broad trail passes through a woodland rich with native species
|Lake County, Indiana
A cross-country skiing or snowshoeing
expedition to Deep River County Park offers an opportunity
to combine outdoor activity in a large, diverse hardwood
forest with discoveries about the economic and social history
of Northwest Indiana.
Deep River County Park is east
of I-65 and north of U.S. 30 near the Lake/Porter
county line. Follow U.S. 30 to State Rd 51 and turn
north. At first stop sign, turn right/east and follow
Old Lincoln Highway 2.5 miles to park entrance.
Long before steel and oil moguls claimed
most of the Lake Michigan shore in Lake County, Indiana,
Potawatomi Indians set up summer encampments along Deep
River, according to Joanna Shearer, the park's historical
program coordinator. When European settlers arrived in the
1830s, the river became a magnet for business enterprises.
Fortunately, it was valued mostly as
a source of power for such relatively benign establishments
as grist and saw mills. Now those are nearly gone, with
one notable exception: the brick gristmill built in 1876
by Nathan Wood. He built the mill at the site of an earlier
mill established by his father, John, arguably the county's
first industrialist. Today, it stands as a prominent landmark
near the entrance to Deep River County Park, which has grown
steadily over time to become 1,400 sprawling acres.
From its source near Crown Point, Indiana,
Deep River wanders across Lake County before it enters the
park. From there, it flows north past Hobart where
it becomes truly deep into the Little Calumet and
finally Lake Michigan. It has been largely freed from commercial
demands and today serves mainly recreational purposes.
A broad, generally flat trail follows
the meandering river for almost two miles. The trail passes
through a woodland rich with native species, including substantial
cottonwoods and sycamores, basswood, swamp white oak, sweetgum,
shagbark and bitternut hickory, and Kentucky coffee trees.
More adventurous skiers or hikers may
want to cross Ainsworth Road where a rougher section of
trail continues along the river to an overlook. A field
adjoining the picnic area is accessible to those who prefer
Beginning February 8, park staffers
will tap the maple trees and collect sap. On the second
and third weekends in March, the woodfired evaporator in
the sugar shack will be going full tilt. The syrup produced
there is for sale, a blessing to those who regard it as
nature's tastiest nectar.
A few weeks later, spring beauties,
trillium, May apples, Jack-in-the-pulpit, and bloodroot
appear at Deep River. In late summer and fall, goldenrod,
sunflowers, and especially white and purple asters are abundant
in sunnier spots along the trail. New waves of bird species
appear each season, including warblers, scarlet tanagers,
Baltimore orioles, wood thrushes, Acadian flycatchers, and
barred owls. Spring also brings the Deep River Grinders,
who play vintage baseball as prescribed by the 33 rules
in effect in 1858, taking on teams from across the Midwest
at their home field in the park.
Deep River County Park is open from
7 a.m. until dusk. Pit toilets are available at two locations,
but no indoor restrooms are open in winter. For more information,
call (219) 947-1958 or (219) 945-0543.