Imagine what Hamilton County used to look like. Not just before its small towns grew into vibrant cities with 21st century amenities, and not just before those little towns first sprang up at the confluence of rivers and trading routes. Go back even further, before pioneers cleared the land to build homes and plant crops. Picture the days before those pioneers even arrived.
Can’t picture it? That’s OK. You don’t have to. Hamilton County’s Strawtown Koteewi Park gives you a glimpse of what the state’s untouched prairies looked like, how the original forests stood along the banks of the White River, and how Native Americans lived in this area centuries before white men arrived.
With more than 800 acres ranging from carefully cultivated amenities to wild woodlands, Strawtown Koteewi is Hamilton County’s largest park, and arguably its richest in history and nature. Putting all of this nature, history and fun at your feet is an eight mile network of trails that wander through and around the park. Primarily crushed limestone and relatively flat, the trails are perfect for hiking, biking and horseback riding.
Nature and History
Regardless of how you travel the trails, you’ll find that they put you right in the middle of Indiana’s natural heritage. You might first notice the winged residents. As you wander among wildflower prairies and leafy cluster of trees, feathered friends float, glide, bob and zip around you like tiny multi-colored jets. In all, nearly 200 winged species have been sighted in the park, from warblers, finches and swallows to herons, vultures and eagles. Proceed quietly, and you’ll also catch glimpses of bunnies and other small wildlife dashing into the vegetation as butterflies flit and float among the grasses and flowers.
Weaving along tree lines, through prairieland and into wooded areas, the trails also show you countless species of native Indiana wildflowers, plants and trees. In some areas, helpful signs name individual tree species, making the park a natural for families gathering leaves for school projects. Colorful brochures available in the nature center help you identify the flowers you’ll see along the way, as well.
You’ll find these and other resources at the Taylor Center of Natural History, a great place to start an adventure at Strawtown Koteewi Park, as it puts you right on the doorstep of the Strawtown Enclosure, an American Indian village that was inhabited more than 700 years ago. You can explore Native American structures, learn how early inhabitants lived and how archaeologists have learned about them. The best part? You can do all of this within a few steps of trails that link you to the entire park. And if you want to catch your breath along the way or simply breathe it all in, a handful of porch-style swings with mini-roofs sit alongside the trail just waiting for you.
A Wide Range of Adventure Options
Taking full advantage of the acreage at Strawtown Koteewi Park, Hamilton County Parks has complemented history and nature with adventure, with something for just about everyone who wants to get outdoors. Whether you’re all about the outdoors or simply like a little fun, you’ll find something to enjoy at Strawtown Koteewi.
Following are some of the different ways you can enjoy the park.
On two wheels. Cyclists are more than welcomed on the trails that wind through Strawtown Koteewi Park, but they should note that these are not mountain bike trails designed for technical fast rides, but, instead, shared paths better suited to easy family jaunts. While the trails are perfect for gravel bikes, even a cruiser with standard tires can glide along without any trouble when trails are dry. Even on a rainy day, with puddles everywhere, a recent ride on a bike with basic hybrid tires was perfectly fine … and enjoyably messy.
In the treetops. If you want to be closer to the “action,” you might choose to start your park outing at Edge Adventures Koteewi: Aerial Adventure Park headquarters, which also connects to trails linking you to the entire park … and quickly puts you in the treetops. The aerial adventure park offers five treetop courses taking you as high as 60 feet above the ground with two- to three-hour courses accommodating a range of skill – and courage – levels.
With bow and arrow. Archery enthusiasts will enjoy taking a hike with a bow and arrow in hand, aiming at 30 targets in a 3D archery range along an ADA-approved trail through the woods. Or they can take advantage of the nearly 100 covered shooting lanes, including 64 lanes with 90-meter maximum distance. It’s all part of the Koteewi Range: Sports and Target Archery Center, where you’ll also find rental equipment, classes and more.
On horseback. See Strawtown Koteewi Park at the perfect pace by saddling up and taking a horseback ride along the trails. Koteewi Equine Experience offers a wide range of riding experiences, including gorgeous sunset rides, chuck wagon dinners and special parties, and even offers stalls to campers staying at White River Campground.
In the snow. See a different natural Indiana in the winter by hiking the trails with snow on the ground … and then cap off your wintry visit with a few zips down the tubing hill at Koteewi Run Seasonal Slopes. The 750-foot tubing run offers man-made snow and groomed lanes, and getting back to the top of the hill is easy with a tow line to pull your tube uphill.
From a tent. While there are no campsites inside Strawtown Koteewi Park, the adjacent White River Campground puts you just a footbridge away from everything the park has to offer. With 106 sites ranging from primitive to modern, the campground also offers fishing spots, boating options and more. Amenities include showers, laundry facilities, a recreation room, playground and outdoor activity areas.
By canoe. White River Canoe Company offers a variety of canoe trips that connect to Strawtown Koteewi Park, with some trips that start upriver and end at the White River Campground. (Learn more about Hamilton County canoeing options here.)
But Wait … There’s More
Even with everything it has to offer, Strawtown Koteewi Park has more on the drawing board.
Twenty-acre Koteewi Lake is still under development, but when it opens it will offer fishing opportunities, as well as canoeing, kayaking and sailing. A boat ramp will allow boaters with electric trolling motors to enjoy the waters as well. In addition, the parks department is planning to add to the park’s trails, eventually connecting Potter’s Bridge Park to Cicero and including a viewing tower.
But you certainly don’t need to wait for those amenities to enjoy Strawtown Koteewi Park, where adventure meets nature, and modern amenities meet history.