Patoka Lake State Park reels in nature lovers of all kinds from across Indiana and beyond. Last Saturday, they came together at the sprawling grounds to escape, grow and surround themselves with life.
Story by Allen Laman | Photos by Marlena Sloss
On the beach. Inside the park. Away from stress. Surrounded by peace. That’s where he became one with the earth.
Gary Carver looked out across the packed beach, digging his hands and feet into the grainy sand, literally melding his body to the soil, reflecting on how the waters, on how the forests, on how all of Patoka Lake State Park shaped him into the man he is today.
“When we came out here, it was always spiritual,” he remembered of early life trips to the regional magnet in the 1980s. “You got to be beyond your surroundings. And then living in the city, you can’t see stuff like this at all. We’re surrounded by concrete and cars.”
Saturday, June 13, he did something he’s done many times, something that many fathers and mothers do. He shared a slice of the sprawling, 26,000 acres of land and water with his three children.
“This is like a mental, physical, visual and spiritual awakening,” Gary said while his 6-year-old son, Skyler, buried his tiny body in the shore just a few feet away.
“You get one with nature,” Gary added. “Playing in the sand; you can’t play in the sand in the streets. There’s just gravel, asphalt, pollution. There’s none of that out here.”
Elijah Northern, 6, of Greenville, flies through the air after his father, Billy, tossed him at the beach. Billy loves the quality family time they get at the lake.
The state park has a widespread pull on beachgoers, kayakers, hikers, campers, bikers, boaters, fishermen, and nature lovers of all ages, backgrounds and financial statuses. From sunup to sundown, guests spoke of the magic that permeates from the massive Southwestern Indiana destination.
The escapism it provides with all-encompassing natural beauty. The new traditions that are made there, that become old traditions when they are passed on to new generations. The community that everyone joins when they set foot on the grass, in the sand or on the trails.
Patoka’s 8,800-acre lake opened across Dubois, Crawford and Orange counties in 1980 primarily to provide flood control, and secondarily, to act as a water supply. But on Saturday, recreation reigned.