Location: Mitchell, Indiana
Webpage: Indiana State Park
General Description: Spring Mill State Park offers a wide variety of historic and natural wonders. The Pioneer Village, with the massive water-powered grist mill constructed in 1817, houses, shops, and craft buildings were restored in the 1920s and 1930s by the CCC. The CCC also completed many other features in the park including Spring Mill Lake, various shelters, roads and trails. Within the park are three nature preserves: Donaldson Cave, Donaldson Woods, and Mitchell Karst Plain, all with marked hiking or biking trails. Since George Donaldson, who purchased the tract in 1865, did not allow cutting of timber, there are native trees more than 300 years old in the park. Another attraction in the park is a memorial to Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom that includes his Gemini III capsule and spacesuit.
1) You could easily spend multiple days exploring this state park. We focused on exploring the Pioneer Village and the many buildings to be found there. There are a couple of homes that have been moved to the property that were built in the early 1800s, some of which are being used today by craftsmen. While we were there we had the pleasure of watching a loom creating a rug, a leatherworker, and a potter working on some fanciful clay houses, before firing them in the kiln.
2) The fully functioning grist mill is the largest grist mill I have ever seen. The stone building is 3 stories high with the grinding wheel taking up the bottom floor. They make a short presentation about the history of the mill and the town of Spring Mill along with a quick demonstration of the mill at the top of each hour. The top two floors have a number of very interesting historical exhibits that cover the complete history of the town from prehistoric days to the present.
3) Other buildings that can be explored are the tavern/inn that was built while Spring Mill was an important stop on the stagecoach, the manor house and flower gardens, the carriage house, the spring house, the meeting house, the apothecary, and a mercantile that today sells trinkets to visitors.
4) As the temperature was the 90s by the middle of the day, we decided against exploring any of the hiking trails, but they range from easy to rugged in difficulty.