In a past column I featured two of the most unique Indiana state forests, Greene-Sullivan and Covered Bridge. The later at only 300 acres is also the smallest Indiana state forest, but is in reality a state forest retreat and is set up more for family recreation. Greene-Sullivan is an area that was once stripped for coal and later reclaimed and allowed to revert back to nature with over 100 lakes that were pits that have been allowed to fill with water and are now great places to catch large fish.
Several other state properties also once were sites where the land was mined for coal, stripped, somewhat reclaimed and ten allowed to become a more natural setting. One, Shakamak, has been given more attention and is now a state park. Two other old strip mine sites are now state recreation areas. These are Redbird, a 1,450-acre area near Dugger in Sullivan County and Interlake, a 3.500-acre site in both Warrick and Pike counties near the town of Lynnville. Both of these former mined out areas are set up for off road motorized usage. They also offer opportunities for those who don’t like to bounce up and down trails and slip around in the mud.
Redbird allows fishing in some of its lakes, hiking and wildlife watching. Interlake has trails that are set up for all terrain vehicles, motorcycles, trucks and sport utility vehicles. It also has trails for trail riding, lakes to fish in and some other recreational activities.
Four other strip mine lands are now state fish and wildlife areas. They are 2,532-acre Blue Grass; 2,165-acre Chinook; 3,400- Hillenbrand; and the 8.100-acre Sugar Ridge. Blue Grass is in Warrick County, east of Evansville, Chinook is east of Terre Haute, Hillenbrand is in Greene County north of Linton, while Sugar Ridge has a number of sites in both Pike and Warrick counties. Sugar Ridge, with its 8,000 plus acres has a very diverse terrain. There is a large amount of old strip mine land that has not been reclaimed. This land features rolling mounds of dirt left behind after it was mined.
These little hills are now covered with a variety of trees and other vegetation and provide habitat for many kinds of birds, mammals and other species of wildlife.
Lakes that are really pits left over after the coal has been removed are one of the chief attractions of Sugar Ridge. They vary in size and almost all are stocked with several kinds of game fish. Some upland woods that were not mined have some nice forests of hardwoods while the mined sites have a lot of pine trees.
Fishing and hunting in season are two of the features that bring in the most people to Sugar Ridge. Fishing in the old pits is usually very good, and deer, wild turkey and other game are also very common. Its varied habitat also makes this a prime location for wildlife viewing. There are also some target ranges for shotgun, rifle, pistol and archery. If you like a varied outdoor experience then Sugar Ridge should be your cup of tea.
Blue Grass has 28 pit lakes and some are quite large. There is good fishing in most of the lakes and hunting is allowed in season. The grassland sections of Blue Grass are prime habitat for several species of birds and there is always a chance to see short eared owls and other uncommon birds that like a grassy habitat.
Chinook and Hillenbrand are much like both Blue Grass and Sugar Ridge and offer many of the same attractions. Old strip mine land can indeed by a quality place to have a great outdoor visit.