Nearby Spots – And Tips – For Your Outdoor Fix
Writer & Photographer / Daniel Woody
As winter draws to a close and the weather warms for spring, many of us will be eager to get back outdoors. Some of us get outside all the time regardless of the weather, but no matter which camp you’re in, we could all benefit from knowing where the best local spots are for a quick dip into nature.
Luckily for Broad Ripple residents, there are a wide range of public parks nearby. Each one offers its own unique perks, but there are a few I go back to again and again. I’ll share with you which parks are my favorites, what activities I enjoy doing most at each, and any other relevant info you’ll need to optimize your time spent outside, and not waste it on the commute.
Favorite Activities: Hiking and Hammocking
Marott Park’s 102 acres of forest are probably familiar to anyone who frequents the Monon Trail or Park Tudor School. Otherwise, it’s an easy park to miss. It’s also a park that offers some unique geography. Sitting just north of where the White River weaves through Broad Ripple, the park has three unique areas, each separated by bodies of water and each requiring a different point of access.
The most popular area of the park is the northern section, with primary access off of College Avenue across from Park Tudor. Williams Creek runs through the center of this section, and it’s a great place to hang a hammock, or bring your dogs and kids to splash around in the creek on warmer days. You can also access this section along 75th Street, and along the Monon Trail.
The southeastern section of the park sees moderate traffic, but it’s only accessible via three spots along the Monon Trail, which runs along its eastern edge. Williams Creek runs along the western edge of this section. This portion of the park is also great for hiking and hammocking.
The last section of the park is in the southwest corner, located just east of College Avenue between the White River and 71st Street. This section isn’t very big, but it sees the least amount of traffic due to its obscure access points. You can access it along 71st Street, in the neighborhood east of College Avenue, or underneath the College Avenue bridge that runs over the White River. This section is where I’d go for some solitude.
2. Holliday Park
Favorite Activities: Hiking
Holliday Park, located at Spring Mill Road and 64th Street, has something for the whole family. There’s a Nature Center, a playground, wildflower gardens, ruins, and hiking trails throughout. I go here mainly to hike with my dog. The eastern edge of the park butts up against the White River, and if you continue hiking underneath the Meridian Street bridge, you’ll link up with the Blickman Educational Trail, which will connect you with the southwestern section of Marott Park to the northeast. The most direct hiking route between these parks is about a four-mile round trip, and offers great views along the riverbank.
3. Fall Creek Parkway Trail and Greenway
Favorite Activity: Kayaking
Fall Creek Parkway Trail and Greenway is likely best known for its biking path. The path follows the creek from Fort Harrison State Park all the way down to Meridian Street. However, not many people know that you can actually kayak certain portions of the creek as well. In particular, there is a five-mile section of the creek that I find perfect for a quick evening paddle. There is a boat ramp and parking area on the north end of Fall Creek Parkway that works best for your put-in point, just west of Interstate 465. Then, five miles down the creek, you’ll find another boat ramp and parking area where you can take out, near the intersection of Fall Creek Parkway, Allisonville Road and Binford Boulevard. Be sure to heed the signs for the dam downstream, and don’t go beyond the boat ramp.
This five-mile section of the creek will take about two to four hours to complete, depending on how fast you paddle and how high or low the water level is. If you plan to paddle solo and don’t have anyone to help ferry your kayak back to your put-in point, I’d recommend putting in at the southern boat ramp and paddling upstream until you’re tired, and then turning around to float back to your put-in point. Paddling upstream can be challenging if the creek is flowing fast, but it’s typically very slow-paced near the southern boat ramp, due to the dam just downstream.
4. Eagle Creek Park
Favorite Activities: Hiking, Kayaking and Photography
OK, so Eagle Creek Park isn’t exactly local to the Broad Ripple area. It’s all the way over on the west side of the city. However, it’s an easy 20- to 30-minute drive across Kessler Boulevard and 56th Street to the front gate. As the city’s largest park, it consists of 1,400 acres of water and 3,900 acres of forest, allowing visitors to enjoy fishing, boating, hiking, birding, cycling and much more. There is an entrance fee of $5 per vehicle, but I opt for the $50 annual pass. I know I’ll get my money’s worth.
What I enjoy most at Eagle Creek is kayaking around the northern end of the reservoir and photographing the wildlife I see from the water. This is a great area for a relaxed morning paddle, especially during the spring and fall, when the sunrise coincides perfectly with the 8 a.m. opening of the park. When I’m not on the water, I enjoy the miles of hiking trails available. Be sure to take the hiking loop around the bird sanctuary, starting at the Ornithology Center. You’ll get great views of the reservoir, and – you guessed it – there is no shortage of birds. You may get lucky and see a bald eagle too.
With spring almost here, I hope this gives you a better idea of where to go the next time you need a dose of nature on a time crunch. If this inspires you to get out to your local parks, be sure you have the gear you need to make your outing safe and fun. In Broad Ripple, we’re lucky to have our own local outdoor gear retailer, Rusted Moon Outfitters. They can hook you up with whatever you need for your local or not-so-local adventures.
Just remember that when you want to get outside but feel you don’t have the time, it can be easy to overlook our local parks. However, they really do offer a wide range of outdoor activities, and given how accessible they are, I hope we all take a little more time this year to appreciate them.