St. Paul Cliffs, one of Indiana's Best Kept Secrets

Robert Ramstetter By Robert Ramstetter, 27th Aug 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>North America>United States>Indiana

St. Paul Cliffs is a local favorite place for swimming, but largely unknown outside the small town of St. Paul, Indiana.

An Exotic Location with a Small Town Atmosphere

I was drawn to St. Paul Cliffs after stumbling upon an article that featured the best swimming holes in the country. I live in Cincinnati, Ohio, and this year is not proving to be a good year for travel. I noticed that one of the listed swimming spots was within a two hour drive from Cincinnati, so I decided to check it out.
St. Paul Cliffs is a local favorite place for swimming, but largely unknown outside the small town of St. Paul, Indiana. This swimming hole used to be an old gravel pit. After it was abandoned, the locals found the allure of their own private swimming pool to be irresistible. Over the years, the current owners decided to purchase the property and open it to the public. Without seeing pictures, it may sound a little unappealing, but don’t despair. This privately owned swimming hole is as photogenic as many of its patrons. While they do not publish the year that they opened for business, I heard many people speaking of multiple generations that have visited over the years. Indeed, the size of the nearby trees gives indication that it was not an active gravel pit in recent memory.
It is important to note that the facility does not have lifeguards on staff. The signs are clearly posted. To gain entry, visitors must sign a waiver prior to admission. Their website has a printable form so you can fill it out at home and avoid a wait. Due to the nature of the place, there are certain inherent dangers and the management just wants to avoid any lawsuits.
Once there, you will encounter numerous rules that may seem trivial and unnecessary, but, again, it is to protect the owners from lawsuits. The most rigorously enforced is their alcohol policy. First of all, they do not allow any hard liquor into the park. This is understandable considering the layout of the swimming hole and the myriad of dangers associated with extreme intoxication. Second, you cannot bring any glass bottles. Any such containers will be confiscated and held until your departure. We found this out the hard way, but, to our surprise and relief, each one of our bottles was present and accounted for when we left. Management also strictly enforces the areas where alcohol may be consumed. For those people (our group) who wished to float around with a drink in their hand, this was particularly disappointing. It actually didn’t matter to us because ours was confiscated at the entrance anyway.
Once you get past the rules, however, I suggest taking a moment to absorb the surroundings. The crystal clear water possesses a cool blue hue reminiscent of the Caribbean. There is a walking trail around the pit, which is about a quarter mile long. As you traverse the pathway, you begin to realize why the management is so strict, especially with the alcohol rules. The lake is an oblong shape, and the end closest to the entrance of the park has the lowest cliff height. This was the likely entrance and exit spot for the gravel trucks back in its heyday as a working gravel pit. A slight upgrade to the terrain makes the walls of the far side of the pit considerably higher. As you walk to the other side, you pass several jumping and diving platforms. At the far end of the pit, there is a jumping platform (the signs warn only feet first) that is a forty foot drop. It is not for the faint-hearted. As you make your way around the lake, you can swing out over the water on a rope and drop in. A little closer to the entrance is a zip line where you also drop into the water. It is now easy to understand why the management is so strict on alcohol consumption, while permitting it at the same time. You do not have to possess the desire to partake in the zip line, rope swing, and diving platform features to enjoy them. It is quite entertaining to watch others perform various acrobatic stunts while utilizing some of the more extreme methods of entering the water.
The easiest way to get into the water is via one of several platforms, especially if you do not fancy jumping from the cliff or dropping from the zip line. The one nearest the entrance is at the bottom of a gentle slope, so there are fewer steps to descend. While the water is not clear by Caribbean standards, it is not completely murky either with about a ten foot visibility. As you approach the opposite end of the lake, the water becomes much clearer with surprising visibility. The lake is fed by a nearby stream via underground springs. The surrounding limestone acts a filter and lowers the acidity of the water, giving it the distinctive hue. It is also quite a therapeutic experience, even if the water does not possess any medicinal qualities. The pit itself acts like a natural barrier to ambient noise, offering the guest a rare chance to relax and unwind.
While alcohol on the docks or in the lake is prohibited, flotation devices are not. The park even provides an air compressor for those who wish to bring larger floats. Lounging on a float or raft at the case of the cliffs in the beautiful turquoise water really does create the impression that you are relaxing somewhere tropical.
While the admission price is a little steep, it is worth experiencing at least one time. Whether this is a place to return repeatedly is an individual choice.


Cliff Diving, Floating, Swimming Hole

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author avatar Robert Ramstetter
Robert Ramstetter is a world traveler and writer of short stories, full length novels, and a vast array of technical articles.

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
27th Aug 2014 (#)

I use to live in Michigan, we vacationed in Indiana sometimes.

You should try to add a picture to your posts, either one of your own or one from wikimedia commons.

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