Day Trips: Something for everyone at Eagle Creek Park

Central Illinois residents might travel to Indianapolis for a professional sports game, to visit Circle Center Mall or to hang out at a concert. But there is an outdoor treasure located on the west side of Indianapolis some people might miss: Eagle Creek Park.

Looking for a place to hang out before my friend took off on a flight, we decided to check out Eagle Creek Park. Consistently recognized as one of the national’s top 10 largest municipal parks, Eagle Creek consists of 3,900 acres of woods, meadows and ponds. It also includes a 1,300 acre reservoir.

What surprised me about this park is that there is literally something for everyone to do. When we decided to visit, I thought the park would be a typical city park with paved trails and a pond to look at. Instead, we found plenty of rustic, hilly trails, paved trails, fishing and watersport opportunities, a treetop and ziplining excursion, bird watching, inflatables in the swimming area and a dog park.

We started off near the marina, where you can rent paddleboats, canoes and kayaks. Because it was chilly the day we went (in the spring) we did not rent anything, but should I ever go again, I will rent a vessel to take on the water because it was a clean and well-managed lake.

Instead, we decided to hike around the edge of the lake. Again, I thought the trails would just be paved travels with little interest, but instead, we walked around trees and roots, up and down winding hills and we paused to see birds and sunbathing reptiles along the way. The water is split between a recreational area and a protected area, but there is a path between the two where people were fishing or walking.

We wanted to see what else the park had to offer, so we visited the swimming area where there is an open beach to the pond. We were surprised to see inflatables in the water, too. While we didn’t swim (still chilly), I thought about how nice it was to have an area like this when so many ponds and lakes can no longer be used for swimming.

Instead, we sat under the trees and thought about the world for a bit.

We headed over to the Ornithology Center where, after measuring ourselves against a giant tree, we walked through a beautiful education center and then watched birds in the observation room that overlooks the park’s bird sanctuary. Outside the Ornithology Center there is now an interactive educational area where children can learns about the obstacles birds face while migrating.

While driving to find the Go Ape attraction where visitors can climb or zipline among the trees, we commented on how wonderful the park is. Here’s my humble (Indiana native) opinion: Illinois’ State Parks are very rugged and often leave a bit to be desired whereas Indiana State Parks (which do charge an admission fee) are well-maintained and informative. Sorry. That’s just my opinion.

And Eagle Creek Park rivals any Indiana State Park I’ve visited. There is so much to do and to learn. It’s a great place for a family picnic or a long weekend because you won’t run out of things to do while you are there. One thing many State Parks don’t have that Eagle Creek does have is an abundance of programs and events throughout the year. And as with anything in Indiana, the seasons change. What you find in the spring may be different than what you find in the fall.

This is why I believe Eagle Creek Park is definitely worthy of a day trip. I know I will be going back.

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I may do it all, but I have not done it all.

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