Cataract Falls

Bridge Cataract FallsThe historic bridge at Cataract Falls in Cataract Falls State Recreation Area, the only covered bridge in Owen County, is a 140-foot bridge spanning Mill Creek. It was built in 1876, according to the Indiana Historical Bureau, and is an excellent example of a Smith truss.

Quarries of building stone and plentiful coal deposits are in the area, but they had no commercial value because of the transportation costs. When first settled, Upper Cataract Fallsthe countryside was covered with dense growth of deciduous timber. The settlers, not realizing the value of the hardwood, destroyed much of it in clearing farms.  Some families used black walnut for fuel, little dreaming that it would some day exceed in value the land upon which it grew. Sugar Maples once grew in all parts, and sugar camps were profitably worked. The soil is poorly adapted toWalking Under Cataract Falls farming, but the limestone underneath is favorable to the growth of bluegrass, which makes good stock and grazing country.

The small community of Cataract is located near the upper falls. At the peak of its growth, Cataract was a bustling town, marketing lumber in Greencastle and flour as far away as Louisville. When the saw mills played out and the use of grist millCataract Falls close ups declined, the town subsided into a sleepy hamlet. Even though summer homes now dot the countryside, and the Owen-Putnam border is gaining new residents, the little community of Cataract has not lost its homey village atmosphere.

The first permanent settler in the area was Isaac Teal who lived near the lower falls. He erected a small mill around 1820. The wildlife was plentiful. In 1841, Theodore Jennings and hisWalkig on top Cataract falls mother rode horseback from louisville to Greencastle to visit his brother. From the primitive highway, he heard the roar of the falls and liked the sound. He bought 1,000 acres, which included the falls and Teal’s rotting old mill. Jennings returned to the area shortly afterward, bringing his wife and four children along with other friends and relatives. They journeyed here by covered wagons through the snow, and they lived in the wagons until their homes were built. Jennings erected a saw mill, flour and woolen mills, a general store, and coper and blacksmith shops in what would later be called JenningsLower Cataract Falls Township. Theodore Jennings was related to Jonathan Jennings, Indiana’s first governor.  Jennings later moved and sold the falls and surrounding acreage to John Teal.

In 1883, John Steiner and David Wallace purchased Cataract Falls and much of the adjoining acreage. John Steiner was a wealthy railroad man and horse racing fan. On his 1,000 acre estate at Cataract, he maintained a half-mile track which drew horse racing fans fromPlayground Cararact falls all over the country. From 1883 to 1952, the falls belonged to the Steiner family. Agnes Wallace Steiner’s daughter Agnes Stuckey operated a resort near the falls from 1916 until 1967. In 1952, she donated the upper falls and 37 acres on both sides of Mill Creek to the state of Indiana as a memorial to her mother, maintaining a 15Shelter Cataract Falls year lease with the state before closing the resort. The US Government purchased 329 acres in the lower falls area when Cagles Mill Lake was being formed as a giant flood control program in the 1950’s. When the government began buying property, it was feared that Cataract Falls was doomed. however, the constructions of Picnic table Cataract FallsCagles Mill Dam, the Reservoir, and Lieber State Recreation Area has preserved Cataract Falls for public enjoyment.