Road Trips

An autumn drive down Indiana State Road 47

I’m bringing another long-ago road trip over from my old HTML site. It was a lovely autumn drive on a series of Indiana and US highways. I was still shooting film on my road trips, using my Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80. I was also still just making photographs of the road itself. Fortunately, this time there’s plenty of lovely autumn color to be seen.

The trees were startlingly colorful in the autumn of 2006, with arresting yellows, plentiful and vibrant oranges, and hot reds in their first appearance in years. I wanted to take a road trip when fall’s colors peaked, but that came and went in one day, it seemed, and I was stuck at work that day. There was still plenty of color left the following Saturday, October 28, though, so off I went.

I chose State Road 47, US 41, and US 36 as my route. SR 47 and I go back almost 20 years, when I was experimenting with ways to drive between college in Terre Haute and home in South Bend. My route until then was I-70 to I-465 to US 31, which alternated between boring and congested. I tried a bunch of back-highway routes until I found my favorite, which involved a long stretch of SR 47. I enjoyed several beautiful autumn drives along this road as it wound through Parke County by Turkey Run State Park, and then through some unexpected curves in the farmland of Montgomery and Boone Counties. US 41 and US 36 cut through some similarly lovely terrain, would bring me back to my Indianapolis home, and fit nicely into one day, so they were in. US 41 is fairly twisty through Parke County, and I had learned from a friend that US 36 is peppered with old alignments.

State Road 47 currently stretches from US 41 to Sheridan at SR 38. It originally ran northeasterly from US 41 to Crawfordsville. The state decided it was more northerly than easterly, and so gave it an odd number. While later extensions make SR 47 clearly more an east-west road, it keeps its odd number and its “North” and “South” signage.

At one time, SR 47 extended east from Sheridan to US 31 north of Westfield. Until recently, a bent sign partially hiding behind some overgrown trees tried to proclaim the distance to Sheridan, but the numbers had badly faded in the sun. Looking forlorn but very official, it seemed certainly to be a relic from the days the road was still a state highway. I wanted to take a photo of it on this trip, but I learned a valuable lesson: don’t delay in taking photos. That old sign had been replaced with a gleaming new sign unobstructed by vegetation. Oh well.

I started at the old eastern end of SR 47. Here it is, cleverly disguised as mild-mannered 236th St. in Hamilton County, looking westbound.

Former SR 47

On Monday, back at work, someone stopped me in the break room and asked if that was me taking a picture from the median of US 31. I hid my surprise that anybody I knew actually saw me. I said yes. He was very puzzled, but I left it at that.

Old SR 47 is very narrow and flat along its five miles of farmland. It also has no shoulders. It had rained buckets the day before, making ponds out of most farm fields. That didn’t make for very picturesque scenes, and so it was hard to find a decent place to take a good photo. This photo shows one of the dry spots westbound along the route.

Former SR 47

Sheridan arrived in no time. Here’s the beginning of SR 47, westbound, in Sheridan

SR 47 at Sheridan

This eastbound photo from across the street shows SR 47’s eastern end. Every small Indiana town is required by statute to have at least one Dairy Queen, by the way.

SR 47 at Sheridan

After SR 47 passes through Sheridan’s southern edge, its lanes widen. As it passes out of Hamilton and into Boone County, the road occasionally rises and falls gently, but remains straight until it intersects with US 421, the old Michigan Road.

SR 47 at Michigan Road

After that, gentle curves begin to appear, slight bends in the road. This photo isn’t as sharp as could be. When I walk out into the middle of a highway to take a photo, I keep my ears wide open for the sound of a car coming from behind me. This day was extremely windy, and the wind drowned out the sounds of oncoming cars. Not wanting to be squashed, I took this photo (and many others this day) in a hurry.

SR 47

The next burg along the way is Thorntown, which is at the center of what was the 64,000 acre Thorntown Indian Reserve, where the Eel River Tribe of the Miamis lived. This reserve didn’t last long, just from 1818 to 1828. Thorntown gets its name from the Miami name for the place, Kawiakiungi, which means “place of thorns.”

Place of Thorns

Here’s what you see as you swing across the bridge and enter Thorntown from the east. SR 47 is just out of the picture on the left. At any moment, you expect it to start snowing, and Jimmy Stewart to come running through town shouting, “Merry Christmas you old broken-down Building and Loan!” I told a story about how, while we were still dating, my first wife got me out of a speeding ticket in Thorntown here.

