Update: McCormick’s Creek State Park Struggles to Recover from Devastating Tornado

Still image from DNR video

Staff report (written from a DNR press release)

SPENCER, Ind. – June 14, 2023

As the recovery efforts at McCormick’s Creek State Park continue, the impact of the destructive F3 tornado that struck on March 31, 2023, becomes increasingly apparent. The film footage captured during the storm serves as a stark reminder of the immense power it unleashed. With winds surpassing 158 miles per hour, the tornado left a trail of destruction, particularly targeting trees and structures within its direct path.

The majority of trees in the tornado’s trajectory were either blown down or snapped, resulting in a landscape transformed by fallen timber. Even the topography of the park underwent abrupt and dramatic changes. The force of the tornado created numerous pit-and-mound features as uprooted trees tore their root balls from the ground. While such features typically form over the lifespan of a forest, their sudden appearance during the storm poses significant challenges for the reopening of the campground.

The upheaval caused by the exposed roots has inflicted damage on critical infrastructure, including roads, electrical lines, water systems, and sewer lines. As a result, the campground will remain closed indefinitely as authorities assess the extensive damage. The facilities within the campground require comprehensive evaluation, repair, and, in some cases, redesign to ensure their future viability.

Although the impact on the beloved campground and trails is disheartening, there is an air of optimism for the future. This catastrophic event provides an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the forces of nature while also presenting a chance to rebuild the campground and trails for the enjoyment of future generations.

As the recovery process unfolds, several facilities within the park have managed to resume operations. The Canyon Inn welcomes visitors for lodging, dining, and group use, while the Nature Center has reopened with interpretive programming. The Saddle Barn is ready to accommodate riders, and family cabins, Camp McCormick, and Camp NaWaKwa are open for rental, with affected reservation holders being contacted. Shelters and recreation buildings, with the exception of Beech Grove Shelter and Friendly Recreation Building, are accessible. The park pool is also open for the season.

Regarding the trails within McCormick’s Creek State Park, Trail 1 (McCormick’s Cove Nature Preserve) remains open, while Trail 2 (Statehouse Quarry) is closed due to significant damage. Visitors are advised to respect closure signs and refrain from venturing beyond them. Trail 3 (McCormick’s Creek Waterfall) allows access to view the waterfall, but the wooden trail structure is damaged, necessitating caution. Trail 4 (Fire Tower) is open and the fire tower remains undamaged and accessible. Unfortunately, Trail 5 (Wolf Cave Nature Preserve) and Trail 6 within the campground are closed due to substantial damage. Similarly, Trails 7 and 10 (Canyon Rim, Creek, and McCormick’s Cove Nature Preserve) have encountered significant damage to their structures, warranting closure. Trail 8 (Accessible Trail) is partially open from the pool/nature center area, but it is closed beyond Pine Bluff Shelter, where it leads to the campground and Trail 5. Trail 9 (Deer Run/Peden Farmstead) is open for visitors.

For more information on the amenities and attractions available at McCormick’s Creek State Park, please visit on.IN.gov/mccormickscreek.

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