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Outdoor Indiana - May/June 2009 - Ask an Expert

Climbing rules; ramping up

On my hikes through our state parks, I’ve noticed many rock walls that might be good for climbing. Is this allowed?

We seek to balance providing a wide variety of outdoor experiences for all ages and interests while looking out for public safety and protecting the precious natural resources that parks and other DNR properties were created to protect.

Rock faces and cliffs are often home to rare and endangered plants and wildlife. These places are fragile environments in the best of situations. The physical damage that can result from climbing equipment and foot traffic, and the erosion that can follow, help make it unwise to allow rock climbing and rappelling at Indiana state parks and other DNR properties, so they are prohibited.
Regarding damage to natural resources, remember that it takes a lichen 75 years to grow 1 centimeter in diameter, so one scrape of a shoe can easily displace 500 years of growth.

Such plants can make rock surfaces dangerously and unexpectedly slick, and inherently dangerous to climbers. For example, climbing at Turkey Run State Park, where there is a lot of shade, would be more perilous than doing so on rock that is more directly exposed to sun, wind and other elements. While experienced rock climbers may be prepared for such treacherous conditions, the average park guest may not realize the danger of attempting what may appear to be an easy climb up or down a cliff face.

Hoosiers seeking a place to climb can visit Hoosier Heights, an indoor gym south of Bloomington, or Climb Time, an indoor gym on the north side of Indianapolis.

How does the DNR decide where to put boat ramps?

The DNR public boat ramp on the West Fork of the White River at PerkinsvilleIndividual DNR divisions are responsible for their own ramps, but some general concepts apply to all of them.

Site selection for a boat ramp is based on numerous factors that include the availability of willing sellers, lessors or donors for land (if the land is not already state-owned), and the technical criteria of the site.

These criteria include adequate size, water depth, proximity to a public road, traffic safety issues, suitable terrain, quality of the fishery, potential for bank erosion on river sites, and the projected cost of development and maintenance.

Ramps managed by the Division of State Parks and Reservoirs require a master plan that takes into account the amount of revenue and recreation a new ramp could generate.

In addition, a site cannot be in a wetland or within the habitat of an endangered species or contain historic resources. It also must be free from environmental hazards. Also, the potential ramp’s proposed use must comply with any land-use restrictions.
Ramps are built by both DNR staff and by outside contractors.  

Above: The DNR public boat ramp on the West Fok of the White River at Perkinsville. Fishing varies from section of the water, with possibilities for largemouth and smallmouth bass, catfish, perch and crappie.

To submit a question, write Outdoor Indiana, Ask an Expert, 402 W. Washington St., Room W255B, Indianapolis, IN 46204 or e-mail OI@dnr.IN.gov