The Waters of Shakamak
We enjoyed a weekend of water sports at Shakamak State Park
In Mission: Wanderlust, I write and podcast about our family’s travel adventures and the things that we have learned along the way.
We lived in Indiana for thirteen years before we made our move to Texas, and during that thirteen year period, we felt like we did a lot throughout the state, particularly when it comes to the Indiana state park system. We loved camping as a couple and when we finally started camping with our kids, we tried several new parks.
But since moving back to Indianapolis, we’ve become uncomfortably aware of the fact that 1) we didn’t spent nearly as much time visiting our favorite parks as we should have and 2) we missed a lot of parks that should have just been a part of our regular rotation.
And that was the case with Shakamak State Park.
In the years that we lived in Indianapolis, we had our favorite parks and while we had heard of Shakamak, we never thought to stretch our horizons to drive the less than 90-minutes to check it out.
This year, when the mid-August realization hit that we were getting deep into the start of soccer season for our son and that season tickets to Michigan football games were going to take up most of our remaining fall weekends, I jumped on my computer to see if there were any state parks with openings the weekend before Labor Day. (Because once again, we had failed to make reservations for that particular weekend well in advance.)
There were spots in Shakamak, they looked decent enough for our camper, and the park provided water recreation to close out our summer. We jumped on the spot and prepared for a quick weekend trip.
We were not disappointed.
Our first surprise was pulling into a roomy, level spot. It surprised us for a couple of reasons. First, we had gotten the spot at the last minute, which usually means that all of the good spots are taken. Second, there were a lot of people already camping when we arrived, so it wasn’t like the large campground was empty. Third, we love Indiana state parks, but many of them are in need of campground updates to accommodate for larger campers. Shakamak State Park does not appear to be one of them.
While we finished setting up camp, our kids jumped on their bikes immediately. The wide drive throughout the campground and level nature of the park makes for excellent campground biking for all ages.
We settled in for the night and prepared for a long Saturday of water fun.
Yes, you read that correctly, water fun.
Shakamak State Park actually has seven different hiking trails that we could try, but I had promised Jeff and we could spend our weekend focusing on water. We spent a lazy morning of exploring and walking the dogs around the campground before we went to check out the nature center and verify when the state park pool would open. We also checked out the historical signage that verified our need to celebrate water sports during our first visit to the park.
The state park was developed with the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. In the 1940s and 1950s, the man-made lake hosted swim meets and housed a diving platform used for training Olympic divers. While the diving platform no longer exists, the pool is still a popular place to cool off in the summers.
Our family enjoyed the nearly two hours we spent swimming, diving, and sliding while at the park pool, which requires a small fee in addition to the park entrance fee. We bribed the kids with ice cream treats to get them out of the pool and then headed back to the campground to get our kayaks.
One of the best camping purchases we’ve made in recent years has been our inflatable kayaks. They are easy to pack, fairly easy to inflate, and plenty sturdy for our family. They have also allowed us the freedom to go kayaking (a favorite water sport activity for my husband) when we want, as opposed to waiting for a rental.
And since this was a weekend focused on water sports, our next activity was picking the lake in the park we wanted to explore and pushing off into the water. Now that our kids are old enough, Jeff and I didn’t have to work extra hard to cart our kids across the lake and we all made good time on a loop that took us past beautiful trees and wildlife. (And since we now live in Indiana, no alligators.)
After a day of exploring the park and spending time in the water, we were ready to chill back at the campground and enjoy the slight drop in temperature once the sun went down.
Our quick trip to Shakamak provided us with the rest and relaxation that our family craved before the busyness of school really hit us. It also held additional surprises, such as large playgrounds, several free little libraries all over the campground, and multiple aluminum recycling bins. We will definitely return for another weekend, only next time, I’ve declared that I get to hit the trails.
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