Indiana National Parks
In this article, we feature some incredible park sites in the great state of Indiana. We’ve got 5 national park sites for you to see on your next visit to the Hoosier State.
Indiana is home to one of America’s most exciting new national parks, Indiana Dunes.
These Indiana National Parks include amazing historic sites, incredible monuments, iconic parks, legendary trails, and more.
I’ve been to so many of these amazing places since retiring from teaching in 2018. Did I mention that I taught history? I spent a lifetime teaching about the history behind these momentous sites. Then I got to see them firsthand. And now I’m sharing the stories of these incredible places with you. It doesn’t get any better than that!
Remember that old 1970 song by R. Dean Taylor? It’s titled Indiana Wants Me. It has some memorable lyrics which include the following lines:
Indiana wants me
Lord, I can’t go back there
Indiana wants me
Lord, I can’t go back there
Well, we’re going to give you 5 wonderful reasons why you can go back there. Or go there for the very first time. After reading this helpful article, you’ll definitely want to make Indiana your next vacation destination.
Table Of Contents: Indiana National Parks
Table of Contents: Indiana National Parks
- Facts About Indiana
- 1. George Rogers Clark National Historical Park
- 2. Indiana Dunes National Park
- 3. Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail
- 4. Lincoln’s Boyhood Home
- 5. Indiana War Memorial
- Indiana National Parks Book Recommendations
- Map Of Indiana National Park Sites
- List Of Indiana National Park Sites
- About The People Behind More Than Just Parks
- Meet The Parks Brothers
Facts About Indiana
Indiana is a state located in the midwestern region of the United States. It is bordered by Michigan to the north, Ohio to the east, Kentucky to the south, and Illinois to the west.
Indianapolis is the state’s capital and largest city, and is known for its sports and cultural attractions. Indiana has a diverse economy, with a strong focus on manufacturing, agriculture, and healthcare.
The state is home to a number of top-ranked universities, including Indiana University and Purdue University.
Indiana is known for its rolling hills and forests in the southern part of the state, and its flat, fertile farmlands in the central and northern parts.
The state is also home to a number of national parks and historic sites, including the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial and the Indiana Dunes National Park.
Indiana National Parks
1. George Rogers Clark National Historical Park
There are some truly amazing Indiana National Parks which acquaint visitors with people who played an important role in America’s history. One such place is the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park.
For almost 30 years, I taught high school history. What impresses me most about the field of history are the amazing stories of men and women whose contributions changed the course of human events. In doing so, they helped to bring about the country we have today.
The people we know, however, are few when compared to the people we don’t. When I asked my students what they knew about George Rogers Clark, I might have seen one hand raised.
I would call on that intrepid soul and he (or she) inevitably told me about Clark’s historic journey across America with his companion Merriweather Lewis.
Folks, that’s the wrong Clark!
Who Was George Rogers Clark?
A short history lesson is in order, but I promise there’ll be no homework.
Clark’s best remembered (not by my former students however) as the brave commander who led a small force of frontiersmen during the American Revolution through the freezing waters of the Illinois country to capture British-held Fort Sackville at Vincennes during February of 1779.
While this was his most important contribution to the cause of liberty, Clark also built forts on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, repelled a British-led Indian attack in the Illinois country and led two major expeditions which destroyed the major Shawnee towns in the Ohio country. (Source: NPS)
Clark began his career as a surveyor before becoming a politician and a soldier. After the Revolutionary War, Congress appointed him as one of the commissioners to manage negotiations with the Native Americans in what was then known as the Northwest Territory.
He concluded a treaty with the Shawnee granting the United States sovereignty over all lands ceded by Great Britain.
Now if you’re interested in taking a deeper dive into the life and times of this fascinating man then I recommend George Rogers Clark: The Life and Legacy of the Revolutionary War’s Conqueror of the Old Northwest by Charles River Editors.
Things To Do At The Park
I always recommend that first timers start at the visitor center. There you can gather information on points of interest at the site. At this site, I recommend a 30 minute film, titled Long Knives. The film explores Clark, his march to Vincennes, and the attack on Fort Sackville.
From there you should check out the Memorial where you can see seven murals which tell the story of Clark and the Old Northwest along with a magnificent statue of George Rogers Clark.
As the National Park Service notes, the Memorial was a major feat of architectural engineering. It was built from 1931 to 1933. Workers assembled it piece by piece like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle. Today it stands as a testament to a man who did his part for the cause of freedom.
2. Indiana Dunes National Park
Indiana National Parks are about more than just history. There’s some stunning natural landscapes too. One such place is Indiana Dunes National Park. This beautiful park includes 15 miles of the southern shore of Lake Michigan. It has so much to offer that you won’t find in the history books.
