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Indiana Department of Natural Resources

DNR Home > Divisions > Communications > Outdoor Indiana Magazine - Archives > Outdoor Indiana - May/June 2013 > Outdoor Indiana - May/June 2013 - Featured Stories Outdoor Indiana - May/June 2013 - Featured Stories

From the Director
Retired fire towers bring memories of a lost tradition
Chance of Rain: ZERO
Treasures in your own backyard

From the Director

Your summer fun list
Robert E. Carter, Jr.

Director Robert E. Carter, Jr.Remember in school when the teacher asked the students what they did for summer vacation?

That was a dreadful assignment to be cooped up in the classroom and forced to remember how much more fun it was to be outside.
Well, most of us don’t have that kind of homework anymore, but we can—and do—take summer vacations.

What are your plans for this summer?

If you’re short on ideas, let me offer some solutions that won’t cost an arm and a leg, won’t require endless hours of travel, and will put you in a place where you can relax and enjoy yourself.

Start with Free Fishing Days on May 18 and June 1–2, when Indiana residents can fish without having to purchase a fishing license. Several DNR properties have special events.

Go to the Bison Bonanza Bash on June 22 at Ouabache State Park, where you can celebrate the resident bison and their history at the park. How far can you throw a buffalo chip?

On June 26, the Fort Wayne Philharmonic orchestra will perform its annual Patriotic Holiday Pops Concert on the Potawatomi Inn Lawn at Pokagon State Park.

The Living Pioneer Farmstead Days are scheduled for July 6–7 at O’Bannon Woods State Park. Check out the one-of-a-kind 1850 hay press in action.
Salamonie Lake will cool things off with its Christmas in July event July 26–28, and Falls of the Ohio State Park will have its Family Fun Fair on Aug. 3.

Satisfy your sweet tooth and celebrate National S’mores Day on Aug. 10 at Monroe Lake.

Plan to visit the Natural Resources Building during the Indiana State Fair, Aug. 2–18 in Indianapolis. (Psssst! Our building is air-conditioned.)

Celebrate and honor members of the Civilian Conservation Corps, whose handiwork graces many of our state parks. The group’s annual reunion is Aug. 24 at McCormick’s Creek State Park.

And if that’s not enough, mark your calendars for the 5th annual Hoosier Outdoor Experience, Sept. 21–22, at Fort Harrison State Park in Indianapolis.

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The old guard

Retired fire towers bring memories of a lost tradition
By Nick Werner

A budding forest springs to new life around the Willow Valley tower in Martin State Forest. The tower provides a breezy 100-foot-high view to the horizon.It’s lonely at the top.

Just ask Dennis Goen.

For three years in the 1960s, Goen staffed the Mason Ridge fire tower at Morgan-Monroe State Forest outside Martinsville. On some days, Goen—who was in his early 20s—climbed the tower and didn’t come down for 14 hours.

On weekends, curiosity seekers kept him company, and some were more memorable than others.

“I remember one day I lifted the trap door and there was a yellow polka-dot bikini,” he said. “I was trying to concentrate on looking for a fire. It was quite a deal.”

But for the most part it was just Goen in the 7-by-7 foot cabin, 85 feet above the forest floor with little entertainment outside a bird’s-eye view of southern Indiana. He sat on a stool in front of his Osborne Fire Finder with a C.B. radio and telephone that were strictly for work and emergencies.

People like Goen staffed Indiana’s towers during periods of high fire danger, which typically ran from early spring through fall. For a stretch in fall 1964, one of the driest, most dangerous fire seasons in state history, Goen was on duty at Mason Ridge tower every day for six weeks straight.

The solitude was difficult to endure. You just had to tough it out, Goen said. Decades after his tenure as tower man, Goen looks back on his sky-high solitary confinement with sentimentality.

“I was just a kid then,” Goen said. “I’d love to get back up in there.”

Cutline: A budding forest springs to new life around the Willow Valley tower in Martin State Forest. The tower provides a breezy 100-foot-high view to the horizon.

To read the rest of this article subscribe to Outdoor Indiana or pick up a copy at most Barnes and Noble bookstores, and state park inns. To subscribe, click here or call (317) 233-3046.

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Chance of Rain: ZERO

2012 drought changed natural order
By Nick Werner

Most of County Road Marsh at Pokagon State Park dried up during the drought. An unexpected explosion of yellow filled the visual void created by a lack of water.  Dependable spring and early summer rains never came.

A state unfamiliar with water shortages was suddenly being asked to limit water consumption.

The usually lush landscape turned mostly brown.

For some, the chain reaction sparked by the drought terminated on their dead lawn. For people like farmers, it was more serious.

In Indiana’s woods, wetlands and parks, the dominos kept falling. Fortunately, not all consequences were negative, and in a few cases the drought offered pleasant surprises.

By August, rains returned across much of Indiana, and conditions improved. Then, in September weather patterns did an about-face. Indianapolis recorded almost 8 inches of precipitation that month, the fifth-wettest September in recorded history. By early winter, the drought had receded everywhere in Indiana except the extreme northeast.

Cutline: Most of County Road Marsh at Pokagon State Park dried up during the drought. An unexpected explosion of yellow filled the visual void created by a lack of water.

To read the rest of this article subscribe to Outdoor Indiana or pick up a copy at most Barnes and Noble bookstores, and state park inns. To subscribe, click here or call (317) 233-3046.

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Versailles State Park

Like coming home
By Marty Benson

Part of a series

The Busching Covered Bridge welcomes visitors to Versailles State Park. The historic bridge near the park’s gatehouse has spanned Laughery Creek since 1885.History books tell us the Treaty of Versailles ended World War I.

Penned in the French city for which it was named, the intended peace document instead served as partial tinder for the Second World War.

Original plans for a park in the rolling hills of the Ripley County town of the same name—but an American pronunciation (Ver-sales)—didn’t progress exactly to plan either.

But the many forms the United States’ “Versailles Project” has taken have been far more pleasing, almost since the Civilian Conservation Corps and other similar government work groups started in 1934 to hand-build the state’s first national park.

Yes. National.

The work groups were reassigned from the project in 1937. When the United States entered World War II in 1941, federal priorities changed. The state reaped 1,700-acres of almost-park. Indiana acquired what became Tippecanoe River State Park in similar fashion. Both state parks were established in 1943.

Today, Versailles State Park is the second-largest in Indiana, covering nearly 6,000 acres and drawing campers, picnickers, mountain bikers, horse riders, birders, bluegrass music lovers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

Cutline: The Busching Covered Bridge welcomes visitors to Versailles State Park. The historic bridge near the park’s gatehouse has spanned Laughery Creek since 1885.

To read the rest of this article subscribe to Outdoor Indiana or pick up a copy at most Barnes and Noble bookstores, and state park inns. To subscribe, click here or call (317) 233-3046.

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