Rose Island provides a glimpse into the past

Madelyn Knight , Reporter

When you hear someone say “Charlestown, Indiana,” a hip, fun and entertaining place doesn’t really pop into your mind. Your first reaction is most likely, “Where’s that?” However, if you lived in the 1930’s, Charlestown would mean a fun getaway at Rose Island.

Located about two hours away from SHS, right along the Ohio River, Rose Island was once known for its lively dancing hall, roller coaster, ferris wheel, swimming pool, animals and hotel. But, after the flood of 1937, Rose Island was destroyed under 10 feet of water and abandoned. Today all that is left is a trail in a state park.

In 2011, the Charlestown State Park rebuilt the bridge connecting the island peninsula to the mainland, so visitors could explore the ruins of this once-vibrant area. By taking about a one-mile hike down a large hill and over a bridge, you’ll enter the area of Rose Island.

The bridge itself is renovated and architecturally pleasing to the eye. Before the bridge was rebuilt, the area was only accessible by boat. In the 1930’s many people arrived to Rose Island by steamboat. Along with arriving on steamboat, a popular activity was to watch the steamboat races by sitting at one of the many picnic tables scattered throughout the area.  There were once enough picnic tables to fit 1,500 people.

While hiking in the Rose Island proximity you’ll first see looming red arches across the path called the “Walkway of Roses.” Every once in awhile you’ll see green boxes with turnable handles that play audio to give information of what once was there and what visitors would experience. Some will also provide background information about the time period such as music and pop culture.

A unique feature that I personally found fascinating was the poles to tell you what stood in that area. On each pole there is a marker to show you how high the water reached in 1937. For example, the place where the remains of the swimming pool stands, a blue water marke, stands about a foot over.

Nature has taken over the once-cleared land from the 1930’s. The signs on the path show pictures of what it used to look like, but now it is covered with forest. There isn’t much information of the place; therefore the identification of the ruins are only guesses. You’ll find random pieces of scrap metal, bricks, and stone structures along the path, but the purpose of these items are unknown.

The clearest ruin is the swimming pool. It was very large for the time period in which it was built and today you can still clearly tell what it was. Now it is filled with gravel and you can walk across it, but the ladders into the pool remain.

It’s upsetting how an area that was once so prominent and important is not even recognizable anymore. Hiking the Rose Island trail is such a neat experience and great exercise. The people you meet on the trail are always kind and are never afraid to say hello. The excitement and energy that once was found in the 135,000 people that visited the park annually is now remembered through red arches and scrap metal, but it is definitely worth the experience and visit.