Creating the northeast corner of Indiana, Steuben County is a border county touching two other states, Michigan and Ohio. The county’s natural beauty of lakes and forests truly makes it a transition county as Indiana gives way to the more naturally majestic Great Lakes landscapes of Michigan. And, to underscore its outdoorsy wintry feel, it’s the closest Indiana county to Canada, about 100 miles east-by-northeast as the crow flies.
During the last Ice Age, unimaginably massive glaciers up to a mile high slowly flowed out of northern Canada and covered the northern two-thirds of Indiana. When they melted, they left their marks: most notably the Great Lakes. But they also left smaller landscape features, especially all across Northeastern Indiana.
The earth-moving and gouging glaciers gave Steuben County more natural lakes — called “kettle lakes” — than any other county in the state. The many lakes make the area unique. They harbor wildlife and provide recreational opportunities. It’s a perfect place for a state park.
Surrounded by two kettle lakes, Lake James and Snow Lake, is Pokagon State Park. Named for Leopold and Simon Pokagon, father and son leaders of the Potawatomi tribe of Native Americans who lived in the area in the 1800s, Pokagon is one of the state’s first parks. It was dedicated in 1925.
The park and the Potawatomi Inn (built in 1927) are year-round destinations. The inn, with its up-north fishing-lodge theme, is one of the Midwest’s most popular resorts and conference centers. The park offers a winter wonderland of activities: cross-country ski rental, sledding, ice fishing and a twin-track toboggan run.
While natural beauty, wildlife, and outdoor activities abound, it’s the manmade toboggan track that garners the most attention around Pokagon in winter. The toboggan run began its 84th season of chills and thrills the day after Thanksgiving and will run through February. The run attracts some 90,000 visitors during its annual three-month season.
The old-fashioned J-shaped toboggans reach speeds of 35-40 mph on the quarter-mile, refrigerated run. The twin tracks begin atop a 30-foot tower built on a steep hill known as a “kame” — a pile of rock and debris deposited by the melting glaciers. It is one of only two such refrigerated facilities in the Midwest.
This attraction that iced the park’s reputation as a winter destination began simply as an amusement
for the young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps who built many of Pokagon’s other lasting shelters and features during the Great Depression of the 1930s and early 1940s.
Steuben County’s natural beauty, manmade rustic cabins and inn, and old-fashioned wintry fun offer a hearty “Up North” feel for visitors without venturing to northern Michigan or Canada or even leaving Indiana.
For toboggan hours and information, and to take a virtual ride, visit www.tobogganrun.com.
Named for: Baron Frederick vonSteuben, a Prussian military officer who played a leading role in the American Revolutionary War by shaping the Continental Army into a disciplined and professional fighting force.
County seat: Angola
Indiana county number: 76