Looking out through woods surrounding the Knobstone Trail’s southern terminus, one would not expect to be less than twenty miles from an urban region with over one-million humans living there. This leafy, shady Knobstone trailhead is located in Deam Lake State Recreation Area, surrounded by 24,000 acres of Clark State Forest . It is also situated just north of the Ohio River communities of Clarksville , Jeffersonville , and New Albany , with Louisville , Kentucky on the south shore. The trail itself follows an ancient geologic landform, the Knobstone Escarpment, which was part of a very large delta system some 330 million years ago. For the most part, the trail follows forested ridgetops and ravines, overlooks surrounding lower farmland and valleys, and passes by several fishable lakes on its trek north. Given its strenuous geology, the Knobstone Trail is for hiking only. Clark State Forest , however, has over 100 miles of equestrian trail facilities, as well as a 5-mile mountain bike trail, in addition to other, shorter hiker trails.
To get to the Knobstone hiker trailhead from Interstate 65, take exit 7 at Sellersburg and turn west toward Salem , onto State Road 60. Follow SR 60 for about 9 miles. Turn right at Deam Lake Road at the directional sign. To get to lake activities, keep going on this road to the gatehouse. To get to the hiker trailhead, go about a mile on the Deam Lake Road to Wilson Switch Road . Turn right, travel another 2 ½ miles, past the dam. Parking and trailhead are on the left side of the road. Don’t get confused. A mountain bike trail and also a horse trail are in the same area. There is signage to identify the right spot. Besides hiking, the Deam Lake complex provides opportunities for camping, fishing, hunting, swimming, and an education center. A boat ramp, dock, boat rentals, fishing pier, bathhouse, and ADA playground are all available nearby.
Deam Lake , with an area of 192 acres, was impounded in 1964 for purposes of flood control and recreation. However, the surrounding state forest history goes back much further, when it was designated as such in 1903. The area served as a preserve for Indiana ’s flourishing timber industry, for use in cabinet, tool, and furniture making, as well as a nursery for this and other forest restoration projects. In the 1930s Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps located a training camp here. The Young Hoosiers Conservation Corps has recently worked hard to clear abundant timber debris from the Knobstone Trail brought down by Hurricane Ike and a later widespread ice storm.
For those interested in area history near the trail, visit the town of Salem , about twenty miles northwest of the Knobstone Trailhead. Salem has been an important agricultural, wood-products manufacturing, and textiles center. Salem was officially founded in 1814; the New Albany to Salem railroad arrived from the Ohio River in 1851, and later became part of the north-south Monon.
The 1888 Washington County courthouse in Salem is also an attraction, as well as the John Hay Center , museum, and Monon depot replica. The Hay Center contains a pioneer village area in addition to its other displays. John Hay was President Lincoln’s personal secretary, and he served as U. S. Secretary of State under two later U. S. Presidents.
If you’re not too footsore by now from your Knobstone adventure, the new Charlestown State Park is located not far from the Knobstone, on the Ohio River, just east of I-65 and Sellersburg. It has four trails in and along Fourteenmile Creek Valley and its confluence with the Ohio River . This valley is wooded, winding, and one of the oldest non-glaciated valleys in Indiana . From 1940 to 1995, the park was part of the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant. Prior to 1940, the property was not nearly as wooded as it subsequently became after the Army took charge and encouraged reforestation.
by Jane Conrad
Go to Knobstone Hiking Trail map and Info page.