This past Memorial Day my family and I decided to keep one of our oldest traditions: we packed up the car and headed off to Turkey Run State Park in Indiana. Though it’s only about an hour and a half away from Champaign, not everyone in C-U seems familiar with it. So here’s a guide to the uninitiated, and a refresher for those who haven’t made the trip in a while..
The first thing you need to know about Turkey Run State Park is: the gate only takes cash! And it’d have been great had I remembered this as we set off for the park, but I didn’t. You know what else would have been great? If we knew either of our cash card pins. Again, didn’t. Fortunately, my mother was in the car ahead of us and offered to loan us the $7.00 non-resident fee. But I wanted to pass this along to you, in case you don’t have a mother with cash caravanning with you.
The second thing to know about Turkey Run: The only reason to go to Turkey Run is to hike trail 3. At least, that’s the only reason in my opinion. This trail is no simple walk in the woods. It’s 1.7 miles of rough terrain, consists of around one hundred stairs, three ladders that go straight up (or down, depending on which way you take the trail), and a creek bed you have to tromp down that ends in a waterfall. A small waterfall, mind you. My husband was a bit disappointed the first time he saw it, but it’s a waterfall nonetheless. It can be a demanding trail, and I know some people hate it, but I love it. Why? Because you just don’t find views like this in central Illinois. The rock fixtures, the cliffs, the woods themselves, it’s a breathtaking place to be.
Which brings me to the third thing you need to know about Turkey Run: it can be a dangerous place. If you’re going to go, which I highly recommend, stay on the trails and don’t swim in the river. Every time we go, there will inevitably be some kids hiking off the trail on the cliffs and it drives me crazy. And, of course, the river is always filled with families swimming. Yes, that’d be the river with the sign that clearly says you are not to swim in it because people could drown in it. The sign that says violators will be prosecuted, although I didn’t see them stopping anyone while we were there.
The fourth, and most important, thing you need to know about Turkey Run: it really is a wonderful and cheap place to spend a day with your family. For $7.00, a tank of gas, and what we spent on snacks, we had a day of fun exercise and got to be outside in the dirt and mud, something my boys don’t get enough of. Although we only went on trail 3, there are a lot of other trails to hike, and you can also go fishing, canoeing, horseback riding, and camping. Of course some of these experiences cost extra, and are most likely cash-only.
For more information on the park, visit this comprehensive website on Turkey Run.