Some may dismissively refer to the center stripe of the U.S., running from western Pennsylvania to the Kansas-Colorado line, as “flyover states.” Those people however, are missing out on all the American heartland offers.
Sure, Los Angeles is sunny, New York City is sleek, Colorado has the Rockies, and the Southwest has the great, wide, harrowingly beautiful deserts. However, the uninitiated are unwise to sleep on all the hidden treasures the Midwest has to give its guests.
From the Great Lakes to the City of Chicago, the breadbasket to the Upper Mississippi River, the country’s beating heart has a bounty of destinations and activities for adventure lovers, wanderers, and day trippers of every stripe.
And no state embodies the breadth of natural beauty and the midwestern American spirit more so than the Hoosier State, Indiana.
Inhabited for thousands of years by Indigenous people and later settled as a part of the Northwest Territories before being admitted into the Union in 1816, Indiana has a history that is as rich as any other state in its region. Thankfully, its state park system preserves this history for generations to come.
Below are some can’t-miss spots when driving through one of the most interesting “flyover states” the Midwest has to offer:
Clifty Falls State Park: In a state brimming with wild beauty, this state park still preserves a sight that stops visitors in their tracks. The locals say Clifty Falls “changes moods with the weather,” giving it a personal feel that invites multiple visits to see how the falls are “feeling” on that particular day. Depending on rainfall and temperature, it can be a roaring cacophony of water or a light mist, and during the colder months can form stunning glacial ice flutes. Its beds were once home to teeming marine life and hold fossilized remnants of eons past. This state park is a true one-of-a-kind must-see.
Indiana Dunes State Park: Pivoting from the great Clifty Falls to this midwestern oddity, Indiana proves its diversity of ecological splendor at this state park in Porter County. These splendid sand dunes rise some 200 feet above and beyond the shores of Lake Michigan, with over 2,100 acres of prime Hoosier land. The park was established in 1925 after years of petitioning on behalf of scientists and recreationists. Swimming in the lake or simply wandering the great dunes are popular activities at this Indiana treasure.
Prophetstown State Park: Indiana’s newest park can be found at the titular Prophetstown near Battle Ground, IN, where the Tippecanoe and Wabash Rivers meet. Unique to this state park is the partnership it has with The Farm at Prophetstown. Visitors can stroll the grounds (nearly 900 acres) or put themselves in the shoes of farmers and Native peoples from centuries ago to taste what life was like on the prairie. But Prophetstown State Park has more to offer than a jaunt through history. It also holds an aquatic center with a 30-foot slide, body flume, lazy river, and much more for fun in the sun. There is truly something for everyone at this amazing Indiana state park.
Shades State Park: This Indiana state park is as peaceful as it sounds and serves as a welcome oasis and a favorite spot for nature enthusiasts. Shades State Park near Waveland, IN, is a must-explore for hikers and canoeists. Take a leisurely stroll through the forests to one of the many ravines and stop for lunch on one of the sandstone cliffs overlooking Sugar Creek. Breathe in the still, quiet beauty only found in this special corner of the great state of Indiana.