Posted by: kerryl29 | November 3, 2016

Celebrating the Centenary of Turkey Run State Park

Turkey Run State Park, located in west-central Indiana, was dedicated in 1916.  I recently received a book celebrating Turkey Run’s 100th birthday as the state’s second oldest state park.  (McCormick’s Creek State Park is the oldest, having been founded earlier the same year.)  A Place Called Turkey Run:  A Celebration of Indiana’s Second State Park in Pictures and Words by Daniel P. Shepardson is exactly what the title states:  a celebration of Turkey Run State Park.

Shepardson, a professor of geoenvironmental and science education at Purdue University (located in West Lafayette, Indiana, a relatively short distance from Turkey Run) has produced a 200-page hard back book that is a paean to Turkey Run; it’s clear that this is place that Professor Shepardson loves.  The book’s introduction notes that Shepardson has been visiting the park on a regular basis for more than 25 years and his experience shows, in the book’s prose as well as its images.

Bridle Path, Turkey Run State Park, Indiana

Bridle Path, Turkey Run State Park, Indiana

The book includes more than 250 photographs that thoroughly document the park’s natural features, in all four seasons.  I have photographed, on a number of occasions, at Turkey Run myself–most recently in April of this year–and I can tell you that it’s an extremely challenging place to shoot.  (Note:  All of the images accompanying this post are mine, not from the book.)  The majority of the park’s landscape is in the form of either dense woodland or deep canyons and ravines…or both.  Mixed lighting is essentially endemic to the locale and can be quite difficult to tame.  Most spots in the park can be quite chaotic, compositionally speaking.  But the book’s photographs do a nice job of showing the beauty, and the variety of subjects, to be found in the park, in a variety of climatic conditions.

Bluebells, Turkey Run State Park, Indiana

Bluebells, Turkey Run State Park, Indiana

The book is divided into six chapters:  Sandstone; Bluffs and Canyons; Flowing Water; Snow and Ice; Tall Trees; and Flowers, Ferns and Fungi.  Each chapter opens with extended introductory comments about the category.  The focus of the text is to put the subjects in a geological context–and an earth sciences context more broadly– with discussions of minerals in the Sandstone and Bluffs and Canyons chapters; discussion of sediments and alluvial flow in the Flowing Water and Snow and Ice chapters; and organisms and natural science broadly in the Tall Trees and Flowers, Ferns and Fungi chapters.

Rocky Hollow, Turkey Run State Park, Indiana

Rocky Hollow, Turkey Run State Park, Indiana

If you’re wondering if the scientific tenor of the book’s text is helpful to a photographic interest in the park, the answer is yes.  Understanding your subject matter with a naturalist’s sensibility can assist your nature photography by helping you anticipate events, scenes and subjects.  A comprehension of the impact of glacial activity during the last Ice Age on the formation of the park’s canyons, for instance, can be of help in seeking out different rock strata for the creation of abstract imagery.  Knowing a thing or two about the critical role of the movement of water in sculpting the Turkey Run landscape can be of immense assistance in creating compelling intimate compositions.  Knowledge of how the density of the leaf canopy impacts the amount of light conveyed to the forest floor not only provides important technical information for photographers, it’s also of undeniable benefit in predicting the presence–or absence–of certain subject matter at different times of the year.

And don’t misunderstand; while the nature of the book’s prose is occasionally quasi-scientific, it remains entirely approachable to the layman.  You won’t be bogged down with excessive jargon or concepts that are opaque.

Punch Bowl, Turkey Run State Park, Indiana

Punch Bowl, Turkey Run State Park, Indiana-

The book’s images provide a thorough look at the park’s natural features and, as I mentioned earlier, does so in all four seasons.  I’ve been to the park numerous times over the past dozen or so years, but all of my visits have come in either the spring or fall.  It was fascinating to obtain an extensive look at how the park appears in winter.

Turkey Run is a singular place.  I’ve heard photographers compare it to Starved Rock State Park in Illinois and Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio.  I’ve visited both places and photographed them extensively.  While there are some similarities, I think they’re more superficial than substantive.  Turkey Run is unique unto itself.  And the images in this book do a better job of capturing the park’s individuality than anything I’ve seen before or expect to see in the future.

The book is available from Purdue University Press and I recommend it to anyone with any interest at all in Indiana’s second oldest state park.


  1. Beautiful spot, never been to this part of the United States.

    • This is definitely not one of the planet’s nature photography garden spots, but there are gems here and there; you just have to poke around a bit to find them.

  2. Great review of this book Kerry, and I really enjoyed seeing your beautiful images that you shared here,

    • Thanks, Carol!

  3. […] small streams with some canyon-ish areas reminiscent of Starved Rock (Illinois), Turkey Run (Indiana) and Hocking Hills […]

  4. […] on both sides of me.  This was Parphey’s Glen proper, and it reminded me of some spots at Turkey Run State Park in Indiana.  It was at this point that some kind of waterproof footwear was not merely a […]

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