Hawthorn Park has long been my favorite park in Terre Haute. I’ve ran laps around the lake preparing for the Indy Mini Marathon. I’ve backpacked the trails practicing for longer trips. The wife and I have enjoyed kayaking the smaller lake. There are a couple different playgrounds for kids (and they love them). The labyrinth is a relaxing meditative change from hiking the hills.
Residing on Terre Haute’s east side north of Rose Hulman Institute of Technology, Hawthorn Park sits on nearly 257 acres. That includes 68 acres of water to fish, kayak, or watch geese. There’s so many geese, in fact, that Hawthorn Park is home to the annual Goose Poop 5k race.
Hawthorn Park was purchased in 1980 with additional property added in 1985. A levee was constructed in 1984 to form a lake in the JI Case Wetland Wildlife Refuge portion of the park. While the lake was formed for migratory birds, its also an excellent fishing spot that’s stocked annually.
If bird watching is more your thing, an observation shelter overlooks the lake just a short walk from a parking lot. We spotted a couple dozen turtles sunbathing on logs.
What I really come to Hawthorn Park for is hiking. The trails are mostly graveled (a few even paved) but there’s sufficient slopes and distance to make it interesting. The trail system winds through the park, circling both lakes, and has convenient access to the Heritage Trail. The lengthy trail around the 50 acre lake in JI Case is pleasant change from running on roads. The trail can narrowly substantially depending on the season. I walked gingerly between the flowers, circumspect not to disturb the bees.
I never know what I’m going to find at Hawthorn. It may be rocks wedged into a split tree or beautiful flowers.
I’m ashamed to admit that our kayaks have never graced the large lake in JI Case. We’ve opted to enjoy Burns Lake, an 18 acre lake that sits next to the campgrounds. Despite the smaller size, the lake can still be a beautiful site and a relaxing evening in our kayaks.
As of August 2020, a kayak launch is available near the boat ramp.