Lafayette and West Lafayette Trails
The Lafayette and West Lafayette Trails, in Northwest Indiana’s Purdue territory, tie this diverse college community together with the Cattail, Northwest Greenway, and Wabash Heritage Trails, together covering over 20 miles. In addition, a number of parks have unpaved footpaths, playing fields and courts, and nearby is Prophetstown State Park. Between them all, one could spend several days, or a lot longer, just walking, exploring, and learning about life in and around these pathways, past and present.
Along the Cattail’s 4-plus miles, the major feature is Celery Bog, its origins going back to glacial times. Once a celery and produce farm, this 195 acre natural area has been re-establishing itself since the 1960s when long-standing drainage difficulties finally deep-sixed this part of the farm operation. It is now home to the Lilly Nature Center which provides field trips, classes, family programs and activities, and is a living lab for research.
The Northwest Greenway Trail is just over 6 miles, and it connects into the Cattail on the latter’s north end. The Greenway leads to Hadley Lake to the west. Its east course passes near Cumberland Park, a 62-acre facility with wide, open spaces, playfields, basketball courts, its own nature preserve, a small lake, and a mid-week farmers market in season.
For those with an interest in American history, the Wabash Heritage Trail has it. This trail is some 13 miles long, some paved, but the greater part of it is not. It starts near Battle Ground on its northern end, which was the site of an early critical clash between neo-America and the Native Americans.
Also near the trail’s north reaches is Prophetstown State Park. A history and natural history park, it gives us a hint of what the tall grass prairie once was. It is an ecosystem of native bunch grasses, prairie wildflowers such as echinacea (cone flower), interspersed with wetlands and varied wildlife and the native tribes that depended on them. This newest of Indiana’s state parks (2004) is still a work in progress, but visitors can see an historic 1920s living history farm and the Native American Village. The park has its own set of trails, including a paved hike/bike path.
At its southern end, the Wabash Heritage Trail leads to a re-creation of the fur-trading outpost, Fort Ouiatenon (as in the French, “Oui”, sometimes spelled Quiatenon). This was a 1700s somewhat cosmopolitan village that was eventually destroyed by order of President Washington in 1791.
However, in celebration of its heyday, every year the Feast of the Hunter’s Moon is held here in the fall, with reenactment dress, foods, and activities of the period.
Please note that the Cattail and Northwest Greenway Trails are asphalt and open to non-motorized traffic. So far, about two miles of the Wabash Heritage Trail are paved. As such, motorized vehicles, bikes, or horses are not allowed.