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Rose Island, an Amusement Park Lost in Memory

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Vicki, as a military wife, spent years completing home projects when her husband was deployed. Many homes have been great teachers.

Rose Island is the skeleton of a great amusement park.

Rose Island is the skeleton of a great amusement park.

History of the Area

Abandoned but not forgotten, Rose Island, an amusement park and weekend getaway on the north bank of the Ohio River, holds memories of times past.

On any day, visitors to Charlestown State Park can learn about the menagerie that is Rose Island, from what was prehistoric land to early 1900 memories and modern-day camping, fishing, and hiking opportunities.

  • Set on the Ohio River across from Louisville, Kentucky, Rose Island has been around since the Ice Age.
  • During the Ice Age, glaciers slowly carved out the river, which could be transversed by foot. This would become the great Ohio River. This river was a busy hub of commerce in the early expansion of the United States. Those seeking a new frontier would travel the Ohio River, upstream and downstream.
  • In the 1880s, religious groups would have camp meetings there.
  • In the 1940s, the Army Ammunition Plant took over the land for use by the military. It was 15,000 acres. During the time the Army owned the land, they began the reforestation of the area.
  • Then came the idea of an amusement park.
  • Today, 981 miles make up Charlestown State Park.
The trails leading to Rose Park

The trails leading to Rose Park

Past Days of Fun-Filled Entertainment

David Rose bought the property in 1923 and turned it into an amusement park.

  • The amusement park could be accessed from Louisville by car, by steamboat on the Belle of Louisville, and other ferries.
  • It boasted rides, a zoo which showcased wolves and a bear named Teddy Roosevelt. There was also a swimming pool.
  • Visitors could ride a wooden roller coaster and observe a high view from the Ferris wheel.
  • There were also summer cottages available to rent.
  • The camp had a popular dance hall for those that wanted a night of entertainment.
  • Just looking at the people in the dining hall in the picture below, the popularity of the Island in the early 1900s is evident.
The recreation area and dining hall.

The recreation area and dining hall.

The Flood of 1937

The Great Depression and the flood of the Ohio River in 1937, devasted much of both banks of the Ohio from Louisville to Southern Indiana and destroyed many of the buildings at Rose Island.

These two events lead to the demise of this wonderful get-away.

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A bridge leading to the island.

A bridge leading to the island.

Visiting Rose Island Today

Once you reach Rose Island, the path is no longer paved.

  • Rose Island is accessible from many of the walking/hiking trails in Charlestown State Park.
  • One paved path can be used to access the abandoned park, if you are ready to walking a steep incline down and back up.
  • Walking trails that traverse the park that will put you near the Portersville Bridge.
  • There are signs that explain the ruins and the activities when Rose Island was the place to be on a weekend.
  • Bike riders and fisherman alike can spend the day exploring this wonderful State Park.
  • Also, information stations that will recite verbally a descriptions of the interesting points

Ruins Along the Trails

Once you enter Rose Island Park, the paved path turns into a dirt path which allows visitors to recreate those times past.

  • There are concrete structures that still stand today. Arches line the walkways, and there are remnants of the swimming pool.
  • Several concrete structures are still standing, giving the explorer insight into this fun-filled area of the past.
  • Rose island is accessible from many of the trails in Charlestown State Park. Most of the trails are unpaved trails through the woodlands.
  • One paved path can be used to access the abandoned park if you are up to walking a steep incline down and back up.
Sings are posted throughout the area giving snapshots of days gone by.

Sings are posted throughout the area giving snapshots of days gone by.

Portersville Bridge

While the dirt trails vary in difficulty, the Portersville Bridge is now the only way to cross Fourteenmile Creek to access Rose Island.

In the hay day of the park, visitors could also brave a walking bridge which would swing during a crossing. The not-so-brave could opt to ride a ferry.

Activities for Day Visitors and Campers

You can visit the park's website and view a map of the park for more descriptions of what is available to do. There are things I recommend trying out when you go to visit.

  • If you are a camper, there are areas where you can camp.
  • One trail allows hikers to see Fourteenmile Creek from 100 feet above the water.
  • From one of the more rugged trails, hikers can see the Ohio River and Twelvemile Island.
  • Trails in the Springs offer abundant wildflowers.
  • The paved trail is also a favorite of dog walkers.
  • Bike riders and fishermen alike can spend the day exploring this wonderful State Park.

Don't miss a chance to view history and enjoy a great state park when visiting Louisville, Kentucky, or Southern Indiana!

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