Shakamak was the seventh state park established in Indiana in 1929 on a tract of land donated to the state by Clay, Greene, and Sullivan counties. "Shakamak" is a Kickapoo Indian word meaning long fish or eel. Although absent in the lakes due to the dams which prohibit the natural water flow, fresh water eels are found in the nearby Eel and Wabash Rivers.
Early residents of the area mined coal from shaft mines, farmed the rich Wabash Valley land, and operated several mills and brick plants in the area. Brick was plentiful during the time the park was established as is evident by the many buildings and structures that are finished with brick instead of limestone, the building material of choice in other Indiana state parks.
In the early 1900's, two shaft mines were active in what is now our park: the Blackhawk Mine and the Golden Knob Mine. They were both exhausted and closed in 1913. A walk on Trail 2 takes guests to the Blackhawk Mine area where they will find a re-constructed mine entrance.
In 1933 president Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), one of his responses to the Great Depression. The program provided much needed work for young men aged 17 to 23. Eleven state parks utilized the workers for re-forestation and construction projects.
At Shakamak, Company 522 developed much of the park. Trees were planted and erosion control was completed in many areas. Many of the buildings and structures we use and enjoy today were built by the CCC including the gate house, the pool shelter, the west shelter, two four-post shelters, and the camp store.
The 56-acre Lake Shakamak was created using an abandoned railroad as a dam. Lake Lenape, a 49-acre addition initially named Lake Jason, was created in 1933, while the 290-acre Lake Kickapoo became a reality in the 1960's. “Lenape” is a Kickapoo Indian word meaning man. The waters of Lakes Shakamak and Lenape overflow into Lake Kickapoo, which runs-off into the Big Branch Creek.
Shakamak State Park was known far and wide as a result of the 32-foot diving tower, which hosted the Olympic trials and many national swim meets from 1934 to the 1950's. Many competitive athletes who swam at Shakamak moved to Hollywood and became stars, like Esther Williams, Buster Crabbe (aka Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers), and Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan). However, you need not be an Olympic athlete to enjoy fun in the sun, the beach, and test your courage on the diving tower!
If you have pictures of your good times and daring feats, please Contact Us. We would be thrilled to see them, and with your permission, share them on our site.
Shakamak State Park offers over 400 acres of water for fishing and boating, while a family aquatics center provides swimming fun. Shakamak is well known for great fishing. Each lake is easily accessible with a boat launch, and boat rental is available on all three lakes.
A pool/slide located near Lake Shakamak provides swimmers and sunbathers an excellent waterfront. The pool is open from the Saturday before Memorial Day through Labor Day and is staffed with qualified lifeguards. Swimming is allowed only at the pool and only when lifeguards are on duty.
Four trails, with a fifth being completed in 2017, offer guests a variety of options to explore nature, while park staff provide many programs and special events to educate and entertain. About two-thirds of the campsites at Shakamak are in a wooded environment offering cool shade in the summer and beautiful fall colors in autumn. There are also several play areas for younger guests.
A large group camp, ideal for hosting large events, is equipped with dorms, shower house, kitchen, and dining facilities. There are 12 group camp cottages available August through March. Reservations are available through the Central Reservation System.
Family cabins equipped with electric range, refrigerator, showers, modern restrooms, beds, and wood burning stoves are available from spring to fall. There are 21 cabins that sleep six, and one cabin that sleep four. During the off season, cabins may be rented a minimum of two nights. During the peak season, cabins may be rented a minimum of seven nights. There are some cabins that are available year-round. For more information regarding cabin reservations use the Central Reservation System or call the toll free number 1-866-622-6746 (1-866-6campIN).