I remember driving (about an hour, via I-74) to this park from Cincinnati, where I was staying at the time. It was a Monday, and it had rained hard over the weekend. I found that a couple of the trails were closed, due to high water. Laughery Creek was high, and some of the trails were rutted out a bit, but I had a good time, and the trail conditions made it a bit more challenging than it otherwise might have been. This is a beautiful place to hike, ride your mountain bike or go on horseback. I also especially fondly remember the Busching Covered Bridge and riding my bike over and back the 176 feet long Howe truss bridge. The bridge crosses Laughery Creek at one of the west entrances to Versailles State Park. This covered bridge was built in 1885 and is still in use today (weight limited and one lane only) as Ripley County’s East County 25 Road South.
Indiana’s second largest state park wasn’t originally established as a state park. In 1934, the U.S. government bought plots of farmland to develop the 1,700-acre Versailles Federal Park. Workers immediately began constructing roads and barracks in preparation for the arrival of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) the following year. At Versailles, CCC crews constructed a variety of stonework projects including paths, retaining walls, and public facilities like Oak Grove Shelter. The largest building in the park, Oak Grove Shelter has hosted countless reunions, gatherings, and weddings. The shelter remains in use today for large groups and events. This state park is also rich in Civil War history as well. Around July 8th, 1863 a Confederate general named John Morgan disobeyed his orders and crossed the Ohio River into southern Indiana. The city of Versailles was briefly under Confederate control until Union reinforcements arrived. The Civil War action became known as Morgan’s Raid and Indiana has placed historical markers so that you could follow Morgan and his troop’s path through this state park.
The Versailles Federal Park was given to Indiana’s Department of Conservation in 1943 and renamed and added to become the 5988-acre Versailles State Park. The 230-acre Versailles Lake was created in 1954 when a dam was built across Laughery Creek and the lake provides for some great fishing and boating now. A 25-meter pool and a 100-foot waterslide were added to the park in 1987. There are more than 20 miles of horse trails here and you can walk to the steps of a scenic overlook at the dam which is a prime spot to see herons and other aquatic wildlife. There is an abundance of history to see which lies below the park’s surface. Over time Laughery Creek has cut its way through Silurian reef limestone, creating rugged cliffs and exposing fossil-rich rocks. Throughout many of the park’s creeks, hikers will find fossils, including bryozoans, brachiopods, corals and crinoids. Numerous sinkholes and associated springs point to an extensive underground drainage system that dominates the park.
—- Location —-
Versailles State Park is located .5 miles east on US 50 of the town of Versailles, Indiana in Ripley County. The park is also located one hour drive west of Cincinnati, Ohio via I-71/75 South to I-275 west. Take exit 16 on I-275 (just after crossing the Ohio River) to get onto US-50 west for 51 miles till you get to the park.
—- Park Camping —-
This campground has 226 campsites with electricity, showers, flush toilets and fire rings. Water is freely available in the park but not for hookup to your RV. All sites will also accommodate tents. This park also has a youth tent camping area, a group camp that offers sleeping cabins, recreation hall, dining hall, camp store, picnic areas, shelters, playground, playfields, recreation building rental, saddle barns, swimming pool complex with waterslide, boat rentals (rowboats, paddleboats, canoes) and a nature center. This state park is open year-round, however, water is available April till October and the swimming pool complex is open during the summertime subject to the weather. All roads throughout the park are paved as well.
—- Free Camping —-
Based on https://freecampsites.net/#!Versailles,%20Indiana there are 10 free campsites within 60 miles of Versailles, Indiana. Most of these free sites are to the west in the area of Indiana’s largest state park, Brown County State Park on the west side of I-65 and further to the west on US-50.
—- Area Camping —-
—- Hiking & Biking & Horseback Riding —-
There are over six miles of hiking trails, as well as 16 miles of mountain bike trails. Hikers are permitted to use the bike trails. Versailles also offers 25 miles of bridle trails for those who bring their horses. Try the Fallen Timber Creek trail and cross it a few times before you climb into the hills to reach the historic Oak Grove Shelter. From here, hike to an overlook to see Laughery Creek from up high. Continue to circle past interesting sinkholes and a small cascade before returning to Versailles Lake.
—- Things to do —-
Versailles State Park is in the middle of southeastern Indiana which has some hills and valleys and some farmland. The nearest city of any size is Cincinnati, Ohio. Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge is fairly close to Versailles (about 15 miles to the west) and encompasses 50,000 acres in 3 counties (Jefferson, Jennings, and Ripley) and overlays that portion of the former Jefferson Proving Ground that lies north of the historic firing line where munitions were once tested.
—- References —-