52 Hikes in 52 Weeks: Hike 3, Bixler Lake Loop

January 21, 2016

Bixler Lake is the centerpiece of the 530-acre Bixler Lake City Park in Kendallville, Indiana.  The 117-acre lake offers year around fishing, canoeing, kayaking and swimming at one of it’s 2 beaches.  Lifeguards are present at the beaches in the summer.  The park itself offers many opportunities for fun.  Within it’s borders are a campground, playgrounds, pavilions, a softball field, tennis courts, baskets courts, a disc golf course, wildlife viewing platforms and of course, trails!  You can make a complete loop around the lake on a combination of sidewalks, paved and dirt trails.  The distance around the lake is just over 3 miles which makes it perfect for those training for a 5K.  Not surprising, several 5K events are ran on this loop trail each year.  A small entry fee (currently $3) is collected from non-city residents during the summer months.

There are numerous parking areas to choose from within the park.  For this hike, I headed in the main entrance off of Park Avenue, turned left at the first opportunity and then right into the parking area just past the turn.  It’s U-shaped gravel parking area that is popular with people fishing.  From there, we headed north along the sidewalk.  The sidewalk turns east very shortly and follows along a channel separated from the lake by a narrow peninsula.  The peninsula used to contain more trees but several years back, some busy beavers took out many of the large trees.

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The park has several beautiful flower gardens that will be bursting with beautiful colors in a few months.  There are also various works of art scattered throughout.  It is obvious that the park is a source of pride for the city and is meticulously maintained all year long.

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The sidewalk moves away from the lake for a short distance before turning south.  There is a short section where you must walk along the road but sidewalk construction is currently underway.  The road section will take you past a small area with archery targets set at various distances.  The roadway angles back towards the lake before turning to pass around a large playground and picnic area.  Instead of following the road, you can opt to walk along the lake and visit the East Beach.

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The road starts to angle south-east and moves away from the lake.  Here you will pass the ball diamond and campground.  Stay on the paved road to avoid heading into the campground.  Very soon you will come to the Nature Trail portion of the loop.   This part of the trail moves through woods and wetlands providing opportunities for wildlife watching along the way.  Below are the two turtles who joined my herd today, Lyndy and Ryan, standing at one end of the nature trail.

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The nature trail continues south, heading away from the lake before turning west.  Here it passes by a large wetland area with nesting islands for Canadian Geese.  An observation platform offers a great view of the wetland area and would be great for bird watching and photography.

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The trail heads back into the wood as it continues west past the wetlands.

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As you exit the woods, the trail turns to a paved walkway.  Here it enters a maintained area that honors Indiana poet laureate, Arthur Franklin Mapes, author of the official state poem of Indiana.  In season, an herb garden is maintained.  There is parking available here along Sherman Street providing another place to start your loop.

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INDIANA
God crowned her hills with beauty,
Gave her lakes and winding streams,
Then He edged them all with woodlands
As the setting for our dreams.
Lovely are her moonlit rivers,
Shadowed by the sycamores,
Where the fragrant winds of Summer
Play along the willowed shores.
I must roam those wooded hillsides,
I must heed the native call,
For a pagan voice within me
Seems to answer to it all.
I must walk where squirrels scamper
Down a rustic old rail fence,
Where a choir of birds is singing
In the woodland . . . green and dense.
I must learn more of my homeland
For it’s paradise to me,
There’s no haven quite as peaceful,
There’s no place I’d rather be.
Indiana . . . is a garden
Where the seeds of peace have grown,
Where each tree, and vine, and flower
Has a beauty . . . all its own.
Lovely are the fields and meadows,
That reach out to hills that rise
Where the dreamy Wabash River
Wanders on . . . through paradise.

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It is not surprising that the poem sounds like it could be describing the nature trail you are enjoying.  Arthur Franklin Mapes was a lifetime resident of Kendallville, Indiana.  It is very fitting that the park would honor his memory.

The trail now turns back north and returns to sidewalk.  Educational opportunities abound all around the lake and this section of the loop is no different.  You soon come to a series of signs describing our solar system.  The signs are spaced out to show the relative distances of the planets from the sun.

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After reaching the end of the planetary exploration, you come to a small bridge crossing an overflow channel for the lake.  There are often large carp lingering around the bridge during the warmer months.  Once across the bridge, the walk turns back to follow along the west shore of Bixler Lake.  This area contains a fishing pier, boat ramp and a beautifully landscaped gazebo.  During one of our many walks last summer, we came across a wedding ceremony at the gazebo.  Fishing is very popular along this section of the lake.  As we neared the end of our loop, we passed the West Beach.  Of course the beach was empty this time of year but come summer, it will be packed with kids enjoying the sand beach and cool waters of the lake.

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No swimming but ice fishing was certainly popular today!

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About an hour after starting our journey, we found ourselves back where we started.  While you could certainly make the loop in less time, you could also easily spend an entire afternoon exploring and enjoying the many sights along the loop.  The entire loop is stroller accessible as well as dog-friendly for leashed pets.  It’s a great family park and offers year-around opportunities for outdoor recreation.

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