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Rose Island

Charlestown State Park

Indiana Southern Lowlands, Indiana

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Rose Island

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  • Welcome to Charlestown State Park, home of Rose Island.- Rose Island
  • Short paved downhill to get to Rose Island.- Rose Island
  • The Portersville Bridge completed its move to Rose Island in 2011.- Rose Island
  • Today's Rose Island sign resembles the original welcome sign.- Rose Island
  • Remains of wishing well from the 1880s, the second oldest structure still standing.- Rose Island
  • Skeletal remains from the Dance Hall grand piano.- Rose Island
  • The original Walkway of Roses was still mostly intact when the site was cleared (the arches are new).- Rose Island
  • The base of the original Rose Island sign, which welcomed thousands of visitors on Ohio River steamboats from Louisville.- Rose Island
  • The remains of the pool concession stand where they rented bathing suits to visitors.- Rose Island
  • The oldest structure in the park, an intact picnic table from the 1880s. Watch out for the lead paint.- Rose Island
  • Interpretive signs include pictures from the island's heyday and markers indicating the flood level (see the blue marker near top).- Rose Island
  • Interpretive audio boxes are powered by hand cranks.- Rose Island
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Step back in time. Easy. Good for the whole family. Be the first of your friends to discover this unknown gem.
Cons: 
Not particularly challenging.
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Region:
Indiana Southern Lowlands, IN
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Net Elevation Gain: 
242.00 ft (73.76 m)
Parking Pass: 
State Park Fee
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
3.00 mi (4.83 km)
Trail type: 
Loop
Trailhead Elevation: 
654.00 ft (199.34 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

Rose Island may be the Machu Picchu of Indiana. The “island,” which is technically not an island, was a popular family recreation spot with a history dating back to the 1880s. That all ended abruptly after a major flood in 1937. Today, you can visit the site and see the long abandoned ruins, much like visiting Machu Picchu…or at least as close as we can get to it in Indiana. It is a fascinating place to visit. 

Rose Island is located in Charlestown State Park on the north banks of the Ohio River, just outside Charlestown, Indiana. Rose Island was originally established as a public park called Fern Grove in the late 1800s. In the 1920s it was converted into an amusement park with a roller coaster, dance hall, hotel and a zoo that hosted 135,000 people a year. It was destroyed by a flood in 1937 and abandoned. In 2016, the State of Indiana dedicated an interpretive trail on the Rose Island site with historical markers and audio clips along the route to transport you back in time when the park was in its heyday.

The trailhead for trails 3 and 4 is at the parking lot. You’ll start on Trail 3, which begins with a sharp paved descent to Fourteenmile Creek.  At 0.6 mile you’ll cross the Portersville Bridge, which has its own interesting story. The bridge spanned the White River for nearly 100 years almost 100 miles away from Rose Island. It was moved piece by piece to its current location, enabling public walking access to Rose Island starting in 2011 for the first time in over 70 years.

The interpretive trail (Trail 7) begins when you cross the bridge and are greeted by the “Rose Island” welcome sign. The trail is an easy, flat, well-groomed 0.9-mile loop that has markers and audio boxes along the way that describe the sights and sounds of Rose Island when it was in its prime. You’ll see the ruins of a fountain, the Olympic-sized pool, columns for the original Rose Island welcome sign and the restored main walkway through the park. Don’t miss the oldest structure in the park on your left as the loop ends, an intact picnic table from the 1880s. 

After you return across the bridge, take an immediate right onto the unpaved portion of Trail 3 to return to the parking lot via the scenic route. This portion of the trail follows Fourteenmile Creek for over a half mile before heading uphill back to the trailhead. The entire figure-eight loop is roughly 3 miles.

If you are up for a few more miles on foot, and would like see some more ruins, Trail 6 is a great option. Return to the main park road, turn left and follow it to the end of the park to reach the Trail 6 Trailhead. This 2.3-mile loop provides views overlooking the Ohio from a bluff, and is on the site where the Indiana Munitions Plant was located during World War II.  

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