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Fort Harrison State Park: A walk through History

by Lance Gideon


Fort Harrison State Park is a relatively young state park; it was established in 1996, but it has a long history as an Army post during the 20thcentury. Fort Benjamin Harrison was established in 1903 and was officially opened by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. The Fort was named after the 23rdPresident of the United States Benjamin Harrison, an Indianapolis native.

As an Army Fort, the land saw a lot of action during World War II and was used as a prisoner of war camp, housing German and Italian prisoners. In 1947, the Army declared that Fort Benjamin Harrison was surplus property, but chose not to close the installation. In 1948 the post became Benjamin Harrison Air Force Base, and remained part of the Air Force until 1950. In 1950, the Army reaquired Fort Benjamin Harrison.  

In 1995, the United States Department of the Interior gave the Indiana Department of Natural Resources 1,700 acres of land; that land eventually became Fort Harrison State Park. Fort Benjamin Harrison was closed in 1996 as part of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

I recently decided to take a trip out to Fort Harrison State Park, and was pleasantly surprised by how easily I was able to forget I was in Marion County, Indiana. Much of the park is densely wooded and has lots of area to walk around and enjoy Mother Nature.

Before I started my walk on the Fall Creek Trail, I decided to walk toward Delaware Lake. There I spent about 5 minutes on the dock looking around the lake. After this, I headed to the trail head and began my walk. Soon after I started my walk, I found myself on the banks of Fall Creek. I spent a few minutes on the bank, listening to the ripple of the water. I then started my walk again, and started seeing a lot of wildlife around the area; including many squirrels, chipmunks, and birds.  

I eventually came up on the Fall Creek Boardwalk and Observation Deck, which had wonderful views of Fall Creek. After a 5 minute rest at the boardwalk, I started to head toward the end of the trail. I passed the one mile marker and headed toward Harrison Trace, a paved bicycle and walking trail.

At the Harrison Trace trail, Fall Creek Trail becomes Camp Creek Trail and leads to Duck Pond as well as several picnic shelters. The walk from Duck Pond back to Delaware Lake is about 3/4 of a mile and follows the banks of a small stream.  I eventually came back upon Harrison Trace, where I saw a couple of gentlemen who just had to show me a “pretty blue bird,” unfortunately the bird flew a way before I could get a picture. I was once again at Delaware Lake, a little on the tired side and ready to go home.

View the video slide show of Fort Harrison State Park:


Published: 11/09/2012


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