An Outdoor Oasis
Footsteps of the past have left their mark on St. Patrick’s County Park in South Bend, where today’s visitors find a respite from the busy world and loads of outdoor activities on its 398 pristine acres.
Beginning in the late 1800s, the Sisters of the Holy Cross raised crops and livestock here to feed their congregation and students at Saint Mary’s College.
Today’s visitors get a touch of that history as soon as they enter the enclave, where a huge red barn remains. It’s one of the largest wooden dairy barns in Northern Indiana. You’ll see other buildings that date to the early 1900s, with interpretive brochures that discloses their history.
As you walk the five miles of paths through woods, fields and meadows, you’ll find huge pines that spell out St. Patrick’s, and may spot songbirds, deer, rabbits, coyote and foxes that make their home here, as well as waterfowl along the St. Joseph River, which runs through the park. “We even have a flock of wild turkeys,” says Evelyn Kirkwood, Director of Parks for St. Joseph County. “There’s an osprey nesting pole, and we were excited to have a successful hatch last year.”
Many areas of the park have their own history. The Adair Orchard showcases traditional American apple varieties, as well as a grape arbor, pears and blueberries. Pathways take you past the two-story Manion Log Cabin, built in 1918 before the land became part of the park. A more recent addition is a steel sculpture called “Standing Tall.” It was created by Indiana artist Robert Kunz as a September 11 memorial.
The park hums with outdoor activity year-round. In warm weather, you can rent canoes or kayaks and take trips on the St. Joseph River that range from one-and-a-half to four-and-a-half hours. The Michigan state line forms the park’s northern border, and the longer trip takes you into Michigan’s Berrien County. “That’s one of the beauties of our park,” Evelyn says. “Hikers, too, can go right into Madeline Bertrand County Park just across the border.”
Fishing is very popular at St. Patrick’s, both in the river and at the park’s pond, with handicapped accessible piers. Anglers pull out trout, walleye, pike and more. “We draw lots of people in the fall when the steelheads are running,” Evelyn says. Visitors can bring their own craft, including motorized boats, and enter the river at the DNR boat launch.
In the winter, families love the innertubing hill. The park provides the innertubes, plus a warming house with light snacks and cocoa. You also can cross-country ski on the trails.
What does Evelyn love the most about the park? “That’s like asking a mother who is her favorite child!” she says. “I love looking at the big red barn. We’re honored to have it preserved for future generations. The park is a great mix of outdoor activities and cultural history. It’s a fabulous place for families to relax and give their children a natural experience.”
St. Patrick’s County Park