PENDLETON, Ind. — The area in and around Pendleton's Falls Park is steeped in history, good and bad.
In 1824, white settlers massacred a Native American family near Pendleton. Three of the settlers were sentenced to death and hanged near the waterfalls of Fall Creek where the park now stands. Nineteen years later, Frederick Douglass and his abolitionist supporters rallied at the park despite threats of murder and mayhem.
The water that pools between the waterfalls in Fall Creek, which runs through the park and lends its name, has made it a favorite place for swimmers over the years. Photos through the middle of the 20th century show hundreds of people in the water and on the banks, diving in and cooling off in the heat of the summer.
Today, in a more cautious age, there's no swimming in the park — other than in a man-made, Olympic-size pool with a water slide. But there's still lots to do in this 150-acre slice of heaven.
For one, you can just lounge on a bench and simply enjoy the park's beauty. The west side of the park features a quaint gazebo that can be reserved for special occasions. On one side, the gazebo is flanked by enormous sycamores that sweep up your spirit with their elegant branches.
The park also boasts playground equipment, lots of shelters with benches, a walking trail with board walk, a history museum, ball diamonds and volleyball and basketball courts. But for many, the main attractions are still the modest waterfalls, as well as a fishing pond.
In the evening, street lamps illuminate the banks of the pond. An ornamental light tower and a colorful fountain stand sentry near the center of the pond.
Ducks and geese rest comfortably on the shore, ruffling their feathers and protesting quietly when people walk among them.