Though not as well known or as visited as Turkey Run, Shades State Park shares much of the same natural splendor, geology, and ecosystems that visitors to Turkey Run have enjoyed for one hundred years. Added to the state park system in 1947, “Shades of Death” as it was known before its establishment, was a popular tourist destination back into the mid-1800s.
Two layers of exposed bedrock can be found at Shades including the 225-million-year old Pennsylvanian sandstone and 250-million-year old Mississippian bedrock composed of siltstone, limestone, and shale layers. Marine fossils within the Mississippian bedrock include crinoids, bryozoans, and brachiopods. Other geologic attractions include the “Devil’s Punch Bowl,” “Silver Cascade Waterfall,” and the “Devil’s Backbone,” located within Pine Hills Nature Preserve-- Indiana’s first nature preserve.
The park’s distinctive geology - the joining of the Pennsylvanian and Mississippian bedrock layers- resulted in numerous springs throughout the park. In the late nineteenth century, a movement emerged touting the curative and restorative powers of mineral water and exposure to the outdoors, leading to the creation of the Garland Dell Mineral Springs Association at the Shades. An inn known as the Dells Resort provided guests access to the areas natural features. The eventual owner of the Dells Resort, Joseph Frisz, who helped preserve the land, later sold his holdings to the state, for the creation of Shades State Park.