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Yellowwood State Forest was created in 1940 when federal land was leased to the state of Indiana. The land was deeded to the state in 1956. Prior to that time, the Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Project Administration completed three lakes, a shelter house and a residence, all still in use. Other such buildings were sawn from the forest in kit form and shipped to other public properties.
More than 2,000 abandoned and eroded acres were planted to pine (red, jack, shortleaf, white and scotch), black locust, black walnut, white and red oak. Red and white pines are the true northern pines and are still in good condition. The other pines are succumbing to insects, disease and extremely cold winters.
Yellowwood Lake was completed in 1939. The 133-acre lake is about 30 feet deep.
Yellowwood State Forest, along with several other state properties, has gained parcels of land through the Heritage Trust Program. In 1994, 30 acres slated for the construction of a radio tower were purchased and became part of Yellowwood State Forest. A 36-acre inholding adjoining a nature preserve was purchased and added to Yellowwood in 1995.
Primitive (Class C) campsites are centrally located within the forest and around Yellowwood Lake. See the fees page for a list of camping fees. There are 80 designated campsites south of the Forest Office and a carry-in tent site area north of the office. Vault toilets and drinking water are available near the campsites. A playground is located within the campground area.
A Class C Horsemen's Camp with 10 sites is located south of the primitive campsites, and is convenient to the many miles of horse trails that wander through the forest. Please register for camping at the Forest Office. Camping reservations are not taken.
The 133-acre Yellowwood Lake offers excellent fishing; a valid Indiana fishing license is required. A boat launch is located at the south end of the lake; boat motors are limited to electric trolling motors only. Rowboat rental is available seasonally. Bear Lake and Crooked Creek Lake are also popular recreation and fishing areas on the forest property. Camping is not permitted at these two lakes, and swimming is not permitted at any lake.
Whitetail deer, ruffed grouse, turkey, squirrel, fox, woodcock and raccoon. A valid hunting license is required. Hikers and horseback riders are advised to wear hunter orange or other bright clothing while on trails during hunting season.
Panning for gold is permitted on Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood State Forests. A gold panning permit is required! The permit, which can be obtained free of charge, allows for panning gold on a hobby basis. The displacement of any material through use of a pick, shovel or sluice is not allowed due to concern for water quality. Archaeological evidence found, such as projectile points, pottery or bones must be reported to the Forest Office to determine if a major archaeological site is in the vicinity. To obtain a permit, visit or call the Forest Office at (812) 988-7945.
The Yellowwood Tree
Yellowwood State Forest is named for a tree common in the mid-south but rare this far north. The yellowwood tree (Cladrastis kentukea) has bright yellow heartwood that is hard and dense. The tree flowers abundantly but only every three to five years in the spring with loose clusters of pea-like, fragrant white flowers. Seeds are in bean pods similar to its cousin the black locust. The leaves are compound and the bark is similar to the American beech. Less than 200 acres in Yellowwood support the yellowwood tree on north facing slopes and deep ravines near Crooked Creek Lake. A specimen is planted at the Forest Office on Yellowwood Lake Road.
There are picnic areas and one picnic shelter available for day use. Picnic tables and grills are located at most picnic sites. The picnic shelter may be reserved by contacting the property office.
Jackson Creek Trail - 1.5 miles
Self-guiding interpretive trail. Traverses a variety of terrain and forest types. Trail begins 3/4 mile north of the Forest Office.
High King Trail - .5 miles
Steep trail cut through a heavily forested hillside. The trail leads up to a scenic view, returning to starting point along the same path, and connects with the end of Scarce of Fat Trail. Trail begins below dam about 1.5 miles from the Forest Office.
Lake Trail - 4.5 miles
This trail loops completely around Yellowwood Lake. The trail uses several segment of other marked trails so caution to follow the right trail is needed. The path also requires you to navigate a shallow stream crossing.
Scarce O' Fat Trail - 4 miles
Some parts follow fire trails, so watch for trail markers. Begins just north of High King Trail along road to the spillway.
Tecumseh Trail - 42 miles
This trail follows the proposed national Tecumseh Trail route that was to to span from Florida to Canada. The trail begins near the head of Panther Creek. The trail ends 42 miles later at the Morgan-Monroe Office. Trailheads are located near Crooked Creek Lake, the north boat ramp at Yellowwood Lake, at Prange Pond on Dubois Ridge Road, at Bear Lake and at the Morgan-Monroe office. Camping is allowed in the backcountry area along the Low Gap Trail, at the north end of Yellowwood Lake, and where the trail begins/ends at the Hoosier National Forest. Flooding may block several sections of trail during wet weather and potable water can only be found at property offices.
Resource Management Trail - 1.5 miles
Self-guiding interpretive trail. Brochure available at Forest Office. Trailhead across the road from the office.
(Horses allowed only on marked bridle trails.) An annual horse use tag is required.
"Y" Horse Trail - 8.6 miles
Starts and ends near Horse Campground.
"SY" Horse Trail - 4 miles
This shortcut creates a 4-mile loop on the Y Trail.
"W" Horse Trail - 2.4 miles
This trail is accessible off Crooked Road just south of Highway 46. The trail connects with Brown County State Park trail system.
"Z" Bill Jack Horse Trail - 4 miles
Starts at Horse Campground - traverses west side of lake and along Scarce of Fat Trail.
"X" Brock Road Horse Trail - 2 miles
Starts on Brock Road - connects to Bill Jack Trail.