Owen Putnam State Forest is a beautiful and remote hardwood forest located in the heart of the southwestern region of Indiana, around 60 miles west of the city of Indianapolis. While the campgrounds are rustic and not as well-groomed for recreation as some campgrounds, they are seldom crowded. There are no hookups for your RV and only the Fish Creek Campground has potable water, so you will want to be sure to collect enough for your visit if you plan on staying at either of the other campgrounds. There are several trails that wind through the beautiful hardwood forests, giving visitors plenty of opportunities to explore the wilderness, either on foot, on horseback, or by bicycle. Depending on which trail you choose, you may see a small cemetery, a number of active waterfalls, or 50-foot sandstone cliffs, as well as several ponds and a large variety of wildlife that choose this mature forest as their home. This area is also a popular spot for hunters looking to bag deer, turkey, foxes, and other small mammals and game birds. Hunting is a prevalent activity from the late fall to early spring, so RV campers should be sure to wear an orange safety vest when traversing the area during the hunting season.
Owen Putnam State Forest is comprised of several groupings of unspoiled hardwood forests and surrounding lands that sit approximately 60 miles west of the city of Indianapolis. The three rustic campgrounds that serve Owen Putnam State Forest are situated in the southeastern portion of the forest, and the nearest town is Spencer, located just under six miles to the southeast. If you are traveling along I-70, you will have the option to turn off at either exit 37 or exit 41 to reach your destination. Exiting at 37 will take you down State Road 243, a stunning drive that travels through many miles of scenic forests punctuated by a few tiny communities, but it does have several twists and turns and may be more difficult to navigate in a larger rig or if towing a trailer. Exiting at 41 will take you down State Road 231 instead, which contains fewer twists and turns, traveling through a more agricultural area with several small towns along the route. These campgrounds have not really been groomed for recreational activities like some of the other campgrounds in Indiana. The roads that lead to them are dirt roads that receive very little in the way of maintenance, so they tend to be a bit challenging to navigate. Drive cautiously and be wary of deer crossing the road.
The Fish Creek Campground is one of three rustic campgrounds located in the southeastern portion of Owen Putnam State Forest, and the only one that has access to potable water. There are no electric, water, or sewer hookups at any of the campgrounds, however, generators are allowed at any time except during the park’s quiet hours, from 11 PM until 7 AM. Fish Creek campground is located just inside the park’s entrance and is comprised of 14 tent and RV primitive sites, each with a fire ring, grill, and picnic table. Other amenities include a playground in the back of the camping areas and nearby vault toilets. Pets are also welcome in Owen Putnam State Forest but must be confined or restrained by a six-foot or shorter leash.
The Horse Campground is one of three rustic campgrounds located in the southeastern portion of Owen Putnam State Forest. There is no potable water at this site so you will need to get a supply at the nearby Fish Creek Campground. Generators are permitted at any time except during the park’s quiet hours between 11 PM and 7 AM, but there are no electric, water, or sewer hookups at any of the campgrounds. The Horse Campground is a little more secluded than the Fish Creek Campground and has 15 primitive sites, available on a first-come, first-served basis. They are typically flat sites that are suitable for either tents or rigs, each with a fire ring, grill, and picnic table. Other amenities include a playground in the back of the camping areas and nearby vault toilets. Pets are also welcome in Owen Putnam State Forest but must be confined or restrained by a six-foot or shorter leash and be accompanied by a responsible adult at all times.
The Rattlesnake Campground is situated at the top of Rattlesnake Road, approximately ten miles from Horse campground. It is one of three small, primitive campgrounds in the southeastern portion of Owen Putnam State Forest. If you decide to park your vehicle at one of the 40 Rattlesnake Campground sites, you will need to obtain water at the Fish Creek Campgrounds as this site has no potable water. The sites are suitable for either tents or RVs, each with a fire ring, grill, and a picnic table. The sites lack hookups for electricity, water, or sewer, but generators may be employed anytime, with the exception of quiet hours between 11 PM and 7 AM. There is also a playground situated at the back of the camping areas and vault toilets nearby the campsites. Pet can accompany you in the campgrounds and on trails but must be confined or kept on a six-foot or shorter leash at all times.
If you enjoy remote hikes through hardwood forests you will want to be sure and bring a pair of hiking boots in your campervan. Hiking is allowed on all of the forest access trails, the bridle trails, and bicycling trails, giving you an opportunity to explore rolling hills and investigate a 50-foot sandstone bluff. Hikers who are exploring the region during hunting seasons, which can extend from early fall to late spring, should put on orange safety vests or clothing.
There are several trails that wander through the state park that are suitable for traveling by horseback. Sandstone Bluff is the shortest of the equine trails at 1.7 miles, passing by a waterfall and the 50-foot sandstone bluff it was named for. The Pleasant Grove trail passes by an old cemetery and is just a little bit longer at 1.8 miles. The Bridle Loop trail is a ten-mile trail that travels between Horse Campground and Rattlesnake Campground. Make sure to obtain an annual horse use tag before utilizing trails on Indiana Department of Natural Resources properties.
The Owen Putnam State Forest is home to many different species of wildlife. There is an abundance of animals such as deer, foxes, tanagers, squirrels and several species of warblers that live in the hardwood forests. Bobcats, mink, bats, and birds of prey, such as hawks and owls, are also plentiful in the area but may be harder to spot. If you are lucky you may even see pygmy or smoky shrews, both species of special concern, as they make their way through the undergrowth.
Mountain bikes are not allowed on the main hiking trails in Owen Putnam State Forest, but there is no need to leave your bike resting in your campervan. A good portion of the Bridle Trail, designated by blue signs, is open for mountain biking as well. It is a moderately difficult ride that you will be sharing with equine riders and the maximum safe speed along this trail is 15 MPH. It is recommended that safety gear is worn, including a helmet, and during hunting season, highly visible orange clothing should be worn.
Sportsmen and women should pack their hunting gear in their trailer when preparing to visit Owen Putnam State Park during the hunting season, which runs from late fall until early spring. The ample hardwood forests provide many opportunities to hunt deer and wild turkeys, as well as fox, coyote, and other small game. Make sure that you have the proper licenses before heading out on your hunt, and check regulations to see what type of weaponry is allowed at the time you are hunting. Remember that you are sharing this area with hikers, cyclists, and horseback riders, and be cautious about where you are shooting.
Geocaching is a worldwide scavenger hunt made possible by current GPS and cellular phone technology. Using GPS technology, participants search for small containers referred to as caches that are placed by other players. Inside each cache players will find a logbook or log sheet where they can record their find, and in many cases, a small trinket to take home. Trinkets should be replaced by the finder with an item of similar value. Many RVers enjoy placing and moving the trackable tokens that can sometimes be found in caches as well. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources encourages geocaching activities on their lands, but do require licensing for the initial placement of the cache.