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Madison Heritage Trail
NOTE: To find the name of a trail on this map, please move the cursor of your mouse onto the trail line. Left click. The name and length of the trail will show in a balloon.
Though this trail is only partially completed, the stretch that’s open gives another reason to visit Madison, Indiana, a town that seems to have more festivals and events and places to visit than Carters has pills or peanuts, as the saying goes.
The town itself has two distinct parts or levels, owing to natural features: one above the river on the cliff tops, and the original, lower Madison that grew up along the Ohio River in the heydays of steamboats and the railroad. The Madison Historic Trail will provide a non-motorized link between these two areas.
The trail’s builders tackled high-difficulty parts first, so the currently-open mile segment is the often-steep descent (or ascent for those wanting more challenge) from upper Madison to the river valley. As such, bikers or other speedy users will want to be cautious. The views are worth the trek, however. Eventually, the trail will include an 1855 railroad bridge across Crooked Creek. The bridge has been disassembled and removed from its original location in Washington County.
To get to the upper trail head, turn off SR 7 into the old Madison State Hospital Grounds; part of this is now a correctional facility and other state offices. The entrance is marked by a sign and a couple of pillars on either side of the road. The drive back into these very spacious grounds is long and can be confusing to someone looking for the trail. Head toward and past the veteran’s cemetery. Keep going for a bit and almost to the edge of the hilltop is a Madison Heritage Trail sign on the right and a gravel parking area.
The trail drops quickly down, but the upper portion is more gentle. It offers classic views of the Ohio River Valley, some spectacular cliff faces, springs, wildlife, and the hillside foliage in summer or fall is also a treat. Though the trail grade picks up as you go down, there are benches along the way, and guard/fence rails along the drop-offs keep you from taking the quick way down!
For post-trail things to do, Madison’s annual festivals and events include the Chautauqua of Arts, Ribberfest, Madison Regatta hydroplane races, Ohio River Folk Festival, Plein Air pain-touts, and these are just a few. A once in two-centuries, 200-hour bicentennial party takes place in June, 2009.
Places of interest in or nearby are Clifty Falls State Park, Hanover College, Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge (formerly Jefferson Proving Grounds), several wineries, art galleries, the Lanier Mansion State Historic Site, many antique and specialty shops, restaurants, abundant fall foliage, and, yes, there’s a casino just upriver!
Founded in 1809 on its river corridor, Madison has been named by the National Park Service as a Designated National Register Historic District.