McCloud Nature Park
Big Walnut Creek
McCloud is a county park in extreme northwest Hendricks County. It encompasses more than 230 acres and is home to a nature center and more than six miles of trails. At least a dozen individual trails are named and depicted on a color-coded map available at the park. The areas the trails traverse vary considerably in their “wild quality”, but the wide variety of habitat makes for an interesting destination and overall experience. Birds certainly seem to like it, as more than 150 species have been reported here.
The Prairie View Trail is a near loop that begins just south of the nature center and heads south through a restored or constructed prairie area. Tall grasses and prairie wildflowers predominate. There may or may not be a maze near the middle of the prairie. I’ve seen aerial photos showing wolf and bird maze designs, though the motif likely won’t be apparent to an observer on the ground. For woods I’d recommend the short Acorn Pass Trail, which passes through a relatively new but nevertheless nice forest.
Several trails shadow or approach Big Walnut Creek. The views of the creek are a highlight of the park. Big Walnut Creek is an exceptionally scenic and - by Indiana standards, at least - clean waterway. Proposals for an Army Corps of Engineers dam on the Big Walnut appeared in the 1960s but were eventually withdrawn. Since then various land protection organizations, including The Nature Conservancy, Indiana DNR, and the Central Indiana Land Trust have worked hard to preserve land along the Big Walnut, and McCloud is a nice complement to that effort.