River Preserve County Park


Located along the little Elkhart River, the River Preserve is our largest park encompassing 327 acres. Once the site of early mill operations and hydroelectric generation the park contains the dams, canals and foundations of an earlier day.

Visitors to the park will experience the natural beauty of Elkhart County. Wetlands along the Elkhart River provide excellent habitat for a wide variety of plant and animal species. The park is included in the Indiana Wildlife Viewing Guide, a listing of the top 80 wildlife viewing areas in the state of Indiana. Additional information on canoeing the River Preserve can be found on the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Indiana Canoeing Guide website.

The River Preserve provides visitors excellent opportunities for picnicking, fishing, canoeing, hiking and nature study.

Access Sites

Baintertown Hydro: 0.5 miles east of State Road 15 on County Road 29. Site contains a hydroelectric power plant, fishing and small boat access, picnic site, hiking trail.

Baintertown Park: 67380 County Road 29, New Paris, IN 46533
1 mile east of State Road 15 on County Road 29, north at County Road 142. Site contains, accessible parking, open shelter, accessible latrine, drinking fountain, picnic sites, fishing and small boat access and an orienteering/GPS Course. (Click here for a brochure of the course.)

Benton Hydro: 1-1.5 miles west of U.S. 33 on County Road 44, south miles on County Road 127. Site contains hiking trails, picnic site, fishing and small boat access.

Benton Spillway: 68552 County Road 31, Goshen, IN 46553
2 miles south of U.S. 33 on County Road 31. Site contains a dam, spillway, canal, accessible latrine, drinking fountain, open shelter, hiking trails, fishing and small boat access, wildlife viewing area.

Benton Landing: 68105 US 33, Goshen, IN 46526
North side of Elkhart River Bridge on U.S. 33 in Benton, IN, parking lot on west side of the road. Site contains picnic area, seasonal latrine, fishing and small boat access.

DeFries Gardens: 17477 County Road 46, New Paris, IN 46553
1.25 miles east of New Paris, IN on county Road 46. Site contains park manager office, maintenance facility, residence and parking. Visitors can enjoy the hiking trail, Calendar Garden, informal gardens and canoe access to the Elkhart River.

DeFries Gardens Hours:
Same as River Preserve Park hours. See below.


 River Preserve Park Hours
January, February, November, December 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
March, October

9:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.

April, September 9:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
May, June, July, August 9:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m.

*Park hours subject to change without notice.

*Vehicles left in the parking lots after hours will be locked in and issued a warning with instructions on how to remove the vehicle.

*Selected parking lots may be closed during the winter months.


Shelter Rental/Reservation

Baintertown Shelter      Capacity - 50     Fee - $50.00
Open-air shelter located in the Baintertown Park section. Picnic tables and charcoal grills are provided with shelter. Site contains open area for recreation, accessible parking, accessible latrine, drinking fountain, picnic sites, fishing and small boat access. Close to the Baintertown Wetland Area which includes a pond and managed wetland. Hiking trails lead along historic canal, through woods and meadows to Baintertown Hydro Plant and Baintertown Dam.

Benton Spillway      Capacity - 30     Fee - $30.00
Open-air shelter located in the Benton Spillway section.
Picnic tables and charcoal grills are provided with shelter. Site contains open area for recreatioin, an accessible latrine, drinking fountain, fishing and small boat access. Miles of hiking trails lead along the historic canal through woods, restored prairies, meadows and wetlands to the Benton Spillway and Benton Dam. The area is listed as an Indiana Wildlife Viewing Area. Handicapped Accessible.

DeFries Gardens    Capacity - 50   Fee - $200.00 ($250 Cash Security Deposit)
The DeFries Garden area features the beautiul Calendar Garden and surrounding lawn area. Site also provides a drinking fountain, modern restroom facilities, and a hiking trail. Handicapped Accessible. Rental of the site is available for weddings only. Please contact the Elkhart County Parks administration office for more information.

Click on a link below for more photos
of the Calendar Garden:

DeFries Gardens Website

Calendar Garden Flickr Page


Payment Methods
Payment for program fees, shelter reservations or Ox Bow Park passes can be made by cash, check or credit card. Payments by cash or check can be made in person at the Elkhart County Parks Administration office, 211 W. Lincoln Ave, Goshen Indiana. Payment by credit card can be made in person or by phone at 574-535-6458. If paying by credit card, a convenience fee of $1.00 or 3%, which ever is greater, will be applied.

Park Rules

In an effort to protect the beauty of the parks and to provide visitors with a safe and enjoyable experience, certain activities are prohibited .

For a list of prohibited park activities please read the Park Rules (pdf) .

History of the River Preserve

The River Preserve is rich in local history. It was near this site that Potowatomi Chief Nyananseya (Five Metals) had established his village. Five Metals' vision for his people was that they could coexist with the pioneers through large scale farming. This dream came to the end when U.S. forces destroyed his village in 1812 and again in 1813.

Lt. John Jackson took part in the attack against the village. He thought the area was so beautiful that he returned in 1829 and built a cabin near the village site. The township now bears his name. Other settlers soon followed. In 1830, Jonathan Wyland and five of his brothers came to Elkhart County from Ohio. The brothers entered 640 acres of land and built a mill race and a saw mill. The area soon became known as Wyland Mills as they expanded their milling operations to include a four story grist mill in 1835 and a woolens mill in 1840. After the death of his wife, Johnathan Wyland sold his holdings to Fredrick Bainter in 1860. The area was re-christened Baintertown but was never plotted or recorded. In 1898 William Redden purchased the original Wyland Mill, homestead and land. The mill continued to operate until 1923 when it could no longer compete against national brands. The Interstate Public Service Company bought the farm from the Redden family and built the Baintertown Hydroelectric plant. The plant was owned by several utility companies over the years but was finally shut down in 1969. Northern Indiana Public Service Company donated the plant, dam, canal, and 1000 acres to the Elkhart County Parks in 1970 and the River Preserve was created.

Today visitors can still see the park's history written upon the landscape. The mill foundations, canals and spillways give notice that this peaceful park setting was once a thriving commercial area.


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Other Parks:
Ox Bow Park

Cobus Creek          
River Preserve
Boot Lake Nature Preserve

Pumpkinvine Nature Trail

Other Properties   

Elkhart County Parks and Recreation
211 W. Lincoln Ave.
Goshen, IN 46526-3280

Phone 574-535-6458   TDD 574-535-6420
Email info@elkhartcountyparks.org