucky you may catch a glimpse of a new baby bison in the spring. If it’s been wet/rainy you’ll definitely want some waterproof hiking shoes on the trails. In dry weather, I generally wear my running shoes.
Trail 5 is the longest trail in the park at six miles. It circles the entire park, and utilizes parts of all other trails in the park. Trail 5 has many entrance and exit points so you can easily hike the entire six miles or just a small portion of it. In the winter, the Bluffton park department and Ouabache team up to host a 5 mile run which follows most of trail 5. Some years its a frozen sheet of ice, some years it’s a soggy mess, but it’s always a blast.
The park offers a lodge for hosting events. The lodge can accommodate approximately 150 guests and includes use of the kitchen. We hosted our son’s Eagle Scout Ceremony in the lodge. The large stone fire place provides ambiance and plenty of warmth. The park also offers three shelters that are open on three sides and each have a fire place for warmth. All three shelters have several picnic tables and are near a playground making them perfect for family reunions.
If you want to plan a weekend trip, Ouabache’s campground offers 124 electric campsites. A youth campground is offered for large groups tent camping. There is a shelter, a couple playgrounds, a couple modern bathrooms and a boccee ball court within the campground. Fun fact: the boccee ball court was my son’s Eagle Scout project.
The paved bike trail is an awesome feature that runs along the south side of the park. Within the park the bike trail is 2.68 miles long. The trail leads into the River Greenway/Interurban Trail that extends several miles into downtown Bluffton and even north of town to Walmart. The River Greenway/Interurban Trail one of many projects that are part of the Wells County Trails. The trail runs right next to the river, so be aware that it floods with extensive rain. If you visit in the summer, on Saturday mornings you can take the path from the park into Bluffton and visit the Farmers Market. Its usually has a small number of vendors, but if you can find Lana Miller before she sells all of the pie she’s brought that day, you should certainly grab a slice or two…or five.
After being closed for many years, Ouabache’s 100 foot fire tower was reopened in August 2019. The Friends of Ouabache raised $75,000 to toward the restoration of the tower and creation of the plaza surrounding it. The fire tower offers an amazing view of the park and the surrounding area! The farm land, fields and wooded areas are beautiful in the summer and at Christmas, the tower is decorated in LED lights.
Not a feature of the park, but something that always makes me smile is what I have dubbed Amish Party Day. More than once I’ve been at the park when dozens of Amish buggies come rolling in. Decorated with balloons and streamers the clearly are ready for fun and celebration. Enjoying their country music loudly, it seems to fill the whole park as their buggies pass by. The park is so popular with the Amish, their is a large designated buggy parking area with tie posts and water troughs for the horses. Soon groups of Amish are roller blading around the park. Yes, Amish party day always makes me smile!
Of course if you know me, you know Ouabache is also one of my favorite places for photo sessions. There is so much beauty and variety in this park that I love to shoot there year round.
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To learn more about Ouabache State Park follow the link : Ouabache State Park
To reserve a campsite reservations: Indiana State Park camping reservations
For information on trail projects in Wells County: Wells County Trails