France Park is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a county park this year. The park is known for its scenic trails, waterfall and clear swimming lake with picturesque cliffs, quiet fishing areas and spacious camping facilities.

Tom Wallace, staff assistant at the park, said that it was originally dedicated in 1969 by the Cass County Commissioners as a county park.

“At that time, they were on a year-to-year lease agreement with France Stone Company,” Wallace said.

Nearly 10 years later in Sept. 1978, Wallace said that the Cass County Commissioners made an agreement to purchase 533 acres along with 240 acres it already owned for a total of 773 acres with an offer of $300,000 to France Stone Co. Records indicate that France Stone Co. accepted the offer in the late fall of 1979 and the county received the deed to the property in Feb. 1980.

In April of 1986, the south-east section of the swimming quarry, which consists of 10.5 acres, was gifted to the park by the owner, Ted Hrycak. The gift included the highest point of the quarry area.

“Thanks to Ted’s gift, it made it possible to connect several trails and is one of the most scenic areas of the park,” said Wallace.

France Park offers natural and historic geological features including a waterfall, the Old Kenneth Stone Quarry and other various rock formations which demonstrate the beauty of water over rock. Old Kenneth Quarry at France Park is located just four miles west of Logansport on U.S. 24.

The Wabash and Erie Canal ran from east to west through the center of France Park, and was operated from 1840-1875. Its main use was to transport the stone mined at the quarry.

According to records from the Cass County Historical Society, limestone was boated up and down the Wabash and Erie Canal as far as Fort Wayne and Lafayette. The stone from the “lime quarry” at France Park was known for its fine quality. In 1841, stone was boated to Logansport to build the foundation of the courthouse and to Delphi for the building of the piers of the Pittsburgh Bridge.

Wallace said most of the quarry’s topographical features were formed as the limestone was mined by Casparis Stone Co. (1892-1927) and France Stone Co. (1927-1967).

“Large amounts of limestone were mined at this site in the late 1800s and used all across the country,” Wallace said. “Limestone was extracted at this location due to its long-lasting durability and multiple uses in construction projects.”

Over time, the quarry began to fill with spring water as there were no exiting run off areas deeper than the mined quarry. Today, it has become known as a natural lake with clear water and scenic limestone cliffs.

“At its deepest point, the lake is about 30 feet deep,” Wallace said. “It is home to many species of freshwater aquatic life including the prehistoric Spoonbill Sturgeon.”

The park also has a 10-acre plot of prairie land located on a plateau overlooking the Old Kenneth Stone Quarry. The land was established with perennial grasses in 1991. In the prairie environment, the depth of the root systems help to stabilize the soil by allowing roots to hold onto the soil rather than be washed away. Prairie grasses also provide substantial cover and homes for many forms of wildlife.

France Park’s prairie is surrounded by a four-foot wide trail which is utilized by hikers, mountain bikers and wildlife observers and features a 20-foot observation tower located in its southeast corner.

The park features 5-7 miles of hiking, mountain biking and cross-country ski trails. Trails are clearly marked and are appropriate for a variety of fitness levels. In the northwest corner of the park is a 24-hole disc golf course and near the entrance is a nine-hole mini golf course. It also has three designated areas for boys and girls scouts.

France Park also offers fishing and scuba diving opportunities.

The park’s waterfalls feed into Elzbeck Lake which then drains into the Wabash River. The lake is approximately 7-8 feet in depth and is partially covered with lily pads.

“The lily pads provide the perfect environment for Large Mouth Bass, Red Ear Blue Gill and Crappie,” said Wallace. The park also provides a public boat ramp which is located on the south end of the fishing lake.

Indy Dive Center provides weekend scuba diving opportunities inside France Park. According to their website, divers have been scuba diving France Park for more than 50 years. It is otherwise known as the “premier dive site in Indiana.”

There are over 200 wooded campsites — both primitive and electric — with access to modern restrooms and showers. 130 sites have electricity which consists of 30 amp, 50 amp and 110 volt plug-ins. Water hook up is also available for most modern sites.

Wallace says the park hosts many events throughout the year which are open to the public including live music, poker runs, scavenger hunts, disc golf tournaments and more. Their next big event is the “Sleepy Hollow Haunted Hayrides” which take place the last three weekends of October.

For more information, visit their website at www.francepark.com.

Reach Quentin Blount at quentin.blount@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5130.

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