Sunny and I were in Bloomington, IN visiting her best friend and on the way home stopped at Cataract Falls State Recreation Area in Spencer, IN. What a wonderful place and a great way to break up the trip. Since it was a Sunday when the leaves were at their peak, there were a lot of other people who had the same idea. Despite that the trail was not overcrowded and we had a great time.
The main attraction of Cataract Falls State Recreation Area are the upper and lower falls. You can get a view of the upper falls by walking across the grassy area in front of the parking area. Although you can not walk out on the falls, you can enjoy viewing them from either the grass or an elevated platform.
After checking out the falls you can explore the only surviving covered bridge in Owen County. This bridge was constructed in 1875 and used for vehicular traffic until 1988 when traffic was diverted to a concrete bridge. Robert Smith built the bridge using a simple latticework of crossing timbers instead of the more popular Burr Arch trusses. In 2000 the bridge received extensive repairs and in 2005 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Sunny and I enjoyed walking on the bridge and looking through the windows that overlook the falls.
Hike to the Falls
Next we decided to find the trail to the lower falls. We again walked past the upper falls and across the grass to the start of the trail. The trail is a typical dirt trail, but does have a steep decline shortly after starting (pictures below are of the return trip when we had to climb up the area we climbed down). This is not recommended for anyone with stability or mobility issues as it requires climbing over tree roots and steep natural steps. The rest of the trail is fairly flat and follows the creek. We found a spot to get down near the water and several areas to get down onto large stones in the creek. Sunny LOVED that.
About three quarters of the way the trail ends at Picnic Road which leads to a picnic area. Continue past the picnic bench and look for the sign for lower falls and the continuation of the trail. This section of the trail continues through the woods, along the creek, and to the lower falls. After viewing the falls and taking a few pictures, we reversed our path back to the upper falls and the car. The total distance of our hike was just over 2M.
Sunny and I give Cataract Falls State Recreation Area 4 out of 4 paws up. This is a beautiful area with the opportunity to see 2 waterfalls and hike along the creek. There are paths to get down to the creek and walk along the large stones which Sunny quite enjoyed. The trail along the creek between the falls is scenic and challenging. There is plenty of parking and restrooms. You can also picnic in several areas. This area really has something for everyone and is especially gorgeous in the fall when the leaves turn colors. We enjoyed our short visit and highly recommend this adventure.
How Do I get There?
The address for Cataract Falls State Recreation Area is 2605 N. Cataract Rd. in Spencer, IN. From US-231 turn onto N. Cataract Rd/Cataract Falls Rd/County Rd 1050 N. Continue for 3M and turn right at Owen Park Rd. After going through the entry gate and paying ($7 for Indiana residents, $10 for non-residents – fee is for the car, not each individual), you can either park on the right near the upper falls or continue up the road and park at the lower falls.
For more information about Cataract Falls State Recreation Area check out the Indiana Department of Nature Resources website.