The Oak Savannah Trail takes its name from the unique ecosystem that it runs through. Once pervasive throughout northern Indiana, the oak savannah is a transitional zone between forest and prairie, with grassland marked by a smattering of oak trees. Unfortunately, development, drought and the suppression of natural fire cycles (which allow other species to dominate) have all contributed to the massive decline of the oak savannah ecosystem. The fact that this prairie environment is now endangered makes this an important trail to visit.
Built in 1893 this corridor served the Elgin, Joliet, and Eastern Railroad, whose track made a semicircle around Chicago to avoid the congestion of the city's rail yards. Because of this shape, it became known as the "J" line. In its prime, the trains carried grain, meat, fruit, vegetables and coal.
Beginning in Hobart, the well-maintained, asphalt trail very quickly takes you to the edge of Lake Georgean excellent spot for fishing bass, crappie and other species. The lake is also home to a permanent population of geese, ducks and ring-billed gulls. From the trail bridge, you can walk onto platforms overlooking the lily-pad-covered neck of the lake between the lake's larger main bodies.
The next few miles of trail beyond the lake travel west through excellent representations of an oak savannah ecosystem. Shortly, you emerge along another lake at John Robinson Park (parking), where you may want to take a rest in the small field of grass along the lakefront.
At the tunnel beneath Interstate 65, the trail enters a more urban setting with a variety of road crossings; a new tunnel under busy Broadway in Gary makes this crossing much easier.
After Broadway, you soon return to the quiet forest and prairie that dominates the trail. After passing a large private fishing club, you will see the end of the county airport runway, just west of the corridor. Here, just past mile 5.5, a very dense forest marks the entrance of Oak Ridge Prairie Park. A wonderful yet short stretch of the trail winds through the woods to the Griffith trailhead in the park's parking lot. If you want to linger, explore Oak Ridge Prairie Park, where a trout-stocked fishing lake, picnic areas and a large playground provide activities for all ages.
Parking and Trail Access
In Hobart parking is available at a small city park (with ball field) off Lake Street (between 7th and 8th streets). You can also park at Robinson Park (has a lake) just east of I-65 at the elbow bend of Liverpool Road.
In Griffith park at Oak Ridge Prairie county Park. Take I-94 to the Burr Street Exit and head south for 1.5 miles. Turn right on US Route 6 (Ridge Road) and drive for 2.2 miles to the exit for Colfax Street. Look for the park's parking lot on the left.