Mountain & Trail News

    Poka Lake, Indiana Cited as “Best” for Wildlife Viewing

    Patoka Lake is the latest DNR property singled out by USA Today as being the “best” in a national overview of state-by-state outdoor recreation destinations.

    In Monday’s edition, the newspaper published a list of best places for wildlife viewing in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. In June, USA Today cited Trail 9 at Indiana Dunes State Park as one of the 51 greatest hikes in the United States.

    The Patoka Lake selection suggests exploring the property “by car, boat or boots on the ground” and mentions wild turkeys, bald eagles and ospreys. That’s just the beginning.

    “From a wildlife and wildlife biologist’s perspective, it’s hands down a fantastic place to be,” said Aron Showalter, Patoka’s wildlife biologist. “In general, it’s just the diversity with non-game and game species, flora and fauna. As far as Indiana is concerned, we’ve got it all.”

    Patoka has been the site of restoration efforts for several threatened or endangered species, including bald eagles, ospreys and river otters. Others, like the bobcat, have moved in on their own.

    “We get (bobcat) reports all the time,” said Tom Riley, reservoir specialist at Patoka.

    “It’s just kind of a cool place,” Riley said. “You can pull off the side of a road, look across the lake and see a heron, an osprey, fish jumping, and a little bit of everything. Driving through the property the other day I saw two hen turkeys with a half dozen poults. That’s just driving around not paying attention. And we’ve got a huge population of bluebirds. It’s just a neat, neat place.”

    With 26,000 acres of land and water, Patoka features numerous access points to the 8,800-acre namesake reservoir that is the second largest in Indiana. Constructed in the 1970s as a flood control and water supply project, Patoka also provides general recreation and fish and wildlife opportunities.

    Newton-Stewart State Recreation Area is the hub of Patoka, with 455 electric and 45 primitive campsites, and the starting point for three hiking trails. The 6.5-mile Main Trail passes Totem Rock, a large rock shelter used by American Indians and early settlers.

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