Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Southern Indiana Color Tours: Road Trips for Fall

Spring Mill State Park, Lawrence County

In the autumn as fall leaves turn jewel colors, follow the winding roads as they trace their way through the hills and valleys of Southern Indiana past charming historic hamlets and meandering creeks.  Here are some of our favorite fall drivers.

Drive 1: Caves, Caves, Caves (Bedford to Mauckport) 

Board a boat to follow the Myst'ry River as it winds its way underground through Bluespring Caverns.  Located between Bedford and Mitchell, the Myst’ry River is the longest subterranean river in the United States, running for about 21 miles. The hour boat tour covers just 1 ¼ miles, ending when the way becomes impassable for the 17- person flat-bottomed boat. 
Head south to Spring Mill State Park in Mitchell for the short but fascinating 20-minute guided boat tour of Twin Caves for close-up views of albino crayfish, bats, and the endangered Northern blind cave fish inhabiting the cave.

At Marengo Cave, a national historic landmark, take the Crystal Palace tour where one of the first stops is an immense cave room where viewers look down into what appears a bottom chamber until realizing that instead they're peering into Mirror Lake --  a vast, still expanse of water that reflects the stalactites above perfectly. Another stopping point  is the Crystal Palace Room, where a flashing light show accompanies music, in a grand underground theater with stone seats and a stage.  The colored lights illuminated the various stalactites and other geological wonders in what is the ultimate light show.

Hungry?  Dine at the Blue River CafĂ© in Milltown and consider renting a kayak at Cave Country Canoes for a float on the Blue River.

Spend the night at the historic Leavenworth Inn, perched high above a horseshoe bend of the Ohio River, the wooded hillside a blaze of colors. Stop at Scout Mountain Winery on the way to Corydon where the only Civil War battle in Indiana took place. Once the state capitol take a tour of the old courthouse that sits on the town’s square. Then on to Squire Boone Caverns, the last cave on the tour. Discovered by Daniel Boone’s brother, more than a million gallons of water flow through the caverns every day and the narrow winding passageways often cross torrents of water down below.  Squire so loved the cave (he established a small village here back in the early 1800s and there’s now a mill, gift shop, rock shop and bakery) that he asked to be buried here and so he was. His bones were discovered by spelunkers several decades ago and now rest in a coffin in one of the cave’s chambers.

For more information on this route, visit:

Crawford County Tourism - www.crawfordcountyindiana.com
Harrison County CVB - www.thisisindiana.org

Drive 2: Historic Places (Pioneer Village at Spring Mill State Park to Tell City)

Step back into the early 1800s at the Spring Mill State Park’s Pioneer Village, an early 19th century building with more than 20 historic buildings as well as an 1817 limestone mill.  Watch historic re-enactors do what once were the day-to-day chores such as rope-making, candle-dipping, blacksmithing, gardening and weaving in the village, once a stagecoach stop along the first road to cross Indiana.

For a bit of more recent history, the park is located in Mitchell, home of astronaut Gus Grissom and this hometown hero is honored with a memorial at the park. 

Indiana still has about 90 covered bridges remaining including the double span wood Williams Covered Bridge, also known as the Lawrence County Covered Bridge, crosses the East Fork of the White River and was built in 1884 by Joseph J. Daniels, one of the premier covered bridge builders in the state. Named after nearby settlement of Williams, it is in the National Register of Historic Places and picture perfect when the brilliant hues of autumn reflect in the waters of the White River.

The small town of Paoli is centered around an old fashioned courthouse square, typical of many Indiana county seats. Here, the two-story Greek Revival Orange County Courthouse, built in 1850, boasts tall columns, white brick and two chimneys.

Morels at Big Locust Farm B&B
Take a turn around the circle and then head west to West Baden Springs and the fantastical West Baden Springs Resort. Built in 1902, the resort was  probably best known for its six story free standing dome which for over six decades was touted as the largest in the world (it wouldn’t be replaced in the record books until the 1960s when the Houston Astrodome was built).  The 100-foot high dome dominates the expansive rotunda which is the center and heart of the resort.  The shops and the restaurants as well as the guest rooms all surround the rotunda and its interior is filled with classic antique furniture, a swank bar and even a huge fireplace, original to the building and said to be worth a million dollars because of its Pewabic tile.  The showcase of all this is the pendulum which is suspended from the top of the dome and revolves, casting different color lights over the top and creating an awesome light show of sorts.   There are also formal gardens, gourmet restaurants, a cute coffee shop and ice cream store and both indoor and outdoor pools.

Blue Prairie B&B
Down the road, the Beaux Arts French Lick (note to basketball enthusiasts – Larry Bird’s hometown is French Lick) has also been beautifully restored including the royal crown moldings, original rosette shaped light fixtures, hand painted tapestry ceilings and some 5000 square feet of gold leaf. There’s a casino here, several wonderful golf courses, a luxurious spa (there’s one West Baden as well) and both resorts have indoor and outdoor pools. Stables on the grounds offer guided horseback trail riding and a courtesy shuttle connects the two resorts on a regular basis.  

Take a tour of the countryside aboard a vintage train at the nearby Indiana Railway Museum. Spend the night at either of the resorts or opt for a night at Big Locust Farm Bed & Breakfast, a brick country Victorian nestled on 93 acres and home to a 250-year old locust tree. Or consider another country setting, there’s the delightful Blue Prairie Bed & Breakfast.

