Pioneer Mothers Memorial Forest in Paoli, Indiana

Eighty-eight acres of old growth still stand as “virgin forest” inside this Indiana attraction. Pioneer Mothers Memorial Forest is a preserved area in Paoli, Indiana that’s found inside the very large Hoosier National Forest. Nature lovers are particularly attracted to this area, where walnut trees stretch some forty inches wide, and oak trees are older than America’s establishment. A few of the largest trees in the Crossroads of America can be seen here, some stretching more than 130 feet into the heavens. The Pioneer Mothers Forest is a fun outdoor destination for a day trip from Indianapolis.

Most visitors see the Pioneer Mothers Memorial Forest from a hiking trail that cuts through it. A route is accessible to hikers from State Road 37, and it stretches for one mile inside the largest Indiana park, Hoosier National Forest. About half way through the trail, guests come upon a rock wall memorial that was built there in 1951.

One fascinating portion of Pioneer Mothers Memorial Forest is the ancient Native American Village that was discovered along Lick Creek. The forest was declared a Research Natural Area in 1944 by the Forest Service, and a 165-acre buffer was made to protect the old growth areas. Archaeologists and researchers from all over, even some from Indiana University, have identified the walls and buildings that were once part of this one acre village.

Nineteen million acres of similar forest once covered the Hoosier State, but as the demand for wood grew, the Indiana forests were depleted. In 1816, Joseph Cox purchased 258 acres in southern Indiana. He set aside eighty-eight acres to preserve for the enjoyment of future generations, and they called it Cox Woods. The land stayed in the Cox family through the Great Depression until the grandson of Joseph Cox died in 1940. The forest was then purchased for $23,000 by Wood-Mosaic Lumber Company, but it was saved before Cox Woods was destroyed.

When word got out about a company exploiting the ancient land for profit, several citizens and area organizations came together to stop it. They struck a deal with the company to buy back the land within 90 days, under the condition that they could raise the $23,000. Donations were gathered from the U.S. Forest Service, the Meridian Club of Paoli, the Indiana Pioneer Mothers Club and several local citizens. All the money was raised just in the nick of time, and on the eighty ninth day of the tree chopping halt, Cox Woods was bought back. It was then named the Pioneer Mothers Memorial Forest, on account of the group’s $5,600 contribution to preserving the woods.

Paoli is located in Orange County, just south of the Lost River. On the way to the area from Indianapolis, guests pass by some really incredible day trip destinations. Bloomington, Indiana is an important stop to make on the way down south. It’s home to Indiana University, and handful of other unique sites, including the Wylie House Museum, Mathers Museum of World Cultures and the Indiana University Art Museum. Just south of that, in Bedford, Indiana, lies an adventurous underground exploration site called Bluespring Caverns. Dozens of other neat place line the route to Pioneer Mothers Memorial Forest, so plan a day trip from Indy and explore the great outdoors.

Pioneer Mothers Memorial Forest
Paoli, Indiana 47454