Cabin Fever

Mississinewa Cabins, Rent a Camp, Miami State Recreation Area. Brad Rody and kids.

By DNR Staff

If repeat customers are a reflection of quality service, Indiana’s state parks are doing something right.

Since 2007, Bill Cann has spent roughly 30 nights a year in a cabin at Chain O’Lakes State Park. He also spends a handful of nights each year in a cabin at Potato Creek. “The price is comparable to a hotel,” he said. “But it’s a lot quieter.”

The metallurgical engineer lives in Bad Axe, Michigan, but works Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday every week in Ligonier at Millenium Industries, an automotive parts manufacturer. Chain O’Lakes has become his home away from home. After work in Ligonier, he retreats to     the park to enjoy hiking, bicycling, fishing and mushroom hunting.

Chain O’Lakes offers 18 cabins, each with about 800 square feet. They have an indoor kitchen and full bathroom, a screened porch and two bedrooms, and they sleep six.

Across Indiana, 300 cabins are spread among 14 state park properties and four state forest properties. Cabins are a great option for visitors who prefer a roof over their head. Options range from the rustic rent-a-camp cabins to more comfortable family cabins and luxurious cabin suites.

“We have a wide range of offerings across the state,” said Christie Sorrels, business services program director for DNR Division of State Parks. Cabins accommodate between four and eight guests, depending on their size. They cost between $40 and $259 a night, with most under $100. Rates are most affordable Sunday through Wednesday.

Rates are subject to change, and fees are subject to state and local taxes. At Brown County, Turkey Run and Pokagon state parks, cabins are operated by State Park Inns. Visitors can expect accommodations somewhat similar to a room at one of the inns there. For example, customers do not need to bring their own bedding as they do at all other cabins.

Brown County offers more cabins than any other park, including two cabins that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The park has 20 family cabins, 12 luxurious cabin suites, and 56 rustic cabins open March to November. Cabin guests also receive free admission to the indoor aquatics center at Abe Martin Lodge.

“You might pay a little more for an inn cabin,” Sorrels said. “But you also have fewer items that you need to bring with you for your stay.”

Inn cabins are also located near the main lodges and the amenities they offer, such as full service dining rooms, game rooms, pools and gift shops. To reserve a cabin at Brown County, Turkey Run or Pokagon, call 1-877-LODGES-1 or visit IndianaInns.com.

Comfortable family cabins are also available at Chain O’Lakes, Harmonie, Lincoln, McCormick’s Creek, Potato Creek, Shakamak and Whitewater Memorial state parks, and at Trine State Recreation Area and Covered Bridge State Forest Retreat. These cabins are operated by the DNR Division of State Parks. Reservations can be made at these properties by calling 1-866-622-6746, or at Camp.IN.gov.

Jason Donati, his wife, and three children spent two nights during spring break 2015 at family cabin in Brown County State Park. “We couldn’t afford the old go-down-to-Florida-for-a-week routine, and I couldn’t take a week off of work,” Donati said. “So we started looking at affordable options.”

Donati, who lives in Muncie, chose a family cabin at Brown County because he had stayed in one before for a work conference. He said his family “lived it up,” and enjoyed the big deck overlooking woods and the indoor wood stove. “I brought my mountain bike, and the kids hung out at the water park all day,” he said. The Donatis also have stayed twice in cabins at McCormick’s Creek and visited Bloomington. “The cabins are my first choice,” Donati said. Among the properties with cabins, each has its merits. For example, Chain O’Lakes is home to nine connected kettle lakes and 14 miles of trails. It’s about a 45-minute drive from Fort Wayne, with a variety of cultural and entertainment offerings. Occasionally, Cann sneaks into town to watch a Tin Caps minor league baseball game.

Shakamak offers two “Lakeview” cabins connected to one another that are on the west shore of Lake Shakamak, one of three lakes at the park. “It’s a very scenic and peaceful place to relax,” Sorrels said.

Harmonie, on the Wabash River in southwestern Indiana, offers just about every outdoor recreation opportunity imaginable, from hiking and horseback riding to boating, fishing, exceptional birdwatching and tons of history. Like Chain O’Lakes, it’s also on the outskirts of a large city, only 25 minutes from Evansville.

The 11 family cabins at Harmonie feature a screened in back porch for playing games and socializing, as well as a wood stove in the living area, a full bath and two bedrooms. Two cabins are ADA compliant, according to Chastity Spindler-Axton, assistant manager at the park. “They’re all absolutely beautiful on the inside,” Spindler-Axton said. “A lot of people say they could live full-time in them. They appear rustic but they are very modern facilities.” Some families rent three or four cabins at a time for reunions and other celebrations, Spindler-Axton said. All are within walking distance of three playgrounds, two fishing ponds and several hiking trails. The Harmonie cabins are open year-round, and those who book reservations for winter stays will enjoy even more peace and quiet.

At Potato Creek, visitors can explore almost 4,000 acres of fields, woods, prairies, wetlands, and the 327-acre Worster Lake. And, if you like college sports, the park is 15 miles from Notre Dame University.

Cann stays at Potato Creek when his wife and three teenage kids visit from Michigan. Some cabins at Potato Creek offer more space than what’s available at Chain O’Lakes.

The more rustic “Rent-a-Camp” cabins are usually at properties that are a bit more out-of- the way. They are available at Shakamak and Tippecanoe River state parks, Mississinewa Lake, Deam Lake and Starve Hollow state recreation areas, and Greene-Sullivan State Forest.

Each “Rent-a-Camp” unit has electricity in the building, a picnic table and fire ring, parking spot and drinking water. Primitive to modern restroom facilities are available at the various properties. At some properties, including Chain O’Lakes, cabins are unavailable November through April. “I’d stay all year long if they were open in the winter,” Cann said.

If you haven’t already stayed at a state park cabin, get online or on the phone and make a reservation. You’ll see why longtime customers like Cann keep coming back.