DNR offering free admission, free fishing on Sunday

Mike Wolanin | The Republic A view of the sign at the entrance to Heflen Park in Edinburgh, Ind., Thursday, May 4, 2023.

Indiana Department of Natural Resources is offering free admission to state parks, recreation areas, forests and reservoirs on Sunday during “Welcome Back Weekend.”

“It’s a way to celebrate spring and the beginning of recreation season,” DNR spokeswoman Casey White said.

Sunday will be the first of four free fishing days this year. On those days, Indiana residents can fish the state’s public waters without a fishing license or trout/salmon stamp. However, White says all other rules such as seasons, bag and size limits will still apply.

Two parks that offer fishing and have recently undergone extensive clean-ups and upgrades are Heflen Park, located near U.S. 31 and Interstate 65 on County Road 700N, Edinburgh and Brown County State Park, located 17 miles west of Columbus on State Road 46 West.

Heflen Park

This is expected to be the first weekend that Heflen Park will open its overnight campground for the season. In recent weeks, workers have put in an extra effort to clear the mud and debris left by a flooded Driftwood River, Bartholomew County Parks Director Rich Day said.

The 35-acre county park offers hiking trails, a playground, basketball, volleyball, and horseshoe areas, as well as an all-purpose playing field.

Based on annual income, Heflen has become one of the two most popular Bartholomew County-managed parks, Day said. The other is Dunn Stadium, long considered the center for county softball and baseball activities.

Plans for Heflen call for restabilizing the banks of the nearby Driftwood River this October, putting up a new playground in the next two years, and installing an amphitheater in the near future, the parks director added.

Brown County State Park

Nicknamed the ‘Little Smokies’ due to it’s resemblance to the Great Smoky Mountains, the 16,000 acres Brown County State Park attracts about 1.2 million visitors annually that include tourists from many other countries. While the park is renowned for the brilliant colors in its fall foliage, property manager Doug Baird said the park attracts nature lovers every spring to enjoy the spring flowers, dogwoods and redbuds.

With the exception of the outdoor swimming pool, all park activities will be open Sunday, the park’s property manager said. Fishing is available at two lakes in the park. Bass and bluegill are stocked at Ogle Lake and the smaller Strahl Lake.

Baird said hiking and mountain biking are popular at the park.

The park has more than 35 miles of mountain bike trails, including trails endorsed by the International Mountain Bicycling Association and Bike Magazine.

The park has 12 hiking trails that total over 18 miles. These trails can be used to access several places of interest in the park, including the two lakes, the Ogle Hollow Nature Preserve, Hesitation Point and the park’s lookout towers.

The park has 20 horse trails that range from less than a mile to nearly 12 miles in length.

Brown County State Park will host its Spring Arts and Crafts event from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday in the Nature Center. Planned activities for all ages include high detail coloring pages, finger puppets and leaf stamping.

Fishing areas

The following public fishing areas in the Bartholomew County area are included in Sunday’s Free Fishing Day:

  • Grouse Ridge Public Fishing Area, County Road 700W southwest of Ogilville
  • Columbus White River Public Access site, southwest corner of Water Street at the East Fork White River
  • Mill Race Park Fishing Access site, Carl Miske Drive, Columbus
  • Driftwood River Lowell Bridge Public Access site, County Road 325W, south of Lowell Road
  • Owens Bend County Park, County Road 25E, northwest of the Columbus Municipal Airport
  • Bill Newton Public Access Site, West Tannehill Road on the east bank of the Driftwood River
  • Atterbury Fish & Wildlife Area, 7970 S. Rowe St., Edinburgh

Other free fishing days being sponsored this year by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources will be June 3-4 and Sept. 23.