Turkey Run State Park is located in Parke County, Indiana, in the west-central part of the state on State Road 47 two miles east of U.S. 41. It was Indiana's second state park, with the first parcel of land being purchased in 1916 at the cost of $40,200 when the State Park system was first established on the Indiana state centennial. It hosts the Turkey Run Inn, built in 1919. The origin of the name "Turkey Run" is unknown but the most accepted theory is that wild turkeys would congregate in the gorges (or "runs") for warmth where early settlers in the area would trap them in dead end gorges and hunt them with ease.
The heart of Turkey Run was owned by the Lusk family until 1915. The State Park Commission, run by Richard Lieber
, had acquired $20,000 for the purchase of the area, but the lumber company Hoosier
Veneer had $30,000 for it. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway
gave the commission enough money to buy the land from the lumber company for over $40,000.
Turkey Run State Park is located close to Shades State Park
. Both parks are located along Sugar Creek
, and both feature the gorge system formed by the drainage of the creek as it cuts down through sandstone
bedrock. Mansfield sandstone is the specific type seen at Turkey Run, named after Mansfield, Indiana. This makes the two parks all the more interesting, since travel to them crosses a flat glacial till plain, and suddenly the traveler enters the gorge system.
A system of trails offers hikers plenty of outing opportunities during the summer months when the drainage is relatively free of water, and the suspension footbridge across Sugar Creek, the main drainage for both parks, provides access to trails on the far side. Trail 3 is particularly noted for its ruggedness, including ladders and narrow but deep gorges. Floating down Sugar Creek through the park in either inner tubes, canoes, or kayaks is very popular in the summer months.You can pick a 3 mile, 8 mile or even 11-15 mile trips down Sugar Creek. Also, in the spring when heavy rains and snow melt flood the narrow gorges many more adventurous hikers will go "creek stomping" through the narrow gorges. However, the fast moving current, steep gorge walls, and unpredictable contours of the creek beds, make this activity dangerous if the water level is high.
The major features of the park are formed from erosion in Mansfield sandstone from the Mansfield formation
This formation was deposited during the Carboniferous period
at the mouth of the ancient where sediments collected and compacted. This swampy environment formed many coal deposits which were mined in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The collapsed entrance to a coal mine is still a major feature of the park.
During the Pleistocene Epoch the Mansfield sandstone bedrock was carved into the current distinct formations by glacial meltwaters and their associated erosion. Turkey Run features many common features of glaciation, including glacial erratics, till, and scoured canyons from erosion by melting glacial waters.
While the state park itself isn't on the National Register of Historic Places, two sites within it are. The first was the Lusk Home and Mill Site. Around this home was the initial area for Turkey Run
Every Memorial Day Weekend, Turkey Run State Park plays host to Serb Fest. The annual celebration of Serbian food and culture originated in the mid 1970's by a group of Serbian families from the Chicago area. Through the 1980's, the event grew to as many as 20 families. The weekend's events focus on large amounts of meat blazing about the grills of Turkey Run (TR), hiking, and a slow float down Sugar Creek. In 1988, due to the massive popularity of Turkey Run State Park on Memorial Day Weekend, attendees began reserving rooms at Turkey Run Inn two years in advance. Grilling activities are usually situated around grills and picnic tables adjacent to the Tennis Courts.
The event has seen continued evolution. Beginning in 1996, a new generation of attendees were groomed to keep the tradition alive as many of the original attendees grew older and unable to committ to attendance each year. This new generation has opened up the celebration of the Serbian culture indivuduals of all backgrounds and ethnicities. While many of the attendees are not Serbian, still lives is the celebration of the Serbian culture - primarily through cuisine and the ever present Serbian Flag which can typically be found attached to a near by light pole by an old tree branch and duct tape.
Lieber Log Cabin
The second Turkey Run locale on the National Register is the Lieber Log Cabin
. It was built in 1848 from the native tulip trees
, the oldest of its kind in Indiana. It is named in honor of Colonel Richard Lieber
, the first director of the Indiana State Parks system and the man who instigated Indiana's creation of its park system. During a thunderstorm
in 1918 he discovered the house. He liked it immediately, and convinced the owner to have it moved three miles so it could serve as the administration building for the state park. All but the chimney was salvageable. Fortunately, an elderly man familiar with the chimney's "cat and clay" style gave directions for making a new one, using stone from an old bridge. The supports were originally of butternut
, but are now of sassafras
. The cabin is now used as a museum honoring Lieber and the entire Indiana state park system. Lieber died in 1944 and his ashes were buried within the park.