Falls of the Ohio State Park provides fishing and fossils


They called it a Family Fun Fishing Day at the Falls of the Ohio State Park as far south in Indiana as one can get without being in Kentucky.

It was a way for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to encourage people to stop by one of the state’s properties on a summer day, to spend time in the outdoors where the air might be safer from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The location was a getaway for many at other times, for fishing, for hiking, for some, who didn’t even require the little nudge. That included a family of five from Sellerburg.

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“We like to come here anyway,” said mom Jessica Brannon who was leading around three kids, Aubrey, 8, Asa, 4, and Gwenyth, 2. “Just to do something with the kids.”

On this particular day, youngsters were presented with gifts to reward their presence, caps and Frisbees and instructional brochures and other items stuffed into a goody bag.

Experts in the outdoors know if kids are hooked young, and that does include the hooks on the end of fishing rods, they are likely to be wooed back to such places for outdoor activities at later stages of their lives.

Some families were camping in the area and thought it would be nice to drop over to the event and show the kids around. Young people got to try on life jackets, mandatory attire if they go out on fishing boats, and were urged to learn how to swim.

That way, in case they fall into a body of water, a lake, or river, they might be able to save themselves without any help.

Such days, said interpretive naturalist Jane Archer, are intended to be “educational and having fun. Fishing is the most popular activity. It’s been good fishing this year.”

IDNR personnel mingled with volunteers at booths, answering questions, doing their best to make sure those kids, especially those under 10 years old, walked away with a useful lesson.

The average Hoosier — and maybe not even the average Indiana outdoors person — is likely much more familiar with Smoky the Bear as a symbol of the wilderness than Bobber The Water Safety Dog. However, the smiling pup does exist.

The dog has a kid friendly look and his purpose is to encourage youngsters to learn how to swim. There was a lot of emphasis on learning how to master that skill. Bobber is the water safety mascot.

A variety of fish mounts hung on a display wall so young people could take a close look at the types of fish they might catch if they dipped a line into the Ohio River. The variety was impressive, including crappie, small-mouth bass, Sauger, gar and catfish.

A proselytizer for the high caliber of fishing in this area on the river right at the state line was Daniel Grider, who not only provided background about the fish to his attentive young audience, but said he spends a large number of his personal days each year fishing this water.

“This is my favorite area of the state to fish,” said Grider, who lives in Clarksville, but moved to the vicinity in large part because of the fishing opportunities. “I’ll give it five stars all day long.”

Grider, 38, has developed a serious fondness for this very large fishing hole.

“This is the best fishing in Southern Indiana,” he said.

The mix of fish and the ability to fish pretty much year-round, are selling points for him.

“It varies with the season and the species,” Grider said, “and whether the water level is down.”

When the water level is low, visitors can follow a path, then clamber over some rocks, and walk out on the sand, where it is possible to see ancient fossil markings. Park interpretive personnel sometimes lead classes to explain the fossils, though many people wander on their own.

It helps to have expert help interpreting, though, because the uninitiated often do not recognize what they are seeing. Among the fossils that can sometimes be seen at the Falls are brachiopod. coral and crinoid. It is not legal to collect fossils at the Park, however.

Still, it makes more sense anyway to reel in the fish that are alive and moving in the river instead of prehistoric specimens.

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