Updated date:

Shades State Park

Author:

Ed Pope has visited many of Indiana's state parks, and hiked numerous trails. He visited many state parks while bicycle touring.

Shades State Park is a lot like Turkey Run but not as crowded

Shades State Park is a lot like Turkey Run but not as crowded

Shades State Park, which has an excellent campground, especially for tent campers. Most of the motor home campers go to Turkey Run State Park, which is about ten miles away. There are numerous trails in the park, which pass by some unique rock formations. Many of these have interesting names, such as Steamboat Rock and Devil's Punch Bowl. This area was originally known as "Shades of Death." The name was shortened to The Shades," which sounds a little more appealing, when it became a health resort. If you need camping supplies, the town of Waveland is about five miles away. You might want to get some steaks and cook them over the campfire.

Before the State Park

The area was once home to Piankashaw Indians before settlers started arriving in the 1820s. In the 1860s an area with several natural springs was developed as a health resort. In 1887 a 40 room inn was built for the resort. Joseph W. Frisz was a successful Terre Haute businessman who purchased an ownership stake in the resort and eventually acquired complete control. A dedicated conservationist, he once built a bridge around two trees with diameters of only three inches rather than cut them down. During the Great Depression when times were tough, his son suggested cutting timber to help improve the finances. He responded "You are asking me to cut off my right arm."

After he passed away in 1939, a local campaign called "Save the Shades" was organized to purchase the land for a state park. In 1947, Shades opened as Indiana's fifteenth state park. If the area had not become a state park, it is likely that much of the oak timber would have been cut for whiskey barrels.

The Shades was a health resort before the state park was established

The Shades was a health resort before the state park was established

The Trails

Shades has some great hiking trails, which pass through canyons and ravines by interesting places such as:

  • Maidenhair Falls
  • Steamboat Rock
  • Lover's Leap
  • Devil's Punch Bowl
  • Inspiration Point
  • Prospect Point

Most of the trails are fairly rugged, and pass through streambeds that may become flooded during periods of heavy rain. On a couple of trails there are ladders that you must climb. There is also a two and a half mile backpack trail that extends from the parking lot to a remote campsite. The trail passes through level terrain, so it makes an excellent hike for the first time backpacker.

The Devil's Punch Bowl

The Devil's Punch Bowl

Pine Hills Nature Preserve

At the eastern end of Shades is the Pine Hills Nature Preserve. This are has a couple of narrow ridges or "backbones". Devil's Backbone at one point narrows to about 6 feet wide and the drop on either side is 100 feet. There are a couple of other interesting features, including "The Slide" and "Honeycomb Rock".

Honeycomb Rock in Pine Hills Nature Reserve

Honeycomb Rock in Pine Hills Nature Reserve

Backpacking in Shades State Park

Shades is the only Indiana state park that allows backpacking. There is a backpack camp with seven campsites near Sugar Creek. Camping is not allowed outside the designated sites. The trail to the campsites is about 2.5 miles long. The area is primitive, but offers

  • Potable water
  • Fire ring
  • Pit toilet

The sites cannot be reserved, so you may want to hike in early on a weekend. During the week there should be no problem getting a site. Firewood cannot be gathered within the part, so you will need to pack it in if you want a campfire. Firewood may or may not be available within the park. If you are looking for an easy or first time backpack outing, Shades is a good option.

Shades Backpack Trail

Shades Backpack Trail

Roscoe Turner Airstrip

In 1960 a 3,000 foot grass airstrip was opened in Shades State Park and named after aviation pioneer Roscoe Turner. Turner was born in Mississippi and was a barnstormer in the 1920s. During the 1930s he engaged in air racing, winning numerous trophies. He co-founded the Roscoe Turner Aeronautical Corporation, located in Indianapolis in 1940. During World War II his company trained about 3,000 much needed pilots. In 1947 he started Turner Airlines, which was eventually absorbed into U.S. Airways. Because of state budget cuts, the landing strip has been closed.

The Airstrip is now closed, but pilots could once fly into Shades State Park

The Airstrip is now closed, but pilots could once fly into Shades State Park