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Cultural Resources & History

Richard Lieber
"I hope and trust that the small beginning we have made will have laid the foundation for a comprehensive system of State Parks which will not only stand forever as a token of the past, but which will bring health, wealth and happiness to our own generation and the many that will come after us." - Col. Richard Lieber in the State Parks Committee Report to the Indiana Historical Commission, 1916.

The Indiana State Parks system was established in 1916 as a centennial gift to Hoosiers, and our state parks’ story is Indiana’s story. Our properties are filled with unique geologic features, historic homes and cemeteries. They are places where people gather for traditional arts.

Centennial Elementary School Curriculum

Hoosier History and Indiana State Parks is a series of 11 curriculum units available online. The units target fourth-graders and their study of Indiana history but could be adapted for any grade level or informal education at home, or taught through scout organizations and other groups. Lessons meet state educational standards for English, science and social studies.

A Sense of Place

This PDF booklet contains special stories and features of Indiana State Parks for teachers, students and families. It provides an overview of the main messages that we interpret at each of our sites. It's a source of basic information about the natural and cultural resources at state park and reservoir properties.

Traditional Arts

A community’s arts and traditions help shape the events and offerings at neighboring state parks. Visitors from near and far can learn about not only the park, but also the surrounding communities, local people and other facets that make a place unique.

Archaeology events

Indiana State Parks hosted a public archaeology event at Versailles State Park and invited students from area schools to learn about how archaeology can teach us about history and prehistory. Ball State University, through a National Park Service Historic Preservation Fund grant, showed the students some of the historic archaeological sites in the park. View the video on YouTube.

Indiana State Parks Centennial Celebration, 1916-2016

In 2016, Indiana turned 200 and Indiana State Parks celebrated a century of “making memories naturally” for visitors. When Indiana celebrated its centennial in 1916, Hoosiers received a memorable birthday gift—a brand new state park system. McCormick’s Creek became the first state park in the summer of 1916, and Turkey Run was purchased later that year. Today, the system has grown to 32 properties that hosts about 16 million visitors each year.

The centennial celebrations kicked off on Dec. 16, 2015, with special events across the state and the proclamation of Indiana State Parks Day by the Governor.

Our Second 100 Years:  The Celebration Continues

Can you still be a part of our ongoing celebration? Yes. Here’s how:

  • Spend time outside with your kids or grandkids. Help them make great memories in our state parks and prepare them to care for our parks when they become adults. Try our Hoosier Quest program or get ideas for outdoor activities from our Children’s Bill of Outdoor Rights.
  • Review our Second Century Survey results.
  • Take part in our Fitness Challenge or one of our hiking challenges. Download your log sheet and get started today.
  • Use our downloadable centennial curriculum with your students or youth group. This 11-unit tool includes background information and great idea activities for engaging students with Indiana history, viewed through the lens of Indiana State Parks’ development.
  • Pick up a copy of our “First 100 Years” history brochure at your favorite property or check out our history online.
  • Get your own copy of “Indiana State Parks: Treasures in Your Own Backyard” at innsgifts.com. Not sure you want to buy it? Check out these video clips on YouTube: Documentary OverviewSpring FlowersFall Music.

Celebration Successes

More than 2 million people participated in Indiana State Parks centennial activities in 2016. Here’s a quick summary:

  • 38,000 participants in property centennial celebration activities.
  • 11 brick and mortar Centennial Legacy Projects.
  • 2,000 entries in Fall Centennial Photo Contest.
  • 250 geocachers who completed the 32-property challenge.
  • 1,675 First Day Hike participants.
  • 2,000 online views and 700 downloads of the centennial curriculum.
  • 380 history programs attended by more than 13,500 people.
  • 140 #100Wordsfor100Years history posts on Facebook and Twitter, with a reach of more than 1.9 million.
  • 240 free annual passes distributed to Indiana library districts; checked out more than 1,700 times.
  • More than 20 oral history interviews with past and current staff collected and sent to the National Archives through Traditional Arts Indiana’s “Ranger Lore” project.
  • 128 Arts in the Parks programs with more than 17,000 participants.
  • More than 25,000 miles completed in the 2016 Fitness Challenge.
  • 33 Centennial Booklets produced by Outdoor Indiana Magazine.
  • More than 36,000 page views of our centennial site at INStateParks100.com.
  • 445 acres added to state parks through the Bicentennial Nature Trust.
  • 301 birders saw more than 100 species in the Bicentennial Birding Challenge, sponsored by Indiana Audubon Society.
  • Indy Hiking Club members and guests hiked more than 14,000 miles in Indiana State Parks.
  • 250 state park directors and staff visited Indiana for the National Association of State Park Directors annual conference.
  • Plein air artist Rick Wilson painted every state park (and some fish & wildlife areas, too).

History of Indiana State Parks

  1. Natural History
  2. Woodland Culture
  3. Pioneers
  4. Native Americans
  5. Conflicts & Wars
  6. The Beginnings of Indiana State Parks
  7. New Deal
  8. Recreation Demonstration Areas
  9. Interpretation
  10. Baby Boom and Beyond

Other resources