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Indiana is blessed to have 25 state parks, 16 state forests, 10 state lakes, and numerous reservoirs, state recreational areas, and nature preserves. Although there are state parks for any time of year, my favorite time to visit Indiana’s natural areas is late summer and early fall, just as the weather begins to cool and before the leaves change.
Chain O’ Lakes State Park is called as such because…wait for it….the park contains a chain of lakes, thirteen lakes to be exact, with nine connected via a central water way. This state park is open to boaters, campers, fishing enthusiasts, swimmers, hikers, and pretty much anyone wishing to retreat into the wilderness for a quiet afternoon, or for an entire weekend in one of the many cabins.
The lakes at Chain O’ Lakes are referred to as “kettle lakes” defined as a shallow, sediment-filled water body created after rapid glaciers melt and retreat. In our case, the thirteen lakes at Chain O’ Lakes were formed at the end of the last glacial period around 13,000 years ago. The lakes are part of the Elkhart River – St. Joseph’s River – Lake Michigan watershed.
Much of northern Indiana, between Fort Wayne and South Bend is filled with such lakes – remnants of the retreat of the Wisconsin Glaciation. The entire area is filled with kettle lakes of all sizes, shapes, and depths. There are hundreds of lakes dotted across this region and several reservoirs.
The thirteen lakes at Chain O’ Lakes are: Miller, Rivir (that’s not a typo), Mud, Weber, Sand, Bowen, Dock, Long, and Sucker – all of which are connected. Norman, Finster (two different lakes with the same name), and Kreiger are not connected.
Chain O’ Lakes covers 2,178 acres, 212 of which are water and 732 are part of the Glacial Esker Nature Preserve. There are 23 miles of forested trails – 12 different paths ranging from east to rugged, 18 cabins, an expansive campground, a beach, boat docks (electric motor only), fishing piers, picnic shelters, non-powered boat rentals (canoes, paddle boats, kayaks, and row boats), and a nature center.
Like many other state parks, Chain O’ Lakes is great for those looking to connect a little more with nature. For me, the greatest fauna area was the Butterfly area near the Stanley Schoolhouse.
The area was first inhabited by Native Americans, with a mound probably located along Bowen Lake, although there hasn’t been much excavation to authenticate. We know of a Miami Native American village, or perhaps a Potawatomi settlement that existed along the northern shore of what is now Bown Lake. According to the Indiana DNR “about 30 bark wigwams were located on the north shore” prior to white settlement.
In time, the area was settled by those of European descent, including William Bowen, whom the lake is named after. The Stanley Schoolhouse was built in 1848 (although the extant structure is from 1915) serving children in grades one through eight. The school closed in 1954. The area around the school and all thirteen lakes officially became a state park in 1960.
Location: 2355 East 75 Street – Albion, Indiana – 46701
State park admission in Indiana are $7 per car for Hoosiers and $9 for out-of-state visitors. A full list of prices is available on Indiana’s DNR website.
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