Hoosier Hall Of Fame: Battle of the Indiana Outdoors

Indiana State Parks vs. Hoosier National Forest. Who is the shadiest of them all?
This story is part of Indianapolis Monthly’s 2016 Indiana Bicentennial coverage, which includes our list of the 200 Hoosier Hall of Fame picks, designated throughout in bold or highlighted. For more on this celebration of the state’s first two centuries, click here.


The state presides over one of Indiana’s two most significant outdoor assets, while the feds run the other. Shall we pit them against one another? Naturally.

Indiana State Parks vs. Hoosier National Forest

ISP: No place in Indiana is more than an hour’s drive from at least one of the 24.
HNF: Nine counties in lower Indiana, from Brown County south to the Ohio River

ISP: 68,000 acres
HNF: 202,000 acres

ISP: Indiana Dunes State Park voted seventh-best in nation in a USA Today/10Best poll
HNF: By far the most significant tract of forest in Indiana—with eight times the acreage of the next-largest

ISP: Eight parks exceed half a million visitors per year, with two—Dunes and Brown County—getting well over a million.
HNF: Nearly 270 miles of trail, designated “Special Places,” and other features and attractions bring in a comparatively quiet annual visitation of about 333,000.

With cozy, lodge-like inns, well-maintained pools, and other recreational facilities, state parks balance outdoor experiences with relaxation and accessibility.
More sprawling and less developed, HNF appeals to adventurers and purists. The 13,000-acre Charles C. Deam area south of Bloomington is the state’s only official “wilderness”—strictly protected under the federal Wilderness Act of 1964.

ISP: Indy businessman and ardent conservationist Richard Lieber lobbied to make McCormick’s Creek the first state park during Indiana’s centennial. Lieber became the first director of what is now the Department of Natural Resources.
One of our two presidents, Benjamin Harrison, planted the seeds by signing the Forest Reserve Act of 1891. In 1934, Gov. Paul McNutt and state lawmakers passed legislation calling for the U.S. Forest Service to acquire land in Indiana.

ISP: Due to upkeep, facilities, and range of natural features, our parks are regarded as some of the nation’s finest.
In 1899, Indiana led the nation in lumber production, thanks in part to the dense, rugged terrain now bounded by HNF.