Some history and flavor of Brown County State Park...
Brown County State Park is remarkable for its beautiful vistas. The rugged terrain, the vastness of the forest, the scenic overlooks linger in the mind.
For those adventurous souls who leave their cars for the quiet solitude of the park's hiking trails, there are additional bonuses like a fleeting glimpse of the elusive White-tailed Deer or of the now-almost-common Pileated Woodpecker.
The vistas are the park's trademark, but couple them with the frequent foggy, misty clouds that hover just at treetop level, and you can quickly understand the nickname, the "Little Smokies".
On occasion, when little wisps of forest moisture trail upward from ravine and ridge, the imagination sees the dwindling campfires of the Delaware and Shawnee, their camps abandoned at the hint of daybreak so no one can witness their still-active vigil.
Brown County State Park's forest is relatively-young. The large White Oak, Tulip and Black Walnut are noticeably absent.
This woodland, now the largest landholding of the Indiana State Park system, has had a long history of abuse and exploitation by man.
The first inhabitants of Brown County's forest probably didn't change it much. The transient Delaware Indian found Brown County's massive forest not at all conducive to hunting. He did find Wild Turkeys, Gray Squirrels and Black Bear, these being the deep woodland species; but his hunting more often led him to clearings or open areas, perhaps along streams, where a variety of game could be stalked or awaited.
Visits to the Buffalo migration route or so-called "trace"in southern Indiana, no doubt, kept him and his family on the move between Brown County and the southern Ohio Valley.
Harvesting what the wild animals didn't eat, come late summer, the Indian was probably content to sit idly on this landscape, marveling at and even worshiping the natural world around him.
His temporary shelter, called a "wigwam", was constructed of nearby reeds or cattails woven into mats that were laid across a simple framework of young saplings bent into a small, dome-like shape.
These were found by some of the early Brown County settlers about 1820.
If the Native Americans were unobtrusive in Brown County's forest, the white man was nearly the opposite. He came to make as good a living as possible for himself and his family. He viewed the forest as a vast hindrance to his plan to farm.
Trees were more in the way than cherished, and, to begin homesteading, they would have to be removed.
The settler's meager income wasn't helped at first from selling the timber, since its value was small.
But, soon, as furniture companies and mass-produced wood products became increasingly common, he found a means of supplementing his livelihood.
From 1840 to nearly the turn of this century, little of Brown County's forest land escaped the cutting crews. They quickly removed the biggest trees, the trunks of which yielded massive beams for buildings and bridges, and then found even-smaller oaks and hickories marketable in the barrel and cooperage trades.
Soon, the railroad industry was to make itself known in the area, and ties or so-called "sleepers", along with large quantities of cordwood, were removed from much of the hilly forestland.
Between 1850 and 1870, at least six leather tanneries settled here, using mostly white and chestnut oaks in their tanning businesses. Known as "tanbark", the bark of those trees was highly-sought while much of the stripped logs was left to lie and rot, unused.
Once removed of its protective forest cover, the ground awaited a plow and shovel.
Poor agricultural practices in the early 1900's, along with shallow topsoil, soon destined Brown County's farming community to a destitute existence. Not much hope confronted the back-country farmer who sank deeper into poverty and left his depleted farm after realizing no income.
But there were those who still saw the beauty in Brown County's ruggedness and were saddened by the departure of families who lived on and loved the land.
One such individual, a school- teacher-turned-insurance-salesman, was the late Lee Bright, of Nashville. His plan was to restore Brown County to economic health in the booming Twenties by fostering the young, but promising, tourist trade.
Bright wanted to establish a state park, but Indiana law, at that time, did not authorize purchase of land for parks. Instead, the state Conservation Commission would buy that land for a fish-and-game preserve, which was sanctioned by law.
Abandoned farm acreage with depleted soil, eroded hillsides and tree stumps were to become a white-tail deer release site and a farm for the rearing of game birds.
By 1926, Bright, as an agent for the state, had purchased enough land at an average of $12.58 an acre, to establish a game reserve in Brown County.
Since 1941, the former game reserve has been administered as a State Park--unmanaged, protected and preserved, lasting into perpetuity for all citizens of Indiana and their guests to enjoy.
A park map now proclaims this land to be used for recreation, nature-study, picnicking, hiking or other pursuits in the intelligent use of leisure time.
Although much of Brown County's landscape has drastically changed from the days of the Native Americans, much of it now has become an internationally-known spectacle of year-around color.
The beauty of the Hills o' Brown can be enjoyed at any time. Plan to visit our park during the spring or in the winter when the snow flies.
Comparing how your favorite vista has changed since you last saw it could be the most-enjoyable outing of the year--or, perhaps, of your life.