I am not sure why so few of our trips have been to the west. Very few of our normal campgrounds had sites available a week out. Our requirements were someplace within three hours of our home, accessible for Mom coming from Tennessee, and with two sites next to one another.
O’Bannon Woods State Park is a 2,294 acre park located in Southern Indiana, approximately 30 minutes outside Louisville, Kentucky. It is harbored within the Harrison-Crawford State Forest, a lovely example of the re-wilding of the Indiana farmland that has taken place in the last century. Signs along the road note when assorted tree groves were planted.
The campground has 234 sites with electric, plus an additional 36 horse sites. We reserved 191 and 193 as they seemed most remote and were listed as full shade and only a slight grade. I think we picked two of the nicest spots in the campground. Both backed up to the woods with ample space for a fire ring and picnic tables. Sites were far enough apart to allow for reasonable privacy. Sites in loops A and B seemed to have more traffic and noise, so they wouldn’t be my first choice.
The campground is better situated for trailers than tents. There are no dedicated tent pads on the sites and our sites had a significant slope. We would have had a problem finding two level spots to set up. However the comfort stations (a pleasant euphemism for the bathrooms) were decent and offered plenty of stalls and showers of relative cleanliness.
Firewood was available at the camp office for a reasonable price. The wood was decent quality.
The forest abuts the Ohio River and the Ohio River Bluff trail seemed the most appealing of the shorter trails in the park. It is listed as 1.5 miles and rugged, but we found the trail to be borderline easy. It begins as a shared hiking/bridle trail that is bordered by the river on the left and rugged cliffs on the right. At approximately 3/4 of a mile, we reached a trail marker that was not especially clear, but hikers should follow the right branch. A few hundred feet later, the hiking trail again veers to the right. It is a bit overgrown in comparison to the wide open bridle path and can be easily missed. In fact two of the three in our party did just that. The trail immediately begins climbing, but is never too steep. We got glimpses of the river through the trees and this trail would be especially lovely in the fall or winter.
Eventually the trail leads to a shelterhouse in a clearing that provided a clear view of the river below. We were finally able to enjoy the river and watch a barge make its way. From there the trail quickly descends back to the parking lot.
The park hosts a lovely nature center, highlighting native trees, birds, insects and other flora and fauna. The butterfly garden out front was aptly named, having attracted dozens of specimens. Most nature centers we have been to have a few reptile species, but this one even hosts three of the four venomous species of snakes native to the area. I honestly am not sure I had ever seen a water moccasin in person before and I was glad to have a thick plexiglass window between us on this occasion.
Behind the nature center is a cute historic farmstead area that features a fully restored haypress. In the 1850’s the ability to bale hay was essential to allowing for the transport of hay down the river. The park hosts demonstration of the press during holiday and a few other weekends. We would love to return at some point to watch the barn-sized machine at work.
Like many state parks, there is a fire tower for the adventurous. Views are supposed to be spectacular, but my vertigo is too severe for the rickety steps. I’ll take the word of others.
It is rather reassuring that there are still so many great locations within a few hours of our house that we have yet to explore. We look forward to continuing to hike and camp in Indiana.