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INDIANAPOLIS — With gas prices soaring, many people in central Indiana may be looking for a summer destination that is closer to home. We took a look at six state parks people can head to this summer for some inexpensive fun.

Click on a link to jump to the state park or scroll down to learn more about these state parks.

Fort Harrison State Park

Located on the northeast side of Indianapolis, this state park blends together landscape and history. The 1,700-acre park features walking and jogging trails, picnic sites, fishing access to Fall Creek, and two national historic districts.

The former Citizen’s Military Camp is preserved around the park office in what was once known as Camp Glenn. There is also the park’s Museum of 20th Century Warfare, featuring exhibits about the lives and history of the soldiers who once marched the grounds of the fort.

A pamphlet about the park states the fort represented the first effort to create a national army out of a collection of state militias. The post served multiple roles as a troop reception center, classroom and soldier support facility during all major military conflicts from WWI to Desert Storm.

Summer activities at Fort Harrison State Park

  • Dog park
  • Nature center
  • Shelters
  • Recreation buildings
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking/multi-use trails
  • Bicycle trail
  • Fishing
  • Saddle barn with horse trail rides, hayrides
  • Inn restaurant
  • Golfing
  • Museum of 20th Century Warfare

Summer events at Fort Harrison State Park

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Mounds State Park

Photo//Visit Indiana

Located off I-69 east of Anderson, this park features 10 unique earthworks built by the prehistoric Adena-Hopewell people. The park became a state park in October 1930.

The mounds range from a few inches tall to several feet high. The largest earthwork, the Great Mound, is believed to have been constructed around 160 B.C. It is nearly a quarter-mile in circumference.

The mounds are believed to have been used as gathering places for religious ceremonies, from where astronomical alignments could be viewed. The positions of 100 of the brightest stars, as well as those of the moon and visible planets, can be tracked from the mounds.

The park offers a variety of activities ranging from a nature center to camping. Naturalist-led hikes and interpretive programs are offered every weekend throughout the year.

Summer activities at Mounds State Park


Summer events at Mounds State Park

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Summit Lake State Park

Located near New Castle, this more than 2,680 acre park is a destination for anglers, swimmers, bird watchers and wildlife photographers.

The park includes an 800-acre lake, shady wooded areas and lots of open space. The DNR said the property is an important area for waterfowl because of the low-lying meadows and praries.

It is also a destination for campers, with 120 electric campsites.

A pamphlet about the park states the park’s history dates back to the 1950s when Henry County residents began to talk about having a recreational facility close to home. The Big Blue Recreation area was created and sold to the state of Indiana in 1988.

The name of the park comes from being located at the highest elevation in the surrounding area and near the highest elevation in the state.

Summer activities at Summit Lake State Park


Summer events at Summit Lake State Park

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Shades State Park

Located about 17 miles southwest of Crawfordsville, this park is a favorite for hikers and canoeists.

The park boasts sandstone cliffs overlooking Sugar Creek and numerous shady ravines.

The history of the park goes back to the Native Americans who lived among the forest, ravines and cliff areas along Sugar Creek.

A pamphlet about the park states there are numerous legends around the origin of the park’s name. These stories include the illusion of deep shadows beneath the canopy of the forests and eerie feeling being the reason of its early name, The Shades of Death. Other stories range from it being a stronghold of the Native Americans and the legend of an early settler being killed to a young settler’s wife burying an axe in ther husband’s skull.

No matter the name’s origin, the name was dropped to The Shades because the DNR said the original name was considered unsavory.

Summer activities at Shades State Park


Summer events at Shades State Park

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Cagles Mill Lake

Located along the Eel and White river watersheds in Putnam and Owen counties, this sprawling 8,075 acre park was built throughout the 1940s as the first flood-control lake project in the Louisville District.

Mill Creek feeds the 1,400 acre lake and is home to Cataract Falls, resulting from two pre-glacial bedrock ridges buried beneath ancient lake sediments.

Within the bounds of the park is the Lieber State Recreation Area and the Cataract Falls State Recreation Area.

The Lieber State Recreation area was once populated by the Miami, Shawnee and Potawatomi before being sold to the U.S. government when the 10 O’Clock Treaty Line was laid out.

Now, the park boasts a state-of-the-art aquatic center with a zero-entrance pool, water bubblers and a tornado water slide. There are also shelters, a volleyball court, and a playground.

Other opportunities include hiking trails, boat acess, and camping.

Summer activies at Cagles Mill Lake

Camping – See campground maps under MAPS tab

Summer events at Cagles Mill Lake

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McCormick’s Creek State Park

Photo//Visit Indiana

Located in Spencer, Indiana, the state’s first state park is highlighted by a limestone canyon, flowing creek and scenic waterfalls.

The park was founded in 1916 after the death of Frederick Denkewalter, a physician that built a sanitarium on the present-day Canyon Inn site. When he died in 1914 his estate went up for sale and Owen County and the State of Indiana bought the land to maintain it in its park-like setting.

The park expanded over the years as the state aquired surrounding farms and homesteads as they came up for sale. A pamphlet about the park says the majority of the park’s improvements came in the 1930s when the Civilian Conservation Corps was in the park. The organization built most of the shelter houses, stone bridge and fire tower.

A limestone quarry within the park’s boundaries supplied limestone for the Indianapolis Statehouse. Now, the park is a combination of history set in modern surroundings.

Visitors visiting the park can catch cultural events in the park amitheatre or attend several special events hosted annually at the park.

Summer activities at McCormick’s Creek State Park


Summer events at McCormick’s Creek State Park

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