Elusive fall colors at Jackson-Schnyder, Raccoon SRA

Given the slow pace of fall color change here in Southern Indiana, I was more than ready to wander West-Central Indiana on Oct. 22 in search of images for my Northern Indiana guidebook project and, hopefully, revel in some of the familiar reds, oranges, yellows and golds Indiana autumn is world-famous for. It was, after all, a picture-perfect Sunday autumn afternoon.

I got what I needed in terms of book images from the Jackson-Schnyder Nature Preserve near Terre Haute and the Raccoon State Recreation Area (SRA) to the east in the rolling Parke County farmland near Rockville. But the color was another story.

During a heavily wooded drive from Bloomington to Terre Haute, I saw one tree with color, in Bowling Green, and it didn’t exactly shimmer. I found only one with an electric yellow hue at Jackson-Schnyder, a 15-acre preserve in Vigo County. On a rugged, two-mile hike on the 4,065-acre Raccoon, brilliant, backlit colors were at a minimum.

Jackson-Schnyder sits just south and west of St. Mary of the Woods College. The property, with its mature hardwoods, two ravines and a former farm field converted into prairie, was donated to the nonprofit Ouabache Land Conservancy by Marion T. Jackson, an environmental science professor who taught at Indiana State University and St. Mary.

This 15-acre Dedicated State Nature Preserve is co-named after Swiss immigrant Julius Schnyder, who purchased the land in 1921. He sold it in 1969 to Jackson who, according to the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, used it as a personal retreat and outdoor laboratory for students. Schnyder died the next year on his 81st birthday.

The un-timbered preserve supports a wide selection of woodland and prairie plant and animal species.

Raccoon SRA is located on the shores of the 2,060-acre Cecil M. Harden Lake and features boating, camping and five hiking trails. I hiked Trail 4, the most rugged, which was simultaneously inspiring and disappointing due to the lack of colors.

It is so named due to its location on Big Raccoon Creek, which was dammed to create Harden Lake. Originally called Mansfield Lake after the nearby town of Mansfield, the lake was built between 1956 and 1960. It was renamed in 1974 in honor of Congresswoman Cecil Murray Harden, who represented the area from 1949 to 1959 and led efforts to raise money for the lake project.
The Raccoon SRA features scenic lake overlooks, second growth and mature woodlands, steep ravines and rugged sandstone cliffs.

Photographs: Top, Jackson-Schnyder Nature Preserve; Left, Bottom, Raccoon Lake SRA.


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