Friday, February 12, 2010
Outdoor Recreation in Bloomington
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Tosha Daugherty, Communications Manager
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Outdoor Recreation in Bloomington, Indiana
Home to three lakes, three nature preserves, two state forests, the state’s only national forest and an outstanding city park system, Bloomington is a great place to escape to nature. Surrounded by scenic beauty in the midst of southern Indiana’s hill country, Bloomington is a mecca for the region’s outdoor enthusiasts. Lake Monroe is Indiana’s largest lake with over 10,000 acres of water. Surrounding Lake Monroe on three sides is the Hoosier National Forest, which stretches several thousand acres from Bloomington southward. Within this vast forest land, you’ll find the 13,000 acre Charles C. Deam Wilderness, home to the only lookout tower remaining on the Hoosier National Forest. In addition, three of Indiana’s State Parks are located less than an hour away.
In the center of this natural wonderland, you’ll find the City of Bloomington. Often called the quintessential college town, Bloomington is one the Midwest’s most progressive small cities, in more ways than one. A plethora of local restaurants, including many international cuisines, a vibrant downtown and a thriving arts and music scene combine with an incredible variety of outdoor recreation opportunities to create a travel experience you’ll never forget.
Everyone knows that Bloomington’s a great place for road biking (remember the movie Breaking Away?), but did you know that B-town also offers mountain bikers a variety of challenging trails? The City of Bloomington maintains Wapehani Mountain Bike Park, built specifically for off-road riding, and there are miles of trails in the Hoosier National Forest available to bicyclists as well. On-road or off, there are challenging hills and beautiful scenery just waiting to be discovered.
Monroe County is one of Indiana’s top birding locations for both waterfowl and field species. Home to over 300 different species, including several nesting bald eagles, the area offers several birding hot spots. Lake Monroe is well-known as the best eagle-spotting location around, but also offers several locations that are excellent for spotting waterfowl and wading birds, including two specially-designated waterfowl resting areas. Expect seasonal variations; spring and fall migration times yield the greatest variety of species and the grey skies of winter provide the best backdrop for spotting bald eagles.
Pontoons, cruisers, speed boats, jet skis, sailboats, rowboats, kayaks and canoes are just a few of the ways you can enjoy the feel of the water beneath you and the breeze in your hair on one of the area’s three lakes. Bring your own boat or rent one when you get here, but don’t miss your chance to spend the day on the water!
Whether you’re looking to rough it in the back country or relax in the relative luxury of a “camping cabin,” Bloomington’s got you covered! Thousands of acres are available within the Hoosier National Forest for backpacking and primitive camping, state and federally-owned campgrounds are located around Lake Monroe and two nearby state forests. Two private camping resorts near Lake Monroe offer full RV hook-ups, tent camping and cabin rentals. Lakeside accommodations are also available at Fourwinds Resort and Eagle Pointe Golf Resort.
The Bloomington area is a veritable fisherman’s paradise, from Lake Monroe to the smaller Lake Lemon, Griffy Lake on the northern edge of the city and numerous small lakes and ponds located within the Hoosier National Forest and nearby state forest properties. Locally-found species include large populations of bluegill, crappie, largemouth bass, yellow bass, red ear sunfish, channel and flathead catfish, hybrid stripers and many more!
Over 100 miles of hiking trails are located in the Bloomington area, with over 90 miles of trails in the Hoosier National Forest alone! The Morgan-Monroe State Forest trail system offers nearly 30 miles of trails that connect to the Yellowwood State Forest system. Three area nature preserves also offer hiking trails and there are three state parks within a short drive of Bloomington. Trail difficulty ranges from easy to rugged and trail lengths range from half a mile to extensive multi-mile trail systems, so there’s something for all skill levels to enjoy.
The Hoosier National Forest, Lake Monroe, Morgan-Monroe State Forest and Yellowwood State Forest are all open to the public for hunting during legal seasons. Common field species include quail, rabbit, grouse, squirrel, turkey, deer, snipe, dove, and woodcock. Duck and goose hunting is permitted on ponds, marshes and lakes. Night hunting is permitted for fox, coyote and raccoon. Contact the Indiana DNR for regulations, hunting seasons and licenses at (317) 232-4200 or www.in.gov/dnr.
Looking for a more passive outdoor experience? If you love to be outdoors, but the idea of a 90-mile trail system seems just a bit overwhelming, Bloomington’s got an outdoor adventure that’s just your speed. The City of Bloomington maintains several trails that are shorter in length, many of which are paved and provide a great introductory outdoor experience for families with small children, city slickers or seniors. The Bloomington Rail Trail, Clear Creek Trail and the downtown B-Line Trail are perfect no matter what your speed!
Looking for a spelunking opportunity or hot air balloon ride? Been itching to try a new activity like rock climbing or geocaching? The Bloomington area has it all! Two hot air balloon companies can give you a view from the sky and the qualified instructors at Hoosier Heights will be happy to teach you the finer points of rock climbing in a safe environment. Guides and outfitters are also available for a more successful fishing trip, a lesson in wilderness survival or a kayak tour in search of wildlife.
Bloomington is home to a number of annual events for outdoor enthusiasts throughout the year. Eagle Watch Weekend in February is a popular birding weekend featuring eagle spotting on the shores of Lake Monroe. Seek out the first signs of spring in April at the Hoosier National Forest Wildflower Foray or celebrate plant life with the annual Summer GardenWalk each June. Serious bicyclists will appreciate the Hilly Hundred Bicycle Tour, held each fall, featuring two full days of entertainment, fellowship and biking through some of the most beautiful scenery and toughest hills in Indiana with 5,000 other bicycle enthusiasts from around the country.
For more information on outdoor recreation in the Bloomington area, accommodations or other area attractions, contact the Bloomington Visitors Center at 800-800-0037 or go to www.visitbloomington.com.
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