What comes to mind when you think of Wabash County?
Maybe it’s the beautiful campus of Manchester University, or a concert you attended at the Honeywell Center in downtown Wabash? Or maybe it’s just a few stoplights along Highway 24 that inevitably slow you down on your way West to a Purdue basketball or football game?
For many years, I, too, leaned toward the latter response.
Adam Stakeman is an avid adventurer and self-proclaimed endurance sports junkie.
It’s been a little more than 15 years now since I traded the hustle and bustle of my big city life in Indianapolis for the slower pace of rural Wabash County. In that time, I have found this community to be full of caring and generous people, vibrant downtown cultures in North Manchester and Wabash, and yes, even opportunities for outdoor adventure.
Something you should know about me is that I consider myself an avid adventurer, a self-proclaimed endurance sports junkie, and a lover of all things outdoors. For me, travel often includes playing in the mountains, spending all day hiking to a summit, even stopping for a dip in a glacier-fed lake. Knowing this, you may be confused as to why I would choose to call Wabash County home. But if you venture away from the big box stores and stop lights on Highway 24, you’ll find ample opportunity for outdoor recreation here—from hiking and kayaking to riding bikes, sleeping under the stars, and more. Stakeman
In fact, I often wonder why more people don’t call Wabash home.
No matter if it’s a rainy spring evening, a hot summer afternoon, a crisp fall morning, or a blustery winter day, chances are, you’ll find me outside, creating my own adventures. Over the years, I’ve shared some of my favorite spots with friends, family, and even perfect strangers. They are always surprised by just how much there is to do here—and how accessible it all is.
Maybe moving to Wabash County isn’t in your future, but do yourself a favor and spend a few days checking out some of the outdoor activities Wabash County has to offer.
Here is a quick guide to nine of my favorite things to eat, see, and do in Wabash County, with an emphasis on outdoor activities and adventures.
1. Dine al fresco at Hawkins Family’s ‘Pizza on the Farm.’
Hawkins Family Farm is located at 10373 N. 300 E.
Hawkins Family Farm is located at 10373 N. 300 E.
Have you had a busy week, just want to relax, and not worry about cooking dinner? Throw a blanket in the car, pick up a few friends, grab a bottle of wine (or a few craft beers), and hit the road to Hawkins Family Farm for Pizza on the Farm
. You won’t find fresher ingredients or a more “Farm to Fork” experience anywhere. Pizza night on the farm features artisan pizzas made with ingredients from the farm and baked in an outdoor, wood-fired brick oven. Located at 10373 N. 300 E. about 1.5 miles Southeast of Downtown North Manchester, pizza nights are 5-7 p.m. each Friday, May through September.
2. Find out how much chili you can eat at the largest annual cook-off east of the Mississippi River.
The annual Wabash Cannonball Chili for Charity Cook-Off happens the 3rd Saturday of October at Paradise Spring Historical Park.
How do you like your chili? Hot or mild? With or without noodles? Red or black beans? Beef or chicken? Cheese or sour cream or both? There are so many options, and everyone seems to have their own personal preference on what qualifies as “good chili.” If you’re a chili connoisseur, you don’t want to miss the annual Wabash Cannonball Chili for Charity Cook-Off on the 3rd Saturday of October at Paradise Spring Historical Park. The largest annual cook-off east of the Mississippi River, this event features nearly 100 teams competing for your vote and the coveted title of “Best Chili.” Trust me, I enjoy chili, and I am always up for a challenge, but I’m never able to try every sample available. The best part, this event has raised over $615,000 for local charities.
3. Get your caffeine fix at a gourmet corner store filled with local culture—and elephants.
Modoc’s Market in downtown Wabash offers gourmet coffee, made from scratch scones and muffins, and a full espresso bar.
Sweet Treats, amazing coffee, and elephants? That’s right. You can find all three in one location at Modoc’s Market
in downtown Wabash. This small corner store offers gourmet coffee, made from scratch scones and muffins, and a full espresso bar that is guaranteed to leave you wanting more. Oh, and while you are there, be sure ask about its namesake, Modoc, the real elephant
who escaped from the Great American Circus in 1942 and busted into this shop’s former occupant, the Bradley Brothers drugstore, when she picked up on the wafting scent of its peanut selection. These days, my favorite drink at Modoc’s is a Carmel Macchiato, iced in the summer, and hot in the winter. If you’re in North Manchester, make your way to KenapocoMocha
where you’ll find great coffee and delicious homemade soups, salads, and sandwiches—all made with locally sourced ingredients. My go-to is the Garlic Scape Pesto Grilled Cheese paired with the fresh soup of the day.
4. Spend the night under the stars along the shore of Salamonie Lake.
Salamonie Lake has six primitive campsites in the Lost Bridge West State Recreation Area.
