Spencer, IN: McCormick's Creek State Park, Old State House Quarry Geology Tour

In Indiana, the entire month of June is celebrated as Indiana Limestone Month, and the area stretching between Bloomington, Bedford, Ellettsville, and Spencer is the place to be. Each year I try to attend at least one limestone event, talk, or museum exhibit and two years ago I even learned how to carve limestone at the Limestone Symposium. This year, I am taking several tours of nearby quarries and limestone buildings, starting with the Old State House Quarry at McCormick's Creek State Park.

This tour was run by two geologists from the Indiana Geological and Water Survey, Polly and Todd. It was advertised on the Visit Bloomington events website (which I highly recommend following) and free, aside from entrance into the park (it's $7 for a car with an Indiana license plate to enter a state park, or buy the calendar-year parks pass for $50).

A group of around 20 or so of us started at the trailside shelter to get an overview of the history and to look at the building's limestone under hand lenses. Limestone is mostly calcium carbonate, which comes from the shells of small marine animals. Indiana's limestone is some of the best in the entire world, and is why so many famous buildings are made of it (including nearly all the state capitols, the Empire State Building, the Rockefeller Center, the Pentagon, the new Yankee Stadium, and a good amount of the city of Chicago).

Then we hiked down Trail 2 to the Quarry Loop to learn more about the quarry that provided the first stone for the State House in Indianapolis.

We learned that this quarry,which opened in 1878, was originally used mostly because the limestone was easy to get. There is an outcropping right here, which you can see very obviously while you are on the trail. However, the limestone found here wasn't actually all that great, and only the basement of the State House uses stone from this quarry. Another quarry opened up nearby about 3 months after this one, and the stone there was better. Then, about 2 years after that, an extremely good quarry in Bedford won the rest of the contract to do the State House. There is a color change in the stone where the switch is. At about the same time, the railroad bridge that serviced this area was washed out, and did not get rebuilt. So this quarry hasn't been active since 1880.

We climbed all over the old quarry and saw holes, carving marks, and even an old inscription. It's a little slippery on the moss, so be careful when you are climbing, but definitely get up on the stones if you are able to in order to see limestone work from 140 years ago!

Limestone quarrying is still pretty similar, but the blocks are much bigger and the tools more sophisticated to make the work faster. Limestone is still used today as a building material, but not nearly as much as in the early 1900s, as steel frames are used instead of stone. Most limestone now is used as a thin stone on the facades of buildings.

The Indiana Geological and Water Survey has a geology park guide if you are interested in other aspects of McCormick's Creek. It is easy and quick to get down to the quarry, but there is some elevation coming back up.

Enjoy the rest of Limestone Month!
Spencer, IN: McCormick's Creek State Park, Old State House Quarry Geology Tour Spencer, IN: McCormick's Creek State Park, Old State House Quarry Geology Tour Reviewed by Maria on 11:23:00 AM Rating: 5

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