Head to the Hoosier State to Go Howling with Wolves

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Michaelson

You don't get to dance with wolves in western Indiana, but you are invited to howl with them.

It happens on Howl Night at Wolf Park in Lafayette. Families enjoy this event, held Saturdays year-round as well as on Fridays May through November (weather permitting). It includes a lecture on wolf communication and a demonstration during which staff interact with wolves and visitors have the opportunity to howl with the wolves.

On Sunday afternoons, predator meets prey as a wolf pack and a herd of bison interact cautiously. Bison are the most formidable prey wolves meet in the wild; healthy bison, such as those at the park, have nothing to fear.

Watch as wolves test their prey for weakness and bison defend themselves by chasing them away. Although no animals are injured, these demonstrations provide unique insight into how wolves hunt and how difficult it is to be a predator in the wild. The presentation begins at 1 p.m. May through November, weather permitting.

The park, established in 1972 by Erich Klinghammer, is one of the world's most respected gray wolf research facilities. It is home to several packs of gray wolves, plus foxes, bison and even a coyote named Wild Bill.

The coyote, a curiosity to visitors (who may have heard the howl of local coyotes, but have never seen one close up), was born in 1987 and raised at the park. Wild Bill is friendly and enjoys back rubs and ear scratches as well as howl-alongs.

A visitor center provides year-round viewing. Storytelling is offered for young visitors, such as "Three Little Pigs" told from the wolf's viewpoint.

Wolf watching is among a variety of diversions in the towns of Lafayette and West Lafayette, located along the Wabash River and home of Purdue University.

These include Prophetstown State Park, which opened last fall with emphasis on native grasses and wild flowers. This restored prairie attracts seasonal birds and waterfowl. Within the park you'll find a bicycling trail and Historic Prophetstown, designed to preserve and interpret Woodland Native American and Wabash Valley agricultural history, culture and traditions.

Its Gibson Farmhouse is a replica of the Hillrose Farmhouse, available from the 1918 Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog. It features 1920s-style furnishings, wallpapers and kitchen appliances (including a wood-burning cook stove).

It serves Farmhouse Suppers for groups of eight up to 50. Grandma's Noodle Dinner features beef or chicken and includes mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, coleslaw, dinner rolls, apple pie and iced tea. The Everyday Farm Dinner comes with Swiss steak, fried chicken or roast beef and includes mashed potatoes, gravy, carrots, salad, biscuits, strawberry pie and iced tea. Cost is $28 per person Monday through Thursday, $35 per person Friday and Saturday (two weeks' notice required).

After dinner, a horse-drawn trolley takes you on a ride along a moonlit path through the prairie. You might also get to meet Emma, a calf born at the end of last month.

A significant piece of America's transportation history awaits at Canal Park, where a three-mile section of the Wabash & Erie Canal captures the flavor of what once was the world's second- longest canal (only the Grand Canal of China was longer). An interpretive center, opened in 2003, chronicles the history of the canal and its operations.

Canals were the interstate highways of early 19th-century America before the rapid spread of railroads rendered them obsolete. …