Trails in Indiana


If it were possible to make visible all the footprints of the past with their histories, their names, their
journeys, this area of Southern Indiana would be prints crisscrossing prints many times over and fill volumes of information, due to its strategic location. The communities of Clarksville , New Albany , Jeffersonville , and Louisville to the south are located at the widest part of the Ohio River channel along its 981-mile length. This location is also the only natural barrier to navigation where rapids and exposed, fossil-filled Devonian limestone caused the pioneers to have to go around them, thus giving rise to the cities that grew up there.


Long before pioneers found a way to cross or create an entrepreneurial beginning at the falls, however, the buffalo crossed as well, during their traditional migratory routes through Vincennes and the Illinois plains to salt licks in Kentucky . In addition, human habitation is thought to have been in existence in this region for thousands of years. More recently, military veteran George Rogers Clark built a cabin and mill and founded Louisville , his brother William Clark and Meriwether Lewis met and began their exploration of the west from here, John James Audubon sketched and studied here. Mark Twain and Walt Whitman also passed through.

To explore the unknown lands of the American West, the Corps of Discovery was formed in Southern Indiana. Read more


Greenway will connect Communities

The Ohio River Greenway Project is an attempt to bring together these diverse historic, scientific, scenic, and recreational potentials of the falls area. When completed, the trails system will include about seven and one-half miles through the three Indiana communities and then reach over the river. Here it will cross at the Big Four railroad bridge to meet with the Louisville RiverWalk and its adjoining trail network. Twenty-five miles are now open and paved from downtown Louisville west to the Farnsley-Mormen Landing site on the river. On the Kentucky side, the trails system will eventually tie into a 100-mile loop around Louisville.


See interactive Map

Besides the Greenway plan that includes multi-use paths and recreational facilities, the Indiana trails encompass the Clarksville Heritage, the Lewis and Clark Trail, and the Clarksville Heritage Trail. So far, these trails are in various stages of completion; the Lewis and Clark is still in a design phase. The Clarksville Heritage Trail follows an old railroad bed, the Dinky Line, from Colgate Park to Midway Park . The Colgate end features a family water park, tennis courts, picnic shelter, playgrounds, and a concession stand at the pool (in season). The old Colgate Palmolive facility with its giant clock is visible from this end of the trail. Along the way are benches and a good view of the skyline to the south. Further west, part of this trail still uses South Clark Boulevard, and it makes a loop at its west end, where it turns south to join up with the Clarksville Levee Trail at the George Rogers Clark cabin site. The cabin itself is a replica, rebuilt for the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
From the Clark Cabin, the greenway west is still under design, and plans are to have it track away from the river for a brief space near an area once known for its tanneries. It then will continue on near the river to the K & I Railroad Bridge, still an active line at this point. It will then head further west under the double-decker Sherman-Minton Bridge which holds Interstate-64 on its way to St. Louis .
While in this New Albany , Indiana area, history buffs may want to tour the Culbertson Mansion , 914 East Main Street . It is a State Historic Site on the National Register of Historic Places. The home was built in 1867-69 by industrialist, financier, and philanthropist William Cultbertson, reportedly the richest man in Indiana at one time. His son, Samuel Culbertson, migrated across the river to Louisville , built his own mansion in what is now Old Louisville, on south Third Street , and was president of Churchill Downs race track in the first half of the 1900s.

A Trail that Leads to Fossils, Falls, Fireworks, and a Further Cabin

Heading east from Clark Cabin, back toward Clarksville and Louisville , the Clarksville Levee Trail tops this earthen floodwall, passing through Falls of the Ohio State Park , which has its own trails as well. Important islands and wetlands in this vicinity support a great variety of wildlife and birds. The state park visitor center has an outdoor observation deck on the river side. Inside, exhibits and a short film demonstrate prehistoric life and the environment that has shaped this region over millions of years. The park also hosts special events, such as Archaeology Day, Falls Fossils Festival, Raptor Day, River Sweep, and Earth Day activities. In addition, volunteer opportunities come along from time to time for those wanting to participate in archaeological digs. In low water times during summer, park rangers and helpers can show you where to access the exposed fossil beds that contain marine shells, deposits, and a coral reef that is said to stretch all the way to Indianapolis (most not exposed like these, however!).

East of the state park, the Greenway continues next to the river along a paved path that passes through Ashland Park . Artist-quality city-scapes are possible from here. East of Ashland Park is a trail gap, but streets and sidewalks will lead you back to a view of the Colgate clock, and a restaurant row at the river’s edge. Though the Big Four railroad bridge decking and ramp to cross the river are not yet complete, the older, U. S. 31 bridge, the Clark Memorial Bridge does have walks on both sides of the roadway, so you can access Louisville trails and sites via this bridge if you are on foot or bike. Each April, thousands of spectators gather here to experience the “Thunder Over Louisville” fireworks spectacular as it kicks off the Kentucky Derby Festival. Note that the U. S. 31 bridge itself is part of the display. Therefore, it is blocked off that weekend to allow for preparations. If you are headed there in mid to late April, check for road closures, as the nearby Interstate 65 bridge also shuts down, but only during the show. It might be one of the best places to watch, though, if luck lands you there!

Project Map
The Greenway trail picks up again at the I-65 Bridge. It winds around a river bend along the waterfront to its east terminus, which is several blocks past the Big Four Railroad Bridge . This span will eventually be the main connector by trail between Indiana and Kentucky . At this time, construction has begun on the bridge portion of trail, but is not yet complete. Jeffersonville hosts Preservation Park ; the Clark County Farmers’Market on Market Street between Spring and Pearl Streets; boat and barge builder Jeff Boat; and it is home to the Howard Steamboat Museum at 1101 East Market, an 1894 riverfront mansion constructed by a steamboat builder.

 by Jane Conrad