Growing up in Northwest Indiana along Lake Michigan, as a kid I knew my home state as a dynamic location – the forty minute drive up to Chicago from my house was barely much further than visiting the Indiana Dunes in the opposite direction.
As I got older and began traveling across the country (and across international North American boundaries as well, for that matter), I quickly began to realize that Indiana… it wasn’t so great. At least not as awesome as my imaginative childhood mindset had made it out to be. Especially when I reached college and began making those 90 minute trips down to Purdue, driving in an eternal straight line through miles and miles of flat cornfield.
Just as I began to accept the boring nature of Indiana, some outdoor trips with college friends challenged me to think differently. Most weekends were filled with hiking, biking, and canoeing (in the summer months), and I realized that Indiana was home to an incredible amount of canyons, rivers, and forests worth exploring.
The catch about all of that fun stuff is that you’re not going to find in the northern half of Indiana. The transition along the state’s equator from dull treeless landscapes to meandering streams shadowed by vegetation and walls of limestone isn’t exactly a smooth one. Why? Well, as an avid Indiana adventurer, I figured I should know the history of my own backyard. So I did a little digging, and eventually came upon this article, entitled “Journey With Nature: How Glaciers Shaped Indiana.”
Anyone who went to grade school knows how the Great Lakes were formed – glaciers, But those enormous sheets of ice didn’t stop their southern pursuit at the bottom tip of Lake Michigan. Dragging incredibly large amounts of dirt and sand, these glaciers inched their way all the way down to the middle of Indiana, until they reversed their journey when the ice began to warm.
Yes, the ice eventually melted completely away to form what we now know as the Great Lakes. What you might not know is that all of that excess dirt and sand that made the journey with that ice essentially filled up all of the valleys and canyons that northern Indiana once was home to.
So to anybody living between Indianapolis and Chicago, you can thank the glaciers for your state’s sad and featureless existence. Yet, to the rest of Indiana and the gems of Colorado-esque scenery, those glaciers are responsible as well; when all of that ice began retreating up North, the streams that were left behind quickly carved their way through the small valleys and forests. The present-day result is beautiful and certainly worth exploring, especially at Indiana’s state parks.
So next time you’re out-and-about in Indiana, whether kicking up farm town dust down an old country road or trekking between the cool stone valley walls in Turkey Run, think of it as stepping in a time machine back to the end of the last ice age… pretty cool, huh?