Potato Creek State Park
At nearly 4,000 acres, Potato Creek State Park is one of the largest state parks in Indiana. The central feature is a reservoir named Worster Lake in honor of a local naturalist and activist who campaigned tirelessly for creation of the park.
This is former farm land; parts still have the appearance of overgrown fields, and some trails readily reveal their county road origins. Nevertheless, the park has grown up over the years since it opened, and in the process, it has grown on me.
Trees continue to stretch skyward, grasses and other plants are coming up through the gravel and cracks in the old roads, and the DNR has been working in concert with nature to return a number of previously drained wetlands to their original state.
The result is, among other things, an important nesting site for osprey, a large fish-eating raptor. Ospreys sport wingspans up to six feet across, and they are uncommon in Indiana.
Thirty years ago, the only ospreys in the state were just passing through; they chose not to nest here. But the DNR successfully brought osprey back to Indiana, and in 2007 nine pairs nested in the park.
Most of the hiking trails are in the northeast corner of the property. From the nature center, a large loop trail with two short cuts heads off to the north and east.
Trail 1 returns via the second short cut, and totals just over two miles. In the process, it skirts Worster Lake, occasionally following old county roads as it passes through recent growth woods.
Trail 2 adds an extra couple of miles as it extends further eastward, running north-south along the boundary of Swamp Rose Nature Preserve before ascending first Steam Boat Hill (via staircase) then Vargo Hill (885'). It then returns west toward its junction with trail 1 and thence to the nature center.
Trail 4 (2.5 miles) lies east of Worster Lake and traverses old farmsteads and recent woods, also running alongside a stream and the lake.
Bridle trails occupy the southeastern portion of the park.
St. Joseph County. From the intersection of US 31 and IN 4, go west 4.6 miles on IN 4 to the park entrance on the right (north).
North 41 32.098 West 86 21.720
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Nature center, campground, bathrooms, cabins.
Nearby Natural Areas
Goll: Indiana State Parks; Page 174
Habeck: Wild Indiana; Page 32
Indiana Department of Natural Resources
McPherson: Indiana Best Hikes; Page 86