Thorntown

Two miles outside Thorntown the road twists a bit through a wooded area. The road rises and falls a bit through this area as well. A sign near where I took this photo says that a town called Colfax lay five miles to the north. This photo points westbound.

SR 47

As Boone County faded into the farms of Montgomery County, the fresh pavement ended. Driving is pleasant as the road rolls. Curved and straight sections alternate. (I am amused, looking back now, to see I had not yet learned to photograph a road while standing on the centerline. First, it leads to a more balanced composition. Second, I’m somewhat less likely to be hit by a car.)

SR 47

As the road runs under I-74 and draws near to Crawfordsville, farmland is replaced with family homes. This curve showed some of the best fall colors of the trip so far.

SR 47

In Crawfordsville, SR 47 multiplexes first with SR 32 and then with US 136. As SR 47 turns south on the edge of downtown, US136 goes its own way, but US 231 multiplexes in. Outside of downtown, SR 47 turns back west, leaving US 231 to its southerly path, and finally SR 32 takes a northwesterly fork, and SR 47 is all alone again. Because of some construction on SR 47, I was detoured down US 231 to SR 234, which intersects with SR 47 8 miles west of Crawfordsville. US 231 was unremarkable, but SR 234 was interesting — narrow and gently rolling through the farmland, with a drainage trench immediately off the road’s edge making stopping for photos impossible. At one point, the road gently curved so a bridge could span something perpendicularly.

As Turkey Run nears on SR 47, the road becomes more curvy and hilly, and the scenery becomes more lovely. This eastbound photo, a few miles east of Turkey Run, shows the long shadows of the late-morning autumn sun. (If you’ve been reading this blog since the beginning, you might remember that this photo was in my blog’s masthead for years.)

SR 47

Here’s a westbound shot from the same spot. This is a nice little hill.

SR 47

Soon SR 47 reaches Turkey Run State Park. I visited it often, even camped here, while I lived in nearby Terre Haute in the early 1990s. In the years after this trip, my sons and came here to hike or canoe about once a year until they were grown. I blogged about it a couple times, such as here and here.

Turkey Run sign

Just west of the entrance to Turkey Run, you drive past the treetops as a bridge spans a valley. A couple miles later, SR 47 ends at US 41.

SR 47

Next: I followed US 41 south most of the way to Terre Haute. US 41 is so twisty it’s hard to believe it’s an Indiana highway.

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10 thoughts on “An autumn drive down Indiana State Road 47

  1. My Mrs detests I-65 and when I was making regular drives to Lafayette her preferred route to get to US 52 was Keystone/US 31 to SR 38 to SR 47.

    The DQ is still there where 38 and 47 meet in Sheridan, but the John Deere dealer has been replaced by a big gas station/convenience store. There is a second DQ where 47 meets 52 in case willpower caused me to miss the first one.

    Lovely fall pictures.

    • I’m not a fan of I-65 either. Ironic that I live so close to it I can hear it. When I used to drive to Lafayette all the time it made no sense not to take it, at least as far as the US 52 exit. I might have saved four minutes staying on I-65, but US 52 is just so darned pleasant it’s well worth it.

      I’ve not been in the Sheridan DQ but the one at 47/52 is usually a sty.

  2. Thanks for Highlighting the Real home of the Miami Tribe. Some of Tecumseh’s People. I attended Miami University, which offers scholarships to the Miami, moved to Oklahoma in the 1820’s.

  3. Do you happen to remember the old amusement park just east of Thorntown near 65, Old Indiana Fun N’ Water Park? My family went there once and followed it up with a visit to a local Ponderosa somewhere; I must have been five or six. It was soon boarded up after an accident with an ungoverned miniature train derailed and killed a grandmother while rendering her granddaughter into a quadriplegic. Very sad.

    The lot became a boneyard for Six Flags rides after they acquired it; now it’s a hops farm called Sugar Creek Hops. I think a few of the original buildings still stand, like their old maintenance structure and gift barn.

    • I’ve only heard of this park, and of the accident. My family didn’t do vacation-y things when I was a kid. The one time I did an amusement park was in my early 20s and I learned it wasn’t my thing!

  4. Jim Hanes says:

    Shades State Park is near Turkey Run but is not as heavily visited, making it a better experience.

  5. Kevin Thomas says:

    Same thing in Texas with the Dairy Queen – if your town doesn’t have a DQ it ain’t really a town, just a wide spot in the road 😁😁.

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