Opened in 1923, Indiana’s rustic theme park Rose Island was a popular attraction for summer vacationers chasing after all manner of early 20th century fun, but the good times only lasted for a little over a decade when the park was destroyed by a flood, leaving today’s haunting ruins.
The area once known as “Fern Grove” was already a popular recreation spot when entrepreneur David Rose purchased the land and added some real attractions. Although the land is a peninsula, Rose renamed the area Rose Island to give it an air of exclusivity. Rose built a hotel, a swimming pool, and a wooden roller coaster in addition to a number of decorative flourishes. He also installed a tiny little zoo that held a wolf, some monkeys, and a bear named “Teddy Roosevelt.” People swarmed to the island in droves, arriving to the suspended foot bridge in their motor cars, or riding a steamboat to the “island’s” shore.
Not even the economic downturn of The Great Depression hurt the booming Rose Island business. It was not until the Ohio River Flood of 1937 that the amusement park was finally abandoned. The flood drowned the facilities in 10 feet of water, and by the time they receded, the damage was too great to salvage and the site was abandoned.
Today all that remains of Rose Island are the stone struts of its former footbridge, the swimming pool (which has held up remarkably well over the decades), and the crumbling remains of a stone fountain. After the original foot bridge collapsed, access to the grounds was restricted, but a new bridge was recently transplanted that allows access to the ruins.
Know Before You Go
The site is located within the Charleston State Park and is approximately a 20-minute walk from the nearest parking lot, down a steep incline.