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PARK HISTORY

Settlement of the Area

Long before pioneers entered the area now known as McCormick's Creek the Miami Indians roamed the land. The Indians had camps along the banks of the White River to the north and south, but what is now state park land was far too rugged, filled with canyons and ravines, to invite settlement. Instead, it became a hunting ground, offering deer, squirrel, grouse, and fish from its deep woods and clear streams. It wasn't until 1816 that the first settler laid claim to the area, when John McCormick homesteaded nearly one hundred acres along the canyon by the waterfalls. In those days it was common practice to name physical landmarks after the people who owned them, and thus McCormick's Creek received its name.

Commerce at McCormick's Creek

Early residents in the area cut timber, grazed their livestock on the steep slopes and farmed small patches of flat upland ground. They also tried building sawmills on the creek, although the water level and force was never great enough to make the ventures profitable. Other enterprising businessmen opened limestone quarries near the mouth of the creek, but soon ran into problems trying to get the cut rock across the river to the railroad line on the other side.

The turning point in the McCormick's Creek history came in 1888 when part of the area was purchased by Frederick Denkewalter, a physician who was interested in the scenic and restful qualities of the site. Dr. Denkewalter felt the tranquil peace of the canyon and its surrounding cliffs would be the perfect location to build a sanitarium, a place for the wealthy and the weary to 'get away from it all' and recuperate. The original sanitarium, built on the present-day Canyon Inn site, was a white-sided structure with long porches on every side. It offered guests plenty of access to the loveliness of the well-landscaped grounds where Denkewalter delighted in planting a variety of trees and shrubs. Meanwhile, local residents continued to picnic and hike along the canyon, making the spot a favorite of everyone for rest and relaxation.

Birth of McCormick's Creek State Park

With the death of Dr. Denkewalter in 1914, his estate went up for sale at a land auction. Both Owen County and the State of Indiana were interested in maintaining McCormick's Creek in its park-like setting, and so the land was purchased. McCormick's Creek State Park was dedicated as Indiana's first state park on July 4, 1916, as part of the state's centennial celebration.

Canyon Inn opened its doors in the old sanitarium building. A few years later, in the early 1920s, the building was remodeled and new brick siding was added. Subsequent changes have brought new wings, a banquet room, swimming pool and recreation center, but the Inn today still rests on the original foundations of the Denkewalter sanitarium.

Originally a little over 350 acres in size, McCormick's Creek State Park has grown to its present size through acquisition of surrounding farms and homesteads as they come up for sale.

Major Park Improvements

CCC Recreation HallMuch of the park's building improvements came in the 1930s when CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) Company 589 was in the park. Between November 1933 and July 1935 the CCC men completed amazing amounts of construction, including most of the shelter houses, the old stone bridge, and the firetower. Three of their structures have been honored by being placed on the National Register of Historic Places. These include the CCC Recreation Hall, the stone arch bridge over Echo Canyon and the park gatehouse.

Another surge of development came in the early 1970s when the present campgrounds, nature center and swimming pool were added. Today the park is a delightful combination of history set in up-to-date modern surroundings.


Want to know even more about the history, geology, plants or animals of McCormick's Creek State Park? Check out the Nature Center for exhibits, brochures, interpretive services and more.


Interested in other State Parks in Indiana?
Check out this great Indiana State Park & Reservoir Guide.

 

 

 
 

Note: This is not the official Park website. However, it is the most complete and easy-to-use site, with everything you need to plan a trip to McCormick's Creek State Park.