While you’re there you can you look for rare species of birds or fly a kite along the sandy beach. This national park includes 15,000 acres so you won’t run out of space.
If you love hiking there’s 50 miles of trails. They cover rugged dunes, magnificent wetlands, sunny prairies, winding rivers and tranquil forests.
If you’re planning a trip then I recommend picking up Best Sights to See at Indiana Dunes National Park by Rob Bignell. This book not only features some amazing sights, it also details the top hiking trails to experience them.
So Many Incredible Activities At Indiana Dunes
If you love boating Lake Michigan features kayaking, powerboating and sailing. While canoeing is not recommended on the lake itself due to the windy conditions, it is quite popular on the Little Calumet River.
There’s even horseback riding on the specified portion of the Glenwood Dunes Trails from March 16th to December 14th.
And, let’s not forget cross-country skiing from December 15th until March 15th. Those trails stay busy year-round.
Other Outdoor Activities At Indiana Dunes
There’s no shortage of fun outdoor activities. See the beautiful wildflowers in the spring while strolling along the banks of the Little Calumet River. I recommend Wildflowers of the Indiana Dunes National Park by Nathanael Pilla.
In the summer go swimming or build castles in the sand.
Check out the amazing colors in the fall which typically peak around the middle of October. The fall is also an excellent time to go bird watching.
From April 1 through October 31, overnight camping is available. Fishing the Little Calumet River during the summer can be a lot of fun.
There’s also the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk fishing pier which offer lakeside fishing.
While You’re There You Can Explore A Century Of Progress
You’ll find some amazing historical sites, too, which I’m always keen to explore.
There are over 60 historic structures including a National Historic Landmark, the Bailly Homestead. Other notable sites include Camp Good Fellow, the Chellberg Farm and five houses from the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.
The 1933 Chicago World’s Fair’s theme was a “Century of Progress.” In keeping with this theme you can see the House of Tomorrow, Florida Tropical, Armco Ferro, Wieboldt-Rostone and Cyprus Log House.
These places feature innovative building materials, modern home appliances and new construction techniques.
Indiana National Parks
3. Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail
In May of 2019, the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail extended 1,200 miles to include segments along the Ohio River, from St. Louis to Pittsburgh. It’s now a part of Indiana!
The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail follows the historic outbound and inbound routes of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. I don’t know about you, but I get goosebumps just thinking about the Corps of Discovery.
Commemorating the Lewis & Clark Expedition (1804-06), the Lewis & Clark Trail connects 16 states (Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon).
This trail is administered by the National Park Service. It’s not a hiking trail, but does provide opportunities for hiking, boating and horseback riding at many locations along the route.
It’s a great opportunity to see the USA while learning about the brave men (and one woman) who weren’t able to make the journey in an air-conditioned SUV.
Of course if you are interested in learning about the sacrifices and struggles these brave men (and one woman) encountered then I recommend Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen Ambrose.
Ambrose is the the New York Times bestselling author of Band of Brothers and D-Day. Undaunted Courage is the definitive book on Lewis and Clark’s exploration of the Louisiana Purchase, the most momentous expedition in American history and one of the great adventure stories of all time.
What Can I See In Indiana That’s Connected To Lewis & Clark
I’m so glad you asked. After all, our focus in this article is on Indiana.
In Indiana, this historic trail follows the Ohio River from the Indiana/Ohio border, to Clarksville, then southwest towards Indiana’s toe just south of Mount Vernon.
Merriweather Lewis historic 1803 meeting with William Clark has been honored for several years at the Falls of the Ohio State Park and the George Rogers Clark Homesite.
Now I know what you’re thinking. And, the answer is YES. William Clark descended from a line of adventurous men including William’s illustrious older brother George Rogers Clark.
4. Lincoln’s Boyhood Home
Indiana National Parks also include the birthplace of a man whom many historians regard as America’s greatest president.
In 2021, C-SPAN asked a group of these distinguished presidential historians to rank our nation’s presidents from worst to best.
At the top of their list, with a total score of 897 points, was Abraham Lincoln. George Washington and Franklin Roosevelt came in second and third respectively.
Why is Abraham Lincoln ranked as the greatest president of all time? Simply put, he saved the Union.
In the process of saving the nation, Lincoln managed to define the creation of a more perfect Union in terms of liberty and economic equality that rallied the citizenry behind him.
Lincoln Transformed The Presidency
Lincoln transformed the Presidency. He remade the president’s role as commander in chief and as chief executive into a powerful new position.
In the process, he imbued the office with broader powers by making it supreme over both Congress and the courts.
His detractors argued then and now that he took actions which were unconstitutional such as suspending the writ of habeas corpus.