Further south, stop at the Monastery Immaculate Conception with its soaring brick tower, labyrinth, peace grotto and, our favorite, the Simply Divine Bakery where the sisters make old fashioned cookies such as springerles, almerles and Hildegards (a cookie recipe dating back to the 1300s) by hand using wooden presses imported from Germany back in the 1800s.   
Cookies in hand, hit the road towards the Ohio River. Make a couple of wine stops, first at Winzerwald Winery in Bristol. "The friendly little German-style winery at the top of the hill" is a bit modest for this beautifully appointed tasting room and winery with a spectacular view of the Southern Indiana Uplands just below I-64. Dan & Donna Adams are serious vintners with a great deal of experience and education in wine-making and a string of awards for a variety of complex German and Swiss style wines grown from their own grapes. Winzerwald means "vintners of the forest" and reflects the winery's location in the Hoosier National Forest area. The distinctive Nutcracker logo and label also reflects the Adams' Southern German heritage.
The winding gravel path up Blue Heron Lane leads to Blue Heron Winery a boutique winery overlooking the river. Gary and Lynn Dauby host special events in their barn, filled with local art and stone carvings, as well as growing French grapes and making their favorite wines, including the semi-dry Two Towers, and their popular on Deck Red, often paired with chocolate.  Another path through the woods leads to the impressive 22' Celtic Cross carved from one stone by artist Greg Harris. There’s also a delightful farm house bed and breakfast on the property.

Then follow the Ohio River Scenic Byway to Tell City, founded by Swiss settlers back in the mid 1800s. Ever hear of a historic pretzel? Tell City Pretzels has been open since 1858, when the centuries-old Swiss recipe became a favorite along the Ohio River. The hand-twisted all natural (just 4 ingredients) pretzels have a new store front at the factory with an antique bar where you can purchase the classic "Der Kruncher" pretzels, Tell City sticks, or new ranch pretzels. Call ahead for a tour that includes the hand-twisting demo.

For more information on this route, visit:

Dubois County Visitors Center - www.visitduboiscounty.com
Lawrence County Visitors Center - www.limestonecountry.com
Orange County CVB - www.visitfrenchlickwestbaden.com
Perry County CVB - www.perrycountyindiana.org

Drive 3: Not your everyday sights and sounds:  Horses and buggies, Germanic culture, ghost town, Nancy Lincoln’s Grave and more (Shoals to Rockport)

The East Fork of the White River widens as it winds through the rolling countryside of Martin County rippling over a shelf of flat stone as it continues downstream. There’s not much here now, just woodlands crowding the riverbanks and a few fisherman with their rods poised over the sparkling water.

Hindostan Falls was a much livelier place two centuries ago after the founding of Hindostan (named after a British soldier who had served time in India) in 1816, a town with a booming population that reached 1200 by 1820 making it one of the largest settlements in this part of Indiana (for a comparison – at the time it was the same size as Louisville, Kentucky).  Poised on one of the new state’s first stage coach runs connecting New Albany and Vincennes, Hindostan boasted two mills, a hotel, whetstone factory, post office and even a button factory.  Ferries made their way between the river’s two banks and houseboats moored on its waters.
Some towns just fade away, but much of Hindostan disappeared much quicker, many of its townspeople wiped out by a terrible sickness – yellow fever or cholera or even, some say, the plague. 

 But in the fall, when the blaze of colors surrounds the softly flowing waters, it’s easy to see the beauty that attracted people all those years ago.

While in Martin County, enjoy a meal Stoll’s Lakeview Restaurant with its lake views and great Amish food.

725 Old Order Amish families live in Daviess County and their heritage is celebrated in guided tours through the rural countryside, hearty Amish cuisine at the Gasthof Amish Restaurant & Bakery and a regular auction, also at Gasthof Village, of quilts and other interesting goods. There are other nearby Amish restaurants including the Odon Essen Haus Restaurant.

The foods authentic, the waitresses wear dirndl skirts and German is often heard spoken at the wonderful Schnitzelbank Restaurant in Jasper, a Southern Indiana charmer of a city where around 90% of the population has German roots.

Wander down to the Patoka River where the Spirit of Jasper, a vintage train, departs from architectural recreation of the early 1900s depot and take a tour of the picture perfect architectural rendition of the old mill.

Next stop, Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial to visit the Lincoln homestead where costumed interpreters perform the daily tasks typical of the very early 1800s when the Lincoln family lived here. Follow the pathway to Nancy Lincoln’s grave – young Abe helped build his mother’s coffin. Visit the Huffington Covered Bridge, built in the 1860s near the Huffington Mill where Lincoln would take the family’s grain to be ground into flour. Remnants of the old mill remain.

Travel to Rockport, a river city and where Lincoln made his living ferrying people across the Ohio River to Kentucky. Located in Rockport, Lincoln Pioneer Village is made up of log cabins, public buildings, schools, and churches as they stood in Lincoln’s days when the family lived in what would become Spencer County.

Davis County -- www.daviesscounty.net
Dubois County Visitors Center - www.visitduboiscounty.com
Lawrence County Visitors Center - www.limestonecountry.com
Martin County Toursim Council -www.visitmartincounty.org
Orange County CVB - www.visitfrenchlickwestbaden.com
Perry County CVB - www.perrycountyindiana.org
Spencer County Visitors Bureau - www.legendaryplaces.org

For more information and maps visit www.exploresouthernindiana.com.  Check out the colors at www.VisitIndiana.com.

Here are the Websites for all of our counties:
Daviess County Tourism - www.dcchamber.com
Dubois County Visitors Center - www.visitduboiscounty.com
Crawford County Tourism - www.crawfordcountyindiana.com
Harrison County CVB - www.thisisindiana.org
Martin County Toursim Council -www.visitmartincounty.org
Orange County CVB - www.visitfrenchlickwestbaden.com
Perry County CVB - www.perrycountyindiana.org
Spencer County Visitors Bureau - www.legendaryplaces.org

1 comment:

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