The Cardinal Greenway is one of the longest trails in Indiana at 75.5 miles long, running from Richmond to a point between Marion and Sweetser. Part of the trail, between Gaston and Gas City has not yet been completed. The Cardinal Greenway makes up a portion of the Northern Route of the American Discovery Trail. The Cardinal Greenway is one of only two trails in Indiana to be inducted into the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy “Rail-Trail Hall of Fame.” The Cardinal Greenways was inducted in 2018. The only other trail to be inducted was the Monon Trail.
For those whose wanderlust seeks the space of a long-lasting horizon, the Cardinal Greenway may be your solution.
It is the longest rail-trail in Indiana - 62 miles. It was designated a National Recreational Trail in 2003 and is part of the northern tier of the coast-to-coast American Discovery Trail.
From Richmond in east central Indiana, the trail heads northwest into Losantville, Muncie, Gas City, and Marion, passing through or near a number of historic, educational, or just plain pleasant places to visit. You can walk, bike, or even ride horseback on the separate equestrian trail.
By the way, if your bike’s in the shop or you don’t keep one handy, there are free loaner bikes available from the Wysor Depot, 700 E Wysor Street (765-287-0399), in Muncie.
The southern section of this route roughly parallels U. S. Highway 35, taking you close to Summit Lake State Park and the trout filled waters of Wilbur Wright State Fish and Wildlife Area.
Other places of interest near this end of the Cardinal Greenway include the Levi Coffin State Historic Site of the Underground Railroad at Fountain City; Earlham College with its Joseph Moore Natural History Museum, housing a dinosaur exhibit, birds of prey, local invertebrate fossils, and more; and of course there’s the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame near Newcastle.
The Wilbur Wright Birthplace and Museum can be visited in Hagerstown, west of Richmond.
To “top” it off, Richmond is just south of Indiana’s highest elevation, Hoosier Hill at 1257 feet, but don’t look for towering mountains; the ice age didn’t carve it that way! Finally, plans are for the Cardinal Greenway to cross the National Road Heritage Trail, which will stretch (when completed) from Richmond to Terre Haute 150 miles away on the western side of the state.
To the northeast is Prairie Creek Reservoir. An equestrian trail segment parallels the main trail here, and there are additional equestrian miles over a branch trail that follows the lake's western shore.
Continuing on, the non-horse trail comes into the Muncie and Ball State University area. If you wish to do more off-trail exploration, there's the Children's Museum in Muncie.
Ball Sate, named for the family of the canning jar company, has a number of places and things to do and see, including a planetarium and art museum.
The National Model Aviation Museum is found in Muncie too.
Finally, let's not forget as you stride or ride along the Greenway that in the late 1800's to very early 1900's, America's first major and very large oil field was discovered here.
Hence, the names of some of the towns like Gaston and Gas City, Indiana.
Though much was wasted and overdrilling reduced pressure for extraction of the remaining oil, most of it is estimated to still be underground, technologically and economically out of reach-until recently anyway.
These fossil fuel deposits are attributed to this region's very ancient past, when it was located in a tropical latitude, and at times much of it was covered by a biologically rich, shallow sea.
On the northernmost segment of the Cardinal Greenway, you approach Fairmont, west of the trail. It's home to the annual James Dean Festival in September. The city of Marion, Indiana also hosts the annual Mississinewa 1812 Reenactment. A bit further on is the 3200+ acre Mississinewa Lake and its surrounding recreation areas.
Also to be found in and around Marion are Indiana Wesleyan University, the largest private university in Indiana; the Cumberland Covered Bridge, the last one in Grant County, located at the southern edge of Grant County in Mathews, spanning the Mississinewa River; and, quilters take note, the Quilters Hall of Fame is also located in Marion.
One of the more recent natural history finds nearby is in a sinkhole at the Pipe Creek Junior Quarry near Swayzee, Indiana, southwest of Marion.
Within the last two decades, this 5 million year old site has yielded a wide range of fossils, from frogs and turtles to rhinoceros, several species of camel, and a giant land tortoise. So far, it is a unique cache in eastern North America, because the glacial periods were thought to have scattered or destroyed such remains other areas of the Midwest. Isn't it amazing whose feet may have walked the Cardinal Greenway before any of us came along!!!