Indiana Backroads: Pack Mentality at Wolf Park
World-renowned Wolf Park sets the stage for thrillingly wild—and pleasantly domesticated—encounters around the burg of Battle Ground.
For a state without a native wolf population, Indiana plays a surprisingly vital role in their study. In 1972, Purdue scientist Erich Klinghammer opened Wolf Park (4004 E. 800 N, Battle Ground, 765-567-2265) on his rural property in Tippecanoe County northeast of Lafayette, and it has since grown into one of the world’s largest research facilities for the animals.
It’s also a one-of-a-kind attraction for wildlife lovers who, as a bonus, help support the park’s work with the price of admission. A main enclosure encompassing seven rolling acres of savanna-like land is home to eight wolves, some of which venture close to visitors during weekend Howl Nights, frolicking with each other and their human handlers while guests gather to watch on covered bleachers just outside the fence. The playful growls sound primal and vicious, and when they howl in response to the crowd’s collective wail, a sweet, mournful cry travels far enough to trigger responses from lupine comrades out of sight. Trained staffers reveal all sorts of surprising facts, and other enclosures house coyotes, bison, and red and gray foxes. Once a month, at the conclusion of Howl Night, the park stays open until 11 p.m. for After Hours (Oct. 10), when visitors walk trails with flashlights and listen to nature—frogs croaking, insects singing, wolves and coyotes calling to each other in the dark. Then guests roast marshmallows around a campfire as staffers regale them with stories.
Battle Ground, Wolf Park’s nearest burg, offers more domesticated attractions. At Shoup House Antiques & Interiors (100 N. Winans St., 765-567-4132), in a grand home that dates to 1859, you might find feed-sack pillows, the bust of a cow, or any number of other accessories suitable for feathering your nest with quirky country character. Locals swear by the from-scratch biscuits and gravy at the homey Eye Opener Cafe (103 North St., 765-430-2495) across the street, and they positively pack TC’s Restaurant and Tavern (109 N. Railroad St., 765-567-2838) for the huge breaded tenderloins and juicy steaks. Down the road, The Farm at Prophetstown (3534 Prophetstown Rd., 765-567-4700), an interpretive museum in Prophetstown State Park, demonstrates 1920s-style agriculture, inviting young’uns to feed heritage-breed livestock, collect eggs, and pet Bo, a rescued miniature horse.
Distinctive hotels and inns are hard to come by in these parts (West Lafayette is your best bet for finding a full-service stay nearby), but Adams Mill near Cutler (less than a mile east of town on E. 75 S, 765-268-2530) carries on the rural/rustic ambience in tidy one-room camper cabins with built-in bunks—BYO pads and bedding—on the leafy grounds of a cherry-red mill built on Wildcat Creek in 1846. The park’s fall events include a Trolley Tour of Wildcat Valley (Oct. 3) that follows the area’s old steam-coach routes to historic cemeteries and sites of long-gone settlements, and Haunted Adams Mill’s hayrides and campfires (Oct. 17, 24, and 31).
Indy to Cutler, north on U.S. 421, north on State Road 29, west on State Road 26, north on State Road 75; Cutler to Battle Ground, north on State Road 75 to Flora, west on State Road 18 (through Delphi) to Springboro, south on Springboro Road (which turns into Tyler Road and then Pretty Prairie Road).