MARSHALL, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Along with the sound of conversations and footsteps, bird calls and trickling water can often be heard throughout the trails, including “Midwest’s best hike,” Trail 3 of nationally-ranked Turkey Run State Park.
With Turkey Run’s Trail 3 recently earning multiple rankings with Trail 3 specifically recognized as the best in the Midwest, according to Midwest Living, a guided tour with a Turkey Run State Park interpretive naturalist may bring Hoosiers more insight and more appreciation for such a unique and beautiful geographic feature in the local area.
“This was the 2nd state park in Indiana and in 1916 it was the centennial for Indiana, so the state park system was a gift to Hoosiers and this place was chosen really based off the vastness and the beauty,” explained Jenny Fanser, Interpretive Naturalist at Turkey Run and Shades State Park as she stood in the nature center. “But the fact that there are multiple different ecosystems here that are healthy and thriving because of their ravines, inside of them, it is completely different,” Fansler added.
The harmonized ecosystems within Turkey Run are easily highlighted by the notable ravines throughout Trail 3. All of the unique features have slowly been carved out by time and water. Dating back to the last Ice Age, Turkey Run as Hoosiers know it today was made as a direct result of a melting glacier.
“This really starts back hundreds of thousands of years, more specifically during the last Ice Age. That was when the last glacial event happened in Indiana. The glacier that came down from Canada through Michigan and into Indiana stopped about 8 miles north of Turkey Run and when it stopped, it melted, and that melt-water carved out all of the ravines we have here at Turkey Run. So without the geological events, this park wouldn’t be what is it today,” Fansler explained.
Many Hoosiers may be able to recognize the differences in ecosystems and environments as they travel through the park, taking note of the common trees seen in Indiana, like Sycamores, Maples, and Beeches. However, as Fansler walked along Trail 3 giving directions to hikers and picking up stray trash, she pointed out how the landscape starts to change and different flora and fauna can be found thriving, like Hemlock trees, ferns, and mosses, in a place they normally wouldn’t be expected.
“The temperature drops 5 degrees once you go in there, you can definitely feel the moisture difference and that definitely allows for a lot of unique species to thrive in there that otherwise wouldn’t. And so the fact that you see native flora from Canada in Indiana thriving and healthy it’s the only place in Indiana that you will see anything like this. So I think that a lot of it has to do with just the fact that this is really a gem in Indiana, especially in the Midwest. There are a lot of beautiful things in Indiana but there is literally nothing like this inside the Midwest.”
Adjusting to the cooler temperature as they make their way down into the ravines, Hoosiers that are familiar with Turkey Run are also probably familiar with the various geographic points of interest like “wedge rock” or what is referred to as the “punch bowl” along the trail. Both of those areas have been impacted by extreme erosion and have created unique features along the trail.
Each unique facet of Trail 3 and any of the other trails in the park are all attributed to the glacial event. With a sedimentary rock like sandstone making up most of the landscape, the melting water was able to erode away the ravines that many Hoosiers hike through today.
“Turkey Run was recognized as a beautiful place to come and visit and relax and spend time in nature before even the 1900s. This was a sought-after place to come to and to retreat. Early settlers loved this area because of the ravines. It created an environment for a lot of different types of species to dwell here. But it was also just beautiful as well. So a lot of people really gravitated toward it,” Fansler noted.
As Fansler continued through the trail, she pointed out that many areas in the park and throughout Trail 3 are considered nature preserves, and in some areas are even considered sensitive biological sites, which means hikers should not climb on, take anything from, or interact with the area in order to preserve the ecosystem.
“Trail 3 obviously was just voted best in the Midwest and it was voted that way for a number of reasons. It definitely encompasses so many of the aspects of this park that makes it so special and that it the completely different environment, ecosystems, climates, that are in these ravines, versus outside of them or even along the creek. This is for sure probably the reason that people love Trail 3 so much. It’s also very rugged, it’s a trek. You put in time and effort to do it, but that’s not to say that other places and other trails in the park are just as beautiful,” Fansler said.
For those interested in exploring Trail 3 or all of the great features Turkey Run State Park has to offer, visit the Turkey Run State Park website.