Whitewater Canal Trail – Metamora
See an interview of Tom Cooney about the Whitewater Canal Trail, the town of Metamora, and the Corn Maze event.
Located in central Franklin County in southeast Indiana, the Whitewater Canal Trail between Metamora and Brookville offers history and hands-on history and an all around pleasant outing whether you walk or bike. The current open trail consists of two sections and is about 31/3 miles: one phase is in the area of Metamora, while another phase is open at the Yellow Bank Trailhead, east of Metamora on U. S. Highway 52. When completed the trail will be some ten miles long.
Trail users can appreciate their location better by taking a look back in time at what used to be here: the Whitewater Canal followed the river of the same name and originated in the early 1800s with the need for improved transportation routes.
After economic setbacks which included the state’s bankruptcy, the canal was completed from Lawrenceburg and Cincinnati on the Ohio River through Brookville and Metamora. It then went on to Hagerstown just north of the east-west National Road. These days, much of the canal no longer exists or is not usable. There is an historical marker on the levee of Lawrenceburg’s Dearborn Trail at the canal’s conjunction with the Ohio River, but no trace of the canal itself.
However, parts of the canal’s route survived time and the railroads because of numerous hydro-powered mills built along it. Such is the case at Metamora and the Whitewater Canal State Historic Site, and along parts of the Whitewater Canal Trail. The trail itself often follows the original path used by mules pulling boats through the canal. The path—called a towpath—was subsequently used by the railroad as a ready-made bed on which to lay track.
Visitors to the 1838 town of Metamora can still take a canal ride along a portion of the original waterway and see the grist mill that operates there. A couple of the locks remain in place, and they look just like those in landscape artist John Constable’s paintings.
Metamora has a number of vintage shops, restaurants, and the surrounding Franklin County hosts a variety of festivals, including Canal Days, the Old Time Music Festival, and the Antique Machinery show in Brookville, which includes arts and pioneer crafts. One major fall highlight is the Metamora Corn Maze, a ten-acre labyrinth open on October weekends with proceeds benefiting the Canal Trail. If you get lost and start to feel like a well-known student wizard, don’t panic. There is a rescue team!
Other nearby places of interest include Oldenburg to the south, near I-74, with its German flavor and numerous spires. Brookville Lake is east of Metamora, open to swimming, boating, or fishing for walleye, trout, and striped bass. Horseback riding is also available. Whitewater Memorial State Park is at the north end of Brookville Lake, while Mounds State Recreation Area is on the southeastern shore. In addition, there are weekend sightseeing train rides from Metamora to Connersville, and a farmers’ market in Brookville.
The area of Brookville has been the home of several well known persons in the arts, including author Lew Wallace, painters J. Ottis Adams and his friend T. C. Steele at their Hermitage Studio, and John Herron, an original benefactor for the Herron School of Art, Indianapolis.