NORTH SALEM — If you find yourself lost in a prairie that resembles a bat, odds are you’re at McCloud Nature Park. The county park will open its third annual Prairie Maze on Sept. 15, a week before it hosts its fall festival.
The fall festival runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 22. The Prairie Maze will be open from dusk to dawn each day from Sept. 15 through Oct. 31.
Hendricks County Parks Director Bill Roche said the maze takes about two days for designers to complete.
“The theme is always different,” he said. “In the past we’ve done a pumpkin and a spider web. This time we’re doing a massive outline of a bat.”
The maze is open to park visitors of all ages, but anyone age 10 and younger should be accompanied by an adult, he said.
“It’s free and fun to immerse yourself in a 52-acre prairie, surrounded by one of the most beautiful nature parks in Hendricks County,” Roche said.
The fall festival is sort of the park’s way of welcoming fall, Roche said. There will be an apple pie judging contest, Native American crafts, a guided tour of the park, and other activities.
The degree of difficulty for the maze, Roche said, depends on the person.
“It depends on how clever they are,” he said. “This one might be easier than we’ve done in the past. We’ve had others that were quite challenging. But if they’re savvy enough with the map, they can get done (fairly quickly).”
In spite of the summer’s drought, Roche says he expects a decent turnout for the maze throughout its run.
“The prairie is not nearly as tall as normal,” he said. “Normally it’s very similar to a corn maze where you can’t see very far, but even with the drought, it will provide a nice barrier. Unfortunately, we’ve seen reduced diversity in wildflowers. But I know a lot of people really enjoy it and there are always a lot of smiles. It’s always been popular.
“I’d have to say the most enjoyable thing about it is the camaraderie. You can see and hear people across the maze and talk to them across a section of six-foot prairie and they’re just as lost as you are. There’s a neat and fun element when you get a bunch of people lost in the prairie all asking one another if they know the way out.”
At 232 acres, McCloud Nature Park has more than six miles of hiking trails, access to Big Walnut Creek, year-round programs at the nature center, fishing, modern restrooms and picnic facilities, interactive exhibits, a restored 99-year-old iron truss bridge, bird viewing and a resource library, weekly nature programs, abundant wildlife, and a pavilion with tables available for rental.
The park is at 8518 N. Hughes Road, North Salem. It’s open daily from dusk to dawn and there is no admission fee.
Just the facts
WHAT: McCloud Nature Park Fall Festival
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 22
WHERE: McCloud Nature Park in North Salem