What’s a toboggan?
It’s a flat, wooden sled with a curled front end.
Pokagon’s toboggans can hold up to four people at a time. Launched from a 30-foot-high tower, sledders streak downhill at more than 30 mph. They skid to a halt a quarter mile from where their thrill ride began. The record is 42 mph.
The ear-to-ear grin of the little girl in the video below shows what fun it is to have the front-row seat.
Pronounce the park’s name Po-Kay-Gun. It’s named after Leopold and Simon Pokagon, father and son, who were well-known leaders of the Potawatomi Indian tribe.
Pokagon became Indiana’s fifth state park in 1925 and is one of 32 properties the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of State Parks manages. Other winter activities at Pokagon include cross-country skiing and ice fishing
Its famed toboggan got its start in 1935 when Civilian Conservation Corps men stationed at the park sought a winter diversion from their work assignments. Building their own source of fun has given enjoyment to several generations of Pokagon visitors ever since.
Over the years, changes were made to the original facility, but the biggest came in 1971 when the twin tracks were refrigerated for the first time. A newer refrigeration system was installed in the 1980s.
The system ensures the facility can operate regardless of weather conditions, but it’s always more magical when there’s snow on the ground and a nip in the air.
Weekends and holidays
Pokagon’s toboggan run opens annually on the day after Thanksgiving and is open 5:30-9 p.m. Fridays, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 24. There are extended hours during Christmas break, and on New Year’s Day (Jan. 1), Martin Luther King Day (Jan. 21) and Presidents Day (Feb. 18).
Sleds are rented on a first-come, first-served basis for $13 per hour. You’re guaranteed at least one ride. More rides down the slippery slope depends on how quickly you hustle back to the tower and get in line with other visitors.
You’ll also pay the normal park entrance fee — $7 for vehicles with Indiana plates, $9 for out-of-state vehicles. Unless, of course, you have an annual entrance pass to Indiana State Parks. They’re available online.
There’s a warming center adjacent to the toboggan that offers concessions.
But if you need a place to stay or a full meal, look no further than the park’s Potawatomi Inn. It’s just beyond the end of the toboggan run. The inn offers overnight accommodations (137 rooms) and a restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Phil Bloom is a lifelong Hoosier who has had two successful careers – award-winning outdoors editor for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette and communications director for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Retired from both, he continues to tell Indiana stories as a freelance writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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