For those without a legal background, this is a writ “requiring a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court, especially to secure the person’s release unless lawful grounds are shown for their detention.”
For Lincoln, however, it made no sense “to lose the nation and yet preserve the Constitution.”
No President in American history ever faced a greater crisis and, in saving the Union, no President ever accomplished as much.
By gleaning every possible reference from history, literature, and popular lore, Sandburg successfully captures not only the legendary president, but also Lincoln the man. He reveals exactly who Lincoln was, and what forces in his life shaped his personality.
Three other excellent biographies are: Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Lincoln by Donald Herbert David and And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle by Jon Meachum.
RELATED: 5 EPIC Illinois National Parks
Visit Lincoln’s Birthplace
There are many activities offered on a daily basis at Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial.
At the Memorial Visitor Center, park staff and volunteers are available to answer your questions.
While you’re there you should allow at least 45 minutes to tour the Memorial Halls, Museum and watch the orientation film.
The film, titled Forging Greatness: Lincoln In Indiana, is a 14-minute interpretive story which tells of the boyhood of Abraham Lincoln.
Next up, I recommend the park museum. It’s housed in the Memorial Visitor Center which was completed in 1943.
The tour is self-guided and includes twelve exhibits exploring the life of Abraham Lincoln.
Outdoor Activities At The Lincoln Boyhood Home
When you’re ready for a “good stretch of the legs” as our nation’s 16th President might say, there’s the Trail of the 12 Stones.
It’s a half mile trail that begins just east of the Cabin Site Memorial. There you will find twelve historic stones arranged in chronological order at irregular intervals.
Small bronze tablets located near each stone, briefly explain the events in Lincoln’s life associated with each of the memorial stones.
There are stones from twelve locations beginning with his birthplace in Kentucky and ending with a stone left over from the Lincoln Tomb in Illinois. (Source: NPS)
You can also hike the Boyhood Trail of Abraham Lincoln. It’s the same ground that Abraham Lincoln did when he was a boy growing into a young man.
And if you’re ready to step back in time there’s the Lincoln Living Historical Farm. It’s a working pioneer homestead with a log cabin, outbuildings, split rail fences, livestock, gardens and field crops.
While you’re there you’ll see rangers are dressed in period clothing. They perform a variety of activities typical of daily life in the 1820s.
RELATED: 10 BEST Civil War Sites In America
Indiana National Parks
5. Indiana War Memorial
Our final site is not one of the Indiana National Parks. That’s okay, however, because we’re More Than Just Parks. So, when you follow us, we give you more than you bargained for because we want you to have an incredible trip wherever you decide to go.
The Indiana War Memorial (IWM) Plaza Historic District includes the 30,000 square foot IWM Museum complete with military equipment and artifacts, three parks, four fountains, and 25 acres of monuments, statues, and sculptures in the heart of downtown Indianapolis.
The IWM’s properties include the Indiana War Memorial, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, the Indiana World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War Memorials, the USS Indianapolis (CA-35) Memorial, the Medal of Honor Memorial, the 9/11 Memorial, and the Indiana Gold Star Families Memorial.
No state has a city with more monuments dedicated to veterans than Indiana’s capital, and no city in the country maintains more acreage honoring veterans than Indianapolis. It is also home to the American Legion National Headquarters, which is the largest veterans’ organization in the world.
The IWM Commission operates these facilities in pursuit of its primary mission: to commemorate the valor and sacrifice of the United States Armed Forces and to honor Hoosier veterans and Indiana’s role in the nation’s conflicts. (Source: State of Indiana, Indiana War Memorial)
Indiana National Parks Book Recommendations
- Pioneer History of Indiana: Including Stories, Incidents, and Customs of the Early Settlers by H. Monroe Bateman.
- George Rogers Clark: “I Glory in War” by William R. Nester.
- Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen Ambrose.
- Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years & the War Years by Carl Sandburg.
Map Of Indiana National Park Sites
List Of Indiana National Park Sites
- George Rogers Clark National Historical Park
- Indiana Dunes National Park
- Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail
- Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial
- Indiana War Memorial
About The People Behind More Than Just Parks
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. My sons have spent their entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
As for me, I’m a retired lifelong educator and a proud dad of these two wonderful guys who are hopelessly obsessed with the national parks. I taught history for over a quarter of a century. Now I enjoy researching and writing articles for More Than Just Parks. I’m always on the hunt for topics where nature and history intersect so please feel free to share any ideas that you might have with me.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Meet The Parks Brothers
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
We hope you’ll follow our journey through the parks and help us to keep them the incredible places that they are. If you’re interested in joining the adventure then please sign up below!