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Explore Bloomington and Monroe County Parks

A Guide to Bloomington Parks

We can all agree southern Indiana is a beautiful place to call home, and we’re even luckier to have an abundance of parks in the Bloomington area to enjoy the great outdoors. As ambassadors to the Bloomington community, we love sharing local gems with our neighbors as much as we love showing properties to prospective buyers. Check out Griffin Realty’s roundup of parks in Bloomington and put a picnic or a hike on your calendar to enjoy the scenery! 

Bryan Park

Bryan Park is one of the city’s most visited parks, with numerous amenities and events throughout the year. The 33-acre park is centrally located between Henderson Street and Woodlawn Avenue, just south of the IU campus.

This park was named after William Lowe Bryan who was the President of Indiana University from 1902-1937. It was purchased for $1 dollar in 1951 and eight years later they built a pool at the park. The pool is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. This park has something for everyone. There are a couple of playgrounds, shelters, a basketball court, a baseball field, and it is often used to host events such as concerts and outdoor movie showings. The pool area is great for those hot days in the summer, too. It has two sizeable water slides and the pool itself is large with a kiddie pool as well.


Cascades Park (Upper & Lower)

Located on the near north side, there is plenty of green space, an extensive fully accessible playground in Lower Cascades, picnic shelters, a creek, a paved trail, another playground in Upper Cascades, and the City’s municipal golf course, Cascades Golf Course, which consists of 36 holes, club house and pro-shop. Many people utilize the shelters for family reunions, memorial gatherings and more.

Lower Cascades Park dates back to 1921, when city officials, concerned about a nearby stone quarry’s expansion plans, voted to turn that “beautiful narrow strip of land” out on the “North Pike” into a park to prevent “further destruction of the beauty of the scenery.” It was dedicated in 1924 and was the first of Bloomington’s public parks.

After the 1929 stock market crash and Great Depression left hoards of Southern Indiana coal and limestone workers unemployed, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and its “make-work” projects enabled continued development at Cascades Park in the 1930s. The New Deal funded labor costs for public construction projects like retaining walls along Cascades Creek for erosion control, shelter houses, bridges, drinking fountains and massive limestone picnic tables.

Upper Cascades Park was purchased in 1929 along with portions of the property that became Cascades Golf Course. The accessible Lion’s Den picnic shelter and a playground are located on the north side of Clubhouse Drive, across from the Cascades Golf Course Clubhouse.

Karst Farm Park

Karst Farm Park is Monroe County’s first established park, and it was created in 1969. This park is named after the karst topography in this area and after the County Poor Farm that used to be on the property. For those that do not know karst topography is when dissolving bedrock has created sinkholes, sinking streams, and caves. This park is often used as a venue for various events and activities. There are educational programs held at the park to educate the public on geology, caves, and water quality. This park also has a few playgrounds, a splashpad, a Frisbee golf course and a clubhouse. Karst Farm Park is located on the southwest side of Monroe County.

Switchyard Park

Switchyard Park, formerly known as the McDoel Switchyard, served as a hub for railroad operations for a series of companies including the New Albany and Salem Railroad, the Monon Railroad, and eventually CSX Railroad. CSX Railroad made the decision to phase out its services in 2000, and the last train left McDoel Switchyard in 2004.
The City of Bloomington purchased 18 acres of old railroad bed that ran through the Switchyard, and opened the second phase of the B-Line Trail. The city purchased most of the land that was to become Switchyard Park in 2009. The City had a vision for the former railroad property, and collected input from its residents, stakeholders, interest groups, environmental advocates, and neighboring property owners to develop a Master Plan that would guide the development of Switchyard Park. Construction of the new Switchyard Park began in 2017 and was officially revealed to the public in November 2019.

Switchyard Park is 65 acres of pure fun. It has so many amenities for the public to enjoy. This park has an amazing playground, splashpad, skate park, dog park, basketball court, pickle ball court, community garden, and some small workout areas. There is a pavilion that hosts numerous events throughout the year. The park also has two amphitheaters for music or any other event that can use them. It is also the location that hosts Food Truck Friday! On any given day you can go to this park and find something fun to do. Kids of all ages love it! Switchyard Park is also a popular wedding venue. When you come to Bloomington, Switchyard Park should be near the top of your list of places to visit.

More Parks to Explore

According to the City of Bloomington website there are 34 parks, 27 playgrounds, and a ton of various other outdoor recreational facilities located in the Bloomington area. We encourage you to explore the community through the various parks and enjoy all the amenities our Bloomington has to offer!


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    Donald Griffin