McCormick’s Creek State Park is a gemstone in the Hoosier state park collection, because it was the first one in Indiana history. On July 4, 1916, the 350-acre Indiana attraction was dedicated, and nearly a century later it still functions as an outdoor escape for family getaways, field trips, vacations, retreats and even day trips from Indianapolis.
In the beginning, the land later known as McCormick’s Creek was occupied by Miami Indians. Their tribes camped all along the canyons and ravines of the White River, and John McCormick came along and settled 100 acres in the area for his homestead in 1816. The community that later formed in the area agreed to continue calling it McCormick’s Creek, and the people there used the land to cut timber, graze livestock and open limestone quarries.
Doctor Frederick Denkewalter decided to purchase land in 1888 and designate it a sanitarium. The scenic waterfalls and fresh air served as a therapeutic quiet sanctuary for people to decompress. The area remained a relaxing spot and sanitarium until Dr. Denkewalter died in 1914. The state of Indiana saw the area’s potential for outdoor fun and recreation, so the bought up the land and designated it as the first state park. After some renovation, the old sanitarium building opened as the Canyon Inn in the early 1920s. Since then, the inn has added a banquet room, swimming pool, recreation center and the well-known Birdhouse Restaurant.
Many renovations were made in the park during the 1930s, and most of the current structures found there were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. Other park amenities built by the CCC include most of the shelter houses, a fire tower and a stone bridge. The nature center, Olympic sized pool and campgrounds were added in a 1970s facelift.
Ten miles of hiking trails are what attract so many outdoorsmen and hikers to this hilly area in Spencer. The trails take visitors through some of the most scenic waterfalls and caverns in the park. One trail passes by Twin Bridges, Wolf Cave and the Falls on McCormick’s Creek. Trail number sever leads guests out to the White River. At the saddle barn in McCormick’s Creek State Park, guests can schedule guided trail horseback rides or pony rides for the kids. Festive hayrides are also offered seasonally at the saddle barn.
The McCormick’s Creek State Park Nature Center is somewhat like an interactive museum. Natural history displays, quizzes and nature games are part of the fun at the educational nature center. Indianapolis kids love the wildlife observation room, and the interpretive naturalist services held throughout the year. Sometimes these events can include guided hikes, history lectures, live animal presentations and educational workshops.
Indianapolis kids love the park’s recreation center too, where they can gather to play anything from basketball to ping pong. Racquetball, Volleyball, Pool, Ping Pong, tennis and shuffleboard are other activities frequently played around the center. A concession stand can be found there along with soda machines. The recreation center also offers arcade games like pinball, foosball and air hockey. Playgrounds, picnic areas and covered shelters are sprinkled throughout McCormick’s Creek State Park for families to enjoy cookouts and outdoor fun.
A day trip to Spencer can easily turn into an overnight trip or an extended camping adventure. The campgrounds offer 190 electric sites that have flushing toilets and hot showers. For a more natural experience, campers can rent one of the 33 primitive sites at McCormick’s Creek State Park. Youth tent camps and two group camps are offered for large groups or field trips. These large group camp barracks include restrooms, a shower house and a dining hall. There are 13 furnished cabins at the park, and each can sleep up to six campers.
Spencer, Indiana is only an hour’s drive from Indianapolis, and along the way there are some must-see attractions. The Academy of Hoosier Heritage is an Indiana museum found in Mooresville that features a one room schoolhouse, historical documents and a feature display about Indiana basketball legend John Wooden. Another destination on the route is the Chateau Thomas Winery in Plainfield, Indiana, a great place to kick back and sample some delicious local wines. Whether you’re leaving Indy for a day trip or a long getaway, check out some of these southern Indiana landmarks.
McCormick’s Creek State Park
250 McCormick Creek Park Road
Spencer, Indiana 47460