RV ADVENTURES IN SOUTHERN INDIANA
Not wanting to stray too far from family because of my grandpa’s illness, we decided we would explore southern Indiana. Head south in Indiana and it won’t be long until the flat, open fields give way to rolling hills and lush green forests. It was in one of these forests we found a campground, Paynetown State Recreation Area, along the shores of Lake Monroe. We settled into a large shaded site and set out to explore the campground.
Spring is in full force with mild weather and green everywhere! It’s amazing how fast the trees have sprouted leaves.
We took this photo of Thing 2 just a few weeks before when we visited my cousin who lives close to Lake Monroe and the leaves were just starting to bloom!
Lake Monroe is the largest lake entirely in Indiana. It’s a place where I used to go boating and camping as a kid with my family. We would all head down there for a weekend of fun with the cousins. While we didn’t go boating this time, there was a short path behind our campsite leading down to the lake where we spent time along the shoreline getting our, or rather Thing 3’s, toes wet!
North of Lake Monroe is the town of Bloomington. Fittingly, Bloomington is known as the “Gateway to Scenic Southern Indiana.” We decided to head into town to check it out. Historic downtown Bloomington is centered around the lovely courthouse square.
It’s a vibrant midwestern town with lots of character and, of course, we found some homemade ice cream!
Much of Bloomington’s activity stems from being home to Indiana University, better known as IU. Indiana University was established nearly 200 years ago in 1820. It’s the largest university in Indiana with a student body of over 40,000. With such a long history and our boys too quickly nearing college age (sniff) we decided it would be fun to stroll around the campus. It was beautiful with many old building, treed paths, and even wildlife.
Not too far from Lake Monroe and Bloomington, lies Nashville, Indiana. It’s small town with a big personality. Nashville is known for its local art scene. Early last century a group of artists settled in the area and formed the Brown County Art Colony. The colony is still around today as the Brown County Art Guild.
You’ll see the fingerprints of artists all around town in the outdoor art and galleries. Nashville is also known for its natural beauty. Fall is the most popular time to visit when vibrant leaves cover the rolling hills.
However, we thought spring was a perfect time to visit. The weather was mild, flowers were blooming, and people were out and about enjoying the charms of this small town.
We wandered the streets and strolled through many of the small shops. We even stumbled across…can you guess?!?! A local ice cream shop! I think we may need an intervention! Ha ha! Thankfully, our RV allows us to enjoy healthy home-cooked meals most of the time so a splurge at a local ice cream shop is no big deal.
We decided to head a little further south to explore Spring Mill State Park in Mitchell, Indiana. Spring Mill is truly a gem in southern Indiana. The campground is beautiful with rolling hills and large shady spots. There are numerous activities making it a perfect destination for families.
Our first stop was the nature center. The nature center, situated on Spring Mill Lake, is filled with displays about the area.
We saw live snakes, turtles, and exhibits about the local geography, fauna, and flora. My personal favorite was the lengthy display on distinguishing nonvenomous from venomous snakes because…well…you never know! Actually, in our 3 and a half years of traveling full time and many, many miles of hiking we’ve only come across two snakes, a black racer in Florida and an unidentified one slithering into bushes in North Carolina. So, in our experience the odds are good you’ll not come across many snakes, but it’s something cool to learn about!
The Grissom Memorial is also a part of Spring Mill State Park. Virgil “Gus” Grissom originally from Mitchell, Indiana was one of the original 7 Mercy astronauts and the 2nd American man in space. The memorial pays tribute to this courageous space pioneer and hosts many displays including his space suit and the Gemini 3 Molly Brown spacecraft.
The centerpiece of Spring Mill State Park is the restored Pioneer Village.
Travel back in time as you walk through the historic buildings and talk with costumed interpreters about what it was like to live in a pioneer village in the 1800s.
Originally settled in 1814 the village consists of 20 restored structures, artifacts from the 1800s, and a formal garden.
The crown of Pioneer Village is the 3 story tall limestone grist mill. Water flowing from nearby Hamer Cave powers the water wheel which turns the grind stones today just as it did 150 years ago. You can even buy cornmeal freshly ground at the mill.
Everyone had fun exploring the Pioneer Village including Thing 3!
That night at home in the RV I made homemade corn muffins with the corn meal we purchased at Pioneer Village and we ate our dinner outside surrounded by beauty.
Unfortunately, the one other thing we had really wanted to do in Spring Mill, the Twin Caves Boat Tour, was not open yet. Oh well, that just gives us another reason to go back!
We had hoped to hit a few more state parks in southern Indiana but, unfortunately, my grandpa passed away. It seemed fitting that we went to Spring Mill and Lake Monroe because they were both places he had enjoyed as well. Before we left central Indiana, I told him we were going to Spring Mill and, although he was having a hard time speaking, I could tell it made him happy. He spent many years traveling with my grandma in their RV and loved talking with us about their adventures. There’s no doubt that the trips they took me on as a child and their stories of full time RVing has played a part in our decision to RV with our family.
If you are looking for places to Go RVing in southern Indiana, I highly recommend Lake Monroe and Spring Mill. Other wonderful places we would have loved to visit are Brown County State Park, McCormick’s Creek State Park, Turkey Run State Park, and Clifty Falls State Park.
Did I miss any of your favorite places to RV in southern Indiana? Are there any places you went camping as a child that you like to take your children to today?