By Stanley Baelz
O’Bannon Woods State Park is a 2,294-acre site which was originally established in 1980 and renamed in 2004 to honor the late Gov. Frank O’Bannon. The park itself is surrounded by Harrison Crawford State Forest(24,000 acres).
Guests visit the park for its peaceful and secluded setting but also for the vast number of outdoor recreational possibilities which include camping, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, cave tours, fishing, swimming, canoeing/kayaking and Birding to name a few.
Several interesting keystone species are found in O’Bannon Woods State Park’s karst landscape. These include the state endangered Allegheny Woodrat that lives in cracks and crevices of the park’s limestone bluffs, the federally endangered Indiana myotis (bat) which hibernates in Wyandotte Cave, blind crayfish found in the caves, and the state endangered hellbender and several species of freshwater mussels found in the Blue River along the park’s western border. The park is also home to several endangered plant species.
Wyandotte Cave State Recreation Area is operated by O’Bannon Woods State Park. The caves were designated a National Natural Landmark in 1972. Big Wyandotte Cave is open seasonally for 2 hour tours to explore a variety of cave features, including “Monument Mountain.” Big Wyandotte is closed from Labor Day to Memorial Day to protect hibernating bats. Little Wyandotte is open for public tours in the summer and group tours can be scheduled the rest of the year. This cave offers a great way for students to get a taste of the features of an Indiana cave.
Hickory Hollow Nature Center/Farmstead is open year-round and interpretive naturalists offer programs daily. The restored 1850’s Haypress is operated 12 times a year for the public and continues to be a crowd favorite. The haypress, an Indiana invention, was developed as a way to “press” large bales of hay for local use and sale. New additions to our facility include Carter and Cash, young Durham Short Horn Oxen who are learning to operate the haypress, and an exhibit that allows you to see a live state endangered hellbender.