Central Indiana Birding Opportunities - Summit Lake State Park

The park’s 2,680 acres consists of scattered forest, scrub and prairie, and an 800-acre lake.

Bald Eagle on Indiana Birding Trail


Many birders bird in or near their car by visiting different vantage points to view the lake and observing birds along the roadside. Six trails ranging from 0.75 to 2 miles are available for exploration.

Checking the lake during migration and winter for ducks and geese is a primary draw for birders. At times, diving waterfowl can be numerous and may include uncommon species such as scoters and Long-tailed Duck. A spotting scope is pretty much a necessity to see distant birds. Stop at the north boat launch, beach area, Sunset Shelter, and the small boat launch for different views of the lake. In migration, you might see gulls and terns over the lake or possibly even pelicans. A pair of nesting Bald Eagles might be seen patrolling the lake for fish or waterfowl at any time of year.

In summer, roadside birding or utilizing the trails will produce Yellow Warblers, Willow Flycatchers, Indigo Buntings, Common Yellowthroats, and Eastern Bluebirds. In winter, expect good numbers of sparrows scattered throughout the park.

The Nature Area in the northeast corner of the park at 500 East and 750 North can be checked for ducks, Belted Kingfisher, hawks, and possibly shorebirds, if the water levels are low enough. In particular, the Nature Area appeals to migrating dabbling ducks such as Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, and Gadwall. It is also a good spot to see Hooded Mergansers.

eBird Hotspot Link:

Total Birding Time:
1-4 hours

Best Times to Bird: 
The park can be birded year-round but often the action is on the water. Waterfowl migration in spring runs February thru early April and in fall is October thru freeze-up.



Address: 5993 N. Messick Road, New Castle, IN 47362.
Directions: The gatehouse is located one mile north of State Road 36 on Messick Road.
Hours: Hours are sunrise to sunset.
Ownership: Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of State Parks
Admission: Indiana State Park entrance fees apply. $7 in-state vehicles, $9 out of state vehicles. No gate fees on certain off-season days
Restrictions: Please obey all rules and regulations. A summary of property rules can be found at stateparks.IN.gov/6468.htm.
Parking: Parking is available in several lots in the park. Park only in designated areas.
Nearby Amenities: Restrooms are available at the north boat launch, Beach House, near the naturalist’s office, and Sunset Shelter (vault toilet) in addition to the campground for those who are camping. On-site camping. Rental of paddleboats, canoes, and rowboats available in season. Lodging and other facilities can be found in Muncie, 25 minutes away.
Accessibility: Facilities are ADA accessible and Trail 3 at the beach area is a 0.9 mile accessible trail comprised of gravel. Most birding can be done from the car.
Website: stateparks.in.gov
Phone Number: (765) 766-5873

Written by: Don Gorney
Photo by: 
Shari McCollough