Marshall County: A Backyard Gem

Faraway vacations are grand, but there’s also a lot to be said for exploring our own backyard at a leisurely pace.

Time is well spent meandering gently rolling countryside and discovering unique gems of Marshall County, Ind., just 90 miles west of Fort Wayne.

“From stargazing to paddling to 5-star dining, the county is full of treasures waiting to be explored,” says Cori Humes, executive director of Visit Marshall County. “It’s fun to start by hunting for the colorful murals painted on barns, downtown businesses and in public spaces along the county’s Barn Quilt Trail.”

Self-guided trail maps lead to charming communities like Culver and Plymouth, popular for their unique shops, dining and ambiance.

Adventure enthusiasts find plenty to love in Marshall County.

“They canoe along a silent lake at dawn while the mist rises from the water,” says Humes. “They birdwatch and hike and fish and geocache for trinkets. They also enjoy swimming in Indiana’s second-largest natural lake – Lake Maxinkuckee – where the shores touch Culver Academies, a prestigious boarding school.”

Indiana’s first Dark-Sky Preserve is located at Potawatomi Wildlife Park in Marshall County, a haven for naturalists and stargazers alike.

For those who enjoy history, what discoveries await in this county that was organized in 1836 and named for Chief Justice John Marshall?

“There are some fantastic museums, for one thing, like the Marshall County Historical Society Museum or the Culver Academies Museum,” says Humes. “But history is found all around us.”

She points to The Old Town Pump in Bourbon, Ind., as an example. Today it’s a monument that reminds us of a time between the 1860s and early 1900s when folks stopped to socialize and refresh themselves around the town pump while watering their horses. After the pump was no longer needed, citizens with foresight erected the monument to remind future generations (like ours) of how things used to be.

Likewise, the Bremen Water Works Standpipe, in Bremen, Ind., no longer plays a functional role in its community but nevertheless remains a beloved icon rising high in the sky. Built in Second Gothic Revival style in 1992, its 68-foot brick base atop a limestone foundation supports a 36-foot tank that was in service until 1955. In 2013 it became part of the National Register of Historic Places.

Visitors who love to shop enjoy the small-town approach to quality and customer service found in Marshall County, says Humes. The variety of specialty stores is wide, from antique shops to art galleries.

“The range of dining options in Marshall County might surprise you,” says Humes. “Sure, there’s the roadside diner with great pancakes and conversation, but there are also five-star gourmet menus.”

Overnight accommodations range from bed & breakfasts to hotels and resorts, including Swan Lake Resort, home to both the United States Golf Academy and two Indiana National Golf Club courses. There are also log cabins, cottages and camping facilities.

If you decide to explore Marshall County, Humes suggests this itinerary:
Day 1: Get a self-guided tour map and travel the countryside on the Barn Quilt Trail.

DAY 2: Experience the seven ministries at The Center at Donaldson, a place for people of all ages and faiths to interact, share, learn and grow together, in Plymouth.

DAY 3: Do a seasonal adventure like canoeing, fishing, golfing or spending the day on Lake Maxinkuckee in Culver.

DAY 4: Spend the morning visiting a local Amish community at Rentown, then head to some historic downtowns for an afternoon of dining and shopping.

Marshall County is just 90 minutes from Fort Wayne and two hours from Indianapolis, Chicago, Toledo, Ohio and Kalamazoo, Mich.

Next time you long to get away, why not consider the gems in your own backyard? ❚