Think of Indiana and what do you think of? Flat green farmland extending for miles across the state and gentle rolling hills in the south? Think again, Indiana has some surprising landscapes and areas to share that the outsider might not know about.
One place I visited last summer was the Falls of the Ohio State Park on the Western bank of the Ohio River opposite Louisville, Kentucky. It’s a small area when you think of state parks, but it’s packed with eons of archeological data worth donning your old tennis shoes and exploring. Ages ago, this part of Indiana was under a saltwater sea. There are fossils of corals, fish, and other marine life. At one time long ago, this area would have been more like the habitat found in the Caribbean. There had been quarrying here in the distant past, but it is now a preserved bank of fossil rich limestone.
I headed out one hot August Saturday, in the midst of the drought and a high heat index that strongly suggested anyone anywhere in Indiana stay inside and sip on cool ice tea. My wanderlust had kicked in and I hopped in the car and drove the 2 1/2 hours it takes to get down Interstate 65 to the last exit before one glides across the bridge into Louisville, Kentucky. After exiting, you continue driving west for only a short distance, where you pass through a congested area of river front hotels and restaurants. It doesn’t look very fancy, but it was bustling with tourist activity and by the time I arrived, folks were showing up for their lunch reservations. Passing through this area, through a series of 4-way stops, you continue on to a sign showing that you exit to your left into the parking area of the Park and Museum. Don’t go too far before exiting or you drive right into residential areas, with signs telling you not to turn around in their driveways.
After parking, I walked up the sidewalk and ramp onto an overlook deck, which made for great panoramic photo sessions as you could see the fossil beds and the bridge going over the Ohio River into Louisville, KY. First stop was to go inside and take a look around the museum, and get a pass for parking. The museum was quite interesting, containing artifacts dug up years past and a little history of the area.
I headed out and passed back down the ramp and stairs onto the rocks leading down to the Falls area. This whole rocky outcrop looks like a limestone quarry. It’s a little tricky finding your way down, if you don’t take the civilized way over the sidewalk and wheelchair ramps. I decided to climb down over the rocks and eventually found myself out on the expanse. Everywhere I looked, there were fossils under my feet and there was even an area of fossilized footprints!
Once I got down on the bottom level, I was able to carefully choose my path and wander around. The ground underfoot was a bit irregular so I had to choose my steps carefully. Of course, the heat was tremendous down low, so I was armed with a good hat, sunglasses and a bottle of water.
I spent my time, as did other tourists with my head down and my eyes glued to the ground, taking in all the unique fossils underfoot.
Underfoot, I could see the remains of coral, sponges, brachiopods, arthropods and so on. Along the banks, or walls of the limestone deposits are layers that you can look into and see how the sediments were laid down.
This area is a great place to also bring your bicycles or hiking shoes and day pack and explore the natural beauty.