Things to See Around Rensselaer, IN (1)

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Rensselaer, Indiana is not in an area noted for tourism. Yet in the area around Rensselaer are a number of sites and activities that are fun, educational, or both. Included on this list are ten possibilities, and each of the possibilities has at least one alternative. If you live in the Rensselaer area or are just visiting, I hope you will find the list useful.

1. See Cranes at the Jasper-Pulaski Reserve

In Indiana the reason for establishing game reserves was to provide places where people could hunt animals, not to protect the animals. One of these reserves, the Jasper-Pulaski Reserve is about 20 miles northeast of Rensselaer. Every fall large migrations of sandhill cranes stop over at the reserve, and not being game animals, they are left alone. There are few if any places in the U.S. where you can see larger groups of these impressive birds.

An Alternative: Visit the Lakeshore. Though it is officially a National Lakeshore, Indiana Dunes is in reality the best National Park in the Midwest. In terms of size, variety of wildlife, and number of ranger-led programs, it surpasses many of the smaller National Parks and it is run by the same people, the National Park Service. It has miles of lakefront beaches and hiking all the trails would take days. Yet next to the wilderness are some of the largest industrial plants in the U.S. It is a wonderful place.

2. Tour a Dairy Farm

Ten miles northwest of Rensselaer there are several huge dairy farms where over 25,000 cows live in cow contentment. The dairy industry has located a dairy museum near them at the new Indiana 14 exit on Interstate 65. Visitors can see the exhibits and then take a tour of a large, modern dairy that is fun for all ages. (There is an entry charge and also a gift shop in which one can buy cheese and ice cream made on the site.)

An Alternative: Pick Blueberries. Rensselaer is in one of the most productive agricultural regions of the United States, but other than looking at corn and soybean fields, there is not a lot to see. There are large pork and egg producers nearby, but they do not offer tours. However, if you are in the area during late July and early August, you can go to several farms around Demotte and pick blueberries. There is nothing like eating a gallon of fresh blueberries, and it is quite an adventure to pick them yourself.
For a very different kind of farm, you can drive through a wind farm in Benton County. Just go to the little town of Earl Park, which is about 25 miles southeast of Renssleaer.

3. Ride Amtrak to Chicago

Prior to the WWII, the train was the major way that people got from one place to another in America. Now there is only Amtrak, a tiny remnant of the old system, and because it bleeds money, it is always in the crosshairs of budget cutters. So make sure you ride it while it is still here. You can get on an Amtrak train going to Chicago in the morning (reservations are needed but can be made on the internet) and come back in the evening. It is relatively cheap.

An Alternative: Check out the Canal. Before the passenger train, there were canals. The Wabash and Erie Canal was over 400 miles long and linked Toledo, Ohio with Evansville, Indiana, Construction began in the 1830s, traffic reached its peak in the 1850s, and the whole thing was abandoned in the 1870s. It was supposed to pay for itself in tolls, but never came close, and it was made obsolete by the railroad. However, some of the folks at Delphi, Indiana have worked very hard to recreate a tiny section of this mostly-forgotten and largely invisible canal and a visit to their canal interpretive center will tell you all about this bit of Indiana history. In addition, Delphi has established an impressive system of trails along the route of the old canal.

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