Bonneyville Mill County Park

Bridge over Little Elkhart River at Bonneyville Mill County Park

I picked up the brochure for the Bonneyville Mill County Park the last time we visited Elkhart County, Indiana and today we finally visited it. I am so glad that we did. What we found was a beautiful park with some historic buildings, trails in the woods and along the Little Elkhart River, and several areas to picnic. This park is well worth the drive and a spot we’ll visit again.

History of the Mill

In the 1830’s Edward Bonney envisioned a city centered around a saw and grist mill on the Little Elkhart River. He selected the location for its proximity to the Toledo/Chicago trail and the St. Joseph River and built a mill with a horizontal water wheel. Unfortunately the railroads bypassed the area and the proposed canal system was not developed. This ended Bonney’s dream of an urban hub so he sold the grist mill.

Despite the sale, the mill continued to operate and provide local farmers and merchants with flour. Then during the Depression the mill owners formed the Bonneyville Power and Electric Company. They supplied hydroelectric power to about 45 customers. They continued to provide livestock feed, custom grinding, and the “Famous Buckwheat Pancake Flour” into the early 50’s. The mill was sold in 1968 and presented to the Elkhart County Park and Recreation board in 1969. Today the mill continues to grind corn, wheat, rye, and buckwheat from mid-April through mid-November.

Our Adventure

After parking the car we noticed two red buildings in the distance. As we approached we found the first one was the restrooms which were much needed after our 75 minute drive. Then we started to walk toward the second building which was the Feedlot, a shelter with picnic tables. As we walked along the sidewalk we noticed a large field to our right and heard running water that Sunny was very interested in investigating. We found a small waterfall and another bridge. After a photo of Sunny by the waterfall we walked over the bridge and found some dirt and grass trails in the woods. These were a little muddy since we recently had rain, but nothing too difficult to walk around.

restrooms and feedlot
bridge to feedlot
waterfall at Bonneyville Mill county Park
bridge to trails
crossing bridge to trails

The trails travel through the woodlands and marshes and follow the Little Elkhart River. As we walked we found another small waterfall and several areas that overlooked the water. As we continued we approached a sign directing us to the Kum Mol Rie Shelter. We followed the grass trail which led to a large field and the picnic shelter. To the left of the shelter were more grass trails. These trails make up the North Loop and wind around for 3.5M. These trails are relatively easy, but would be not be appropriate for those needing mobility devices.

on the trail
second waterfall
checking out Little Elkhart River
Kum Mol Rie shelter at Bonneyville Mill County Park
north loop trail

After exploring the North Loop trails we retraced our steps to the first waterfall and walked across the field behind the feedlot to the mill. The trail near the mill is short, but provides a nice view of the mill and the river. After exploring that we crossed back over the road to the large picnic area adjacent to the parking lot. We rested under the shade trees and looked at the brochure trying to find the other trails. As I was looking around I noticed a sign across the street for the Valley Line Shelter.

the mill
the feedlot
picnic area

We decided to cross the road and see if these were the other trails…and they were! We climbed the stairs to the shelter and then found dirt trails in the woods. Although there are many intersecting trails, they are short and wind back to the start making it difficult to get lost. After walking along the Valley Line Loop, which consists of just over a mile of trails, we found a sign for the mountain bike trails. These comprise the South Loop trails and traverse for nearly 3 miles.

Valley Line Loop
up to the Valley Line shelter

The mountain bike trails are narrow dirt trails that wind throughout the woods. They have some inclines and some exposed roots making these the most challenging of all the trails. Despite that I would mostly rate them as easy with some moderate sections. These would not be appropriate for those with stability or mobility issues. We managed to hike for nearly 4M, but if you did every trail you could hike about 7M.

on the mountain bike trail at Bonneyville Mill County Park
on the mountain bike trail
on the mountain bike trail

Our Rating

Sunny and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Bonneyville Mill County Park and rate it 3.5 out of 4 paws up. The only reason we did not rate it 4 paws up is the trails are not all that challenging. Despite that this park really does have it all – wonderful trails in the woods, a river with small waterfalls, picnic areas, and some history. There is also plenty of parking and a restroom.

How Do I Get There?

From IN-120 turn south onto CR-131 and continue for half a mile. You will pass the mill on the right with a Bonneyville Mills sign and come to an intersection. Turn left to stay on CR-131 and a short distance later turn left into the gravel parking lot.

Bonneyville Mill County Park sign

For more information about Bonneyville Mill County Park, check out the Elkhart County Parks website.

Bonneyville Mill County Park

Park Map

Leave a Reply