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At the tip of Indiana's 'big toe', hiding in the wild and swampy bends of the Ohio River, Hovey Lake holds a unique position in Indiana's public lands. Formed from an ancient river 'oxbow', Hovey Lake serves as a protected location for migrating waterfowl and a quiet fishing destination in South Indiana. Hovey Lake is the centerpiece of the 7,404-acre Hovey Lake Fish and Wildlife Area. Although officially listed as 1,400 acres, the actual lake is undefined; the size varies according to rainfall and run-off from surrounding areas. Parts of the southern portion of the lake are termed 'dry lake' on many maps, although 'dry' is hardly the right term for the marshes, sloughs and wetlands of the area. Reminiscent of the bayous of Mississippi's Delta, this area where the Wabash and Ohio Rivers intersect is a wealth of wildlife and diverse native flora in all of nature's glory.
Hovey Lake is believed to have formed over 500 years ago when the Ohio River changed its course. An ongoing archeological excavation shows that a population of Mississippian-culture native Americans lived in several villages along Hovey Lake's shore prior to 1650 A.D. When the first European explorers arrived, the Caborn-Wellborn people had disappeared, leaving few signs of their lives and lifestyles. Since that time, dikes have been built along parts of the shoreline to protect nearby farm fields from flooding. These combine with natural sand ridges formed by the Ohio River to limit the lake's area. The nearby John T Myers Lock and Dam on the Ohio River also serves to control lake levels somewhat, although not directly. Hovey Lake is a variable shallow lake studded with bald cypress and home to a variety of fish, including crappie, channel catfish, blue catfish, largemouth bass, flathead catfish, sauger, sunfish and white bass.
A Department of Fish and Wildlife boat ramp is provided, and shore fishing is permitted on the west side of the lake only. Boats are limited to 10 mph at all times, and fishing and boating are prohibited during fall and winter. A second boat launch site within the Hovey Fish and Wildlife Area allows access to the Ohio River. Camping, swimming and fires are not permitted at any time. Designated areas for picnicking are provided, and plenty of parking areas permit nature lovers to walk through the hardwoods to the lake, marshes and other nearby small ponds and sloughs. Bird watching is popular, with the yellow-crowned night heron a special treat to observe as they nest in the area. The bird observation area is frequently the destination for local Audubon clubs, with seasonal migration bringing a large variety of waterfowl to the waters.
Photographers enjoy the opportunity to photograph the eerie silhouettes of cypress trees piercing the lake's surface. All types of wildlife inhabit the natural area, including deer, fox, coyote, raccoon, squirrel, rabbit and other game and non-game species. The Hovey Lake area is popular for hunting during the season with appropriate hunting license. A check-in with Fish and Wildlife personnel at the headquarters on Raben Road will clarify available hunting areas.
Hovey Lake is an area of untamed nature. The riverbend area is primarily swamp, interspersed by small farm fields and stands of hardwoods. A second natural location a couple of miles away is the Twin Swamps Nature Preserve. Managed by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources-Division of Nature Preserves, Twin Swamps allows nature lovers the ability to get up close with a variety of ecology niches via the use of boardwalk walkways. The nature preserve officially protects one of the few remaining areas of bald cypress in southern Indiana, and an area of wildflowers showcases the Virginia bluebell seldom seen in this area. Here, too, bird watching is a favorite pastime, with bird observation decks overlooking particularly productive areas. As with Hovey Lake, the trails can often be waterlogged or flooded, so well-prepared and determined nature observers will come equipped with waders or tall rubber boots. Unfortunately, this makes the boardwalks unfriendly to wheelchair users, but physically-fit nature fans will treasure this special environment.
The nearest town of any size is Mt. Vernon, about 15 miles to the northeast. Evansville, Indiana is another 15 miles beyond Mt Vernon. There are no lodging or camping facilities in the immediate area, so a trip to Hovey Lake or Twin Swamps is usually a day-trip or part of a larger tour of the historic and scenic southern Indiana area. Evansville is home to a number of museums that will delight every member of the family. The Koch Family Children's Museum of Evansville provides three floors of educational fun for children, while the Evansville Museum Transportation Center will give a historical perspective to this long-time river town. The Evansville Museum of Arts, History & Science offers everything the name indicates, with art and cultural objects from around the world amid an ever-changing series of traveling exhibits. Music fans won't want to miss the International Bluegrass Music Museum, located an hour south in Owensville, KY. And closer to Hovey Lake, Angel Mounds State Historic Site holds a number of walking trails around the mounds themselves. The earthworks of Angel Mounds were likely constructed by the same people who later settled at Hovey Lake. The archeological project begun by the WPA during the Depression continues today under the guidance of the Indiana University at Evansville.
Evansville's status as a university town guarantees a vibrant entertainment culture with plenty of restaurants, shopping and theaters and clubs. A wide variety of lodgings is available, with major chain hotels, small motels and short-term rentals plentiful. The area along the Ohio River provides the perfect backdrop for quaint bed & breakfasts, small inns and guest stays. Several commercial campgrounds are available in the surrounding area, many with RV facilities. Mt. Vernon also offers lodgings, including hotels and motels. Restaurants and cafes are also plentiful in the area, including every fast food facility that catches a child's eye. In the midst of it all is beautiful and unusually serene Hovey Lake. Come and experience Indiana's bayou country up close and personal. It's not quite like anything you've ever experienced. Come prepared for wet and muddy trails-and bring the fishing tackle.
* Few statistics are available for Hovey Lake, due to its variable nature.
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