Dedicated in 1925, Pokagon State Park is named for Potawatomi leaders Leopold and Simon Pokagon, who lived in this area during the 1800s. Potawatomi settlements date back to at least the early 1800s around Lake James, now part of Pokagon State Park. Chief Simon Pokagon was born in 1830 and later documented Potawatomi customs, legends, and language. During the Potawatomi’s presence in the area, they helped shape the environment making up the park. The Potawatomi set fires for the purpose of driving game and growing crops, helping to keep some parklands open. Although the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi have been sadly reduced in population over time because of treaties and the westward movement of white settlers, a federally recognized tribe still remains near the park in the northeast corner of Indiana, as well as the southwest corner of Michigan.
Besides housing Native American communities, Pokagon State Park hosted another group at one point—glaciers. During the most recent advance of glaciers, nearly 10,000 years ago during the Wisconsin Glaciation, many of the parks prominent features and lakes were formed as the ice retreated and melted.
Today, Pokagon hosts numerous opportunities born from the park’s creation. Indiana’s only toboggan run (open November through February), originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, can reach speeds up to 42 miles per hour as it drops ninety feet over a quarter mile. Company 556 of the C.C.C. was also responsible for the main beach, inn beach, gatehouse, shelter houses, Spring Shelter, trail system, and saddle barn. Pokagon State Park was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.