Sometimes Admission is Free!
One of the challenges in tourism is there are never enough resources so we default to a "pay to play" strategy. While it is good to get destinations on board to financially support local or state tourism efforts, too many great places fall through the cracks. Consider this, I can make a case that many of Indiana's most overtly scenic places are in southern Indiana (Yes, I love a great prairie setting, but that's just me). These places have beauty beyond the official parks. Here, beauty can be found lining the roadsides, hanging out over streams, or hugging a hillside. They encourage us to slow down and take in the sights, sounds, and smells of nature.
Here's the challenge. Our state tourism budget is underfunded so tourism promotion depends on local support. Local support is funded by lodging taxes at hotels and motels. Question, where are these lodging properties? Answer, in or near major cities, some of our least scenic places. So the hotels and money are in one place while the scenery and incredible natural spaces are somewhere else. We need to rethink this approach.
In Martin County, Indiana, there are numerous natural spaces worth visiting. I am sharing just a few pictures here. Jug Rock may be the most well-known and easily accessible site. It sits on the western edge of Shoals and is a few short steps off of US 50/US150 (Indiana's Historic Pathways Scenic Byway). Composed of sandstone, it is the largest free-standing table rock formation (also called a "tea table") in the United States east of the Mississippi River. It stands 42-feet high with the table on top.
On the other side of the bluff is Pinnacle Rock, it is the front part of a massive sandstone formation with a perpendicular descent of over two hundred feet. It overlooks White River on North River Road. Nearby is House Rock, but I've not been there yet.
The Bluffs of Beaver Bend just south of Shoals is another must-see, but I haven't seen it yet! The vertical bluff is 100 feet of pure Mansfield sandstone. This stunning sight runs between the bluffs and scenic White River. The bluffs are owned by the Nature Conservancy and are protected by the State’s Department of Natural Resources.
Another favorite is Hindostan Falls, site of an early pioneer settlement on the East Fork of the White White River just off SR 550 between Shoals and Loogootee. The once booming settlement, built at the falls and on the rock shelf in the river, was home to factories, hotels, homes, and other businesses. A major stagecoach stop on the route from New Albany to Vincennes, it was wiped out by sickness and abandoned. If the water isn't too high you can see the falls and walk on the rock shelf as we did a few years ago.
There are other rock formations, springs, the old courthouse, and more in this area. Bring a picnic basket and eat at the Overlook Roadside Park on the west side or stop for a burger and shake at Bo-Mac's Drive-In on the east side. We have done both and have great memories.
Life Off The Highway traveling can take you to big and small places, destinations and drive-bys. And, sometimes the admission is free. It's not about the money you spend. It is about the priceless memories you make.