You’ve probably set up a tent in your own backyard. Maybe you’ve even stayed at a campground or two. But have you ever hiked several miles into the middle of the forest carrying only the essentials you will need for two nights of sleeping under the stars? That’s exactly what you can do along the shore of Salamonie Lake. Six primitive campsites in the Lost Bridge West State Recreation Area are available on a first-come basis. Access to the primitive sites is available on the Bloodroot Trail, starting at the Salamonie Interpretive Center. Open to campers year-round, this is one of my favorite outdoor activities. I’m keeping my favorite site a secret, but I encourage you to decide for yourself which spot you like best. For something new, try leaving the tent at home and sleeping out in the open or in a hammock for a little more comfort.
5. Catch an affordable, outdoor movie at the historic 13-24 Drive-In Theatre.
The Historic 13-24 Drive-In in Wabash is located at 890 IN-13.
Did you know at one point there were over 5,000 Drive-In movie theatres across the country? That number has dwindled to only about 300 today, but thanks to a few generous donors and The Honeywell Foundation
, you can still catch a movie or concert at the 13-24 Drive-In all summer long in Wabash. The local insurance business, INGUARD, has even made it so kids ages 12 and under can watch movies for free! If you’re visiting Wabash County during the winter months, check out the Honeywell Foundation’s other concert and movie venues, including The Eagles Theatre and Honeywell Center, where you’ll find everything from new movie releases to live performances by Trace Adkins, Duke Tumatoe, Melissa Etheridge, and Stomp.
6. Check out a historic restored mill (and other charming sights) around the small town of Roann.
The Roann Covered Bridge is located at 6000 Roann Lukens Lake Rd.
If you are in the mood to do some sightseeing and grab a bite to eat, make your way to the small town of Roann. Located about 10 miles North of Wabash, Roann is home to the 288-foot long Roann Covered Bridge, Roann-Paw Paw Township Carnegie Public Library built in 1916, several antique shops and restaurants, as well as the restored Stockdale Mill, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. If your timing is right, you might even catch a tractor or horse pull throughout the summer. The town also hosts the annual Roann Covered Bridge
Festival the first weekend after Labor Day. Come enjoy live music, car shows, crafts and much more. (Insider’s tip: Stop at Bailey’s Pizza Parlor
, and try the Garlic Chicken Bacon Sub. You can thank me later.)
7. Hike to waterfalls along Acres Land Trust properties.
If you are looking for a longer or more strenuous hike, check out the 13-mile Bloodroot Trail or the more rugged Three Falls Trail—both located near Salamonie Reservoir.
Wabash County is home to several State Forests and Recreation Areas, five Acres Land Trust properties, and miles and miles of dirt and paved trails. Acres Land Trust
has more than 7,200 acres of protected properties in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana. Wabash County is home to some of my favorites. Located just a few miles Southeast of the city of Wabash on Baumbauer Road is the 72-acre Hathaway Preserve at Ross Run. It features a short 2-mile trail that’s moderately difficult, but perfect for the whole family. The small waterfall is equally beautiful after a spring rain or when frozen solid during the cold winter months. If you are looking for a longer or more strenuous hike, check out the 13-mile Bloodroot Trail
or the more rugged Three Falls Trail—both located near Salamonie Reservoir.
8. Explore Wabash County dams, bridges, and towns by bike in the annual Dam to Dam Ride.
Each September, hundreds of cyclists participate in the Wabash County Dam to Dam Ride.
When’s the last time you explored on two wheels? No, not the motorized kind; the kind you pedal. The bicycle! In my opinion, there is no better way to experience an area than by bike. You can cover a significant distance and do so faster than by walking, yet at a slow enough pace that allows to you to “stop and smell the roses,” so to speak. Each September, hundreds of cyclists do just that at the annual Wabash County Dam to Dam Ride
. This family-friendly event offers seven routes varying in length from 15 to 150 miles. In all, the route includes multiple dams, two covered bridges, and several small towns along the way. Pull that old Schwinn out of the garage, pump up the tires, and take a spin around Wabash County.
9. Float the day away along two rivers teeming with wildlife.
Wabash County is home to both the Eel and Wabash Rivers, and both are perfect for canoeing and kayaking.
Maybe a leisurely float down the river is more your style? Wabash County is home to both the Eel and Wabash Rivers, and both are perfect for canoeing and kayaking. My favorite section is the five miles on the Eel River from the St. Rd. 15 bridge to the Stockdale Mill. Depending on the flow of the river and how much work you put in, this float will take you between 2 and 3 hours. You’re likely to see deer, eagles, heron, turtles, and countless other wildlife. Don’t have your own canoe or kayak? No need to worry, The Wander Brand
in North Manchester and White Rock Recreation
in Wabash offer a variety of canoes, kayaks, and tubes for rent. Need transportation? They can handle that, too. As a bonus, try a river float in the fall as the seasons are changing, the air is cooler, and the leaves are showing their beautiful colors.
Well, there you have it! I hope that you—like me—no longer think of Wabash County as just a few stoplights in the “middle of nowhere,” and instead start to consider it the “middle of everywhere and everything” that I love and enjoy. Please accept my personal invite to visit Wabash County, create your own adventure, and enjoy everything we have to offer.