Photo by Tony Valainis
With more than 100 lakes in Kosciusko County, the Barbee chain doesn’t get a lot of attention. Six of the seven small bodies of water in this group appear interchangeable with so many puddles in northeastern Indiana. But “Big Barbee Lake,” as it’s sometimes called, has an advantage the others don’t: It’s large enough to allow speed-limit–free boating. That makes the Barbee Marina (314 EMS B61 Ln., Warsaw, 574-834-2595) the first stop if you’re interested in renting a vessel for watersports or fishing. Barbee is a hotspot for the latter, with a diverse list of species that includes muskie, rock bass, and bluegill.
For history-lovers, the Barbee Hotel (3620 N. Barbee Rd., 574-834-1111) is the lake’s most important landmark. Built in 1897, it once hosted the likes of Al Capone and Clark Gable. Today, the clapboard building serves some of the best Chicago-style pizza in Indiana, and—bonus!—is supposedly haunted.
Famous for its antiques, the town of Pierceton lies just south of Barbee Lake. My Red Moon (306 N. 1st St., 574-529-2102) and Blue Pearl Antiques (112 N. 1st St., 574-594-9800) are among the standouts, and when the annual Heirloom Tomato Festival brings people to town on August 25, the stores are packed. For a campy experience—pun fully intended—you might also consider a trip to the nearby Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park (1916 N 850 E, 574-594-2124), the largest campground of its kind in the country. A sea of cabins, tents, and RVs host people more interested in events such as a rib fest cook-off (July 20–22) than roughing it.
Barbee also sits just five minutes from Tippecanoe Lake to the north, so if you tire of the former’s 304 acres, there’s a larger pool to explore. But given Barbee’s charm, the odds are good that you—like Clark Gable’s ghost—decide to stick around.