This week it was obvious that the combination of warmer weather and impending loss of sanity required us to venture over the horizon in search of adventure. Throwing a dart at the map, our decided target was the upper Wabash region with the first goal being the somewhat obscure National Natural Landmark known as Hanging Rock.
After a long morning drive and a couple of wrong turns, I suddenly and unexpectedly found my objective towering over countryside.
Hanging Rock is an undercut Silurian limestone rock that towers nearly 90 feet above the Wabash River. What makes the rock so unusual is the fact that it seems wholly out of place in the otherwise flat and agriculture-infested landscape of the area.
Parking in the small pull-off that barely accommodates a couple of vehicles, we found no indications that the area is open to the public though it is owned by Ft. Wayne-based nonprofit group ACRES, Inc. The area is open to hiking and fishing though the longest walk is about 30 yards in length, albeit at a 45-degree angle.
I climbed to the top of the pinnacle on a well-worn path. Once on top, with no handholds or guardrails, the sensation was enough to induce the slightest fluttering of butterflies in the stomach as I took pictures. Groups with small children are strongly urged not to climb the rock.
The view from the top is expansive. Standing atop the rock in the still gray morning, I could hear traffic on nearby U.S 24 and the reverberating echo of a southbound Norfolk Southern freight train three miles away.
After the obligatory contemplation, I climbed down and poked around the base of the rock while noting that “Jim loves Sarah” and “Smoke Dope” seemed to be the prevailing sentiment of earlier river explorers who had left their mark on the limestone. Once again, I silently muttered a horrible curse upon graffiti artists everywhere. If you see someone defacing an overpass and his or her skin suddenly falls off, you can thank me.
Back in the car I drove south for two miles to the Salamonie State Forest and Reservoir of the same name. In my long outdoor career I had never visited the area and was intrigued to see what I had been missing.
I will say that the state forest was less than impressive. It has all the usual amenities and a nice visitor center but the gently rolling woodlands are obviously young and lack much in the way of scenic beauty or interest. There are many trails, especially horse trails, but the overall sense is walking through a large suburban woodlot instead of mature forest. This is not really a gripe about the area; we just want to alert visitors who might be used to the mature second-growth forests of southern Indiana that Salamonie is primarily full of scrubby undergrowth and spindly pines.
The spillway fishing area was a bit difficult to find but worth the trouble. It seems very reminiscent of dams in Tennessee as one side of the outflow is a 70-foot rock cut. A long stairway from the parking area allows access to the area.
Below the spillway more than a half-dozen fisherman were busy wading and casting away for walleye in the rock-strewn pool below the dam. The area seemed much more picturesque and inviting than many such areas such as the sterile raceway below nearby Mississinewa dam.
Speaking with the group of anglers, no one had yet suffered tennis elbow from landing fish but there was one legal-sized walleye on a stringer and another fisherman netted a 20- inch catfish that fell for a chartreuse jig among the rocks.
Leaving the area, we traveled cross-country to Missessinewa Reservoir. The reservoir is now ready for its second full season of fishing after having sat empty for four years due to emergency dam repairs.
After having been drained so long, much of the lake bottom had grown up in head-high brush and weeds. Once the lake was raised back to summer levels in 2005, the brush was flooded and the whole lake essentially became a giant hatchery pond.
Fisherman last year did not report any exceptional catches but many are watching the reservoir closely. The hope is that that fishing will slowly peak over the next couple of years before settling back to normal levels. Currently the lake is partially drained in anticipation of spring rain.
Hacking through the lake-bottom forest to reach the water, I can attest that boaters will need to stay vigilant to avoid boat or prop damage. Depending on lake levels, you might be better off trying to motor through a formal hedge than try to bust through some of Mississinewa’s coves. Of course, we’ll try to give you a fishing report as soon as possible.
My boat repair shop is on full alert.
IF YOU GO:
Hanging Rock Natural Area: Hanging Rock is located south of the Wabash River on Division Road, east of State Route 524 near Lagro, Indiana, in Wabash County.