In June, Paints in the Parks traveled to the rich countryside of north-central Indiana to paint at Salamonie Lake State Park, a property which includes 40 ponds, abundant marshes and a 2,665-acre lake that is part of a trio of Upper Wabash reservoirs that have saved millions of dollars in flood damages downstream. Leased and managed by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the reservoirs’ water levels and dams are regulated by the US Army Corps of Engineers.
While Salamonie Lake and its surrounding properties offer boating, swimming and fishing opportunities as well as a modern campground with gorgeous views of the lake, the state’s recent historic rainfall put the reservoir’s primary purpose to good use. By holding back the amount of water released from the dam, the reservoir’s water levels were quite high when we visited, thankfully preventing the towns and cities nearby from suffering the catastrophic flooding that used to occur before this system was built.
Even though the wet weather continued on the day of our program, I spent the morning in a shelter overlooking the park’s wildlife management pond that was located above the lake’s flood levels. True to its name, the pond and surrounding habitat were full of birds and judging by the folks who came with their bait and poles, fish too! As a gentle rain fell, folks took cover in the shelter and watched me paint the pond and picturesque dead trees that stood like sentries amid the marsh grass. Regular visitors told me about the history of the local area and the many activities sponsored by the park and its recreational areas.
After a productive morning the gentle rain turned into a steady downpour, so we relocated to the lobby of the world-class Upper Wabash Interpretive Center which contains a fine collection of interactive reservoir exhibits, cultural and natural history, wildlife viewing and a children’s room, not to mention tempting merchandise. Just around the corner of the building you’ll also find the Salamonie Raptor Center housing live birds of prey and an extensive garden full of flowers, herbs and vegetables.
Despite the deluge outside, damp but dedicated campers and park guests arrived to participate in my hands-on art activity, with plenty of room to spread out and create their masterpieces in the center’s well-equipped meeting room complete with a sink and paper towels which we don’t usually have access to outside. The naturalist even displayed an owl for inspiration. We had a good turnout despite the weather, and there was still time to check out the live animal exhibits and the interactive model of the water management system before we left.
I highly recommend a visit to Salamonie Lake and its surrounding properties to appreciate the beauty, history and environmental importance of the Upper Wabash reservoirs as well as the recreational opportunities provided. The welcome and hospitality we received from staff and local volunteers warmed our hearts even without the sunshine that day.