Years before it was a Quick Stop off Interstates 70 and 74, Turkey Run State Park, near Marshall, Ind., was a pick of the nation's state parks.

As a Hoosier kid, I climbed its cliffs, tracked its sylvan trails, canoed Sugar Creek (still one of Indiana's best paddle streams), and explored its quaint, covered bridges, among the more than 30 others in surrounding Parke County. Turkey Run remains what it has always been: a premier state park. Its virgin forest, 14 miles of trails, luxurious inn and new, 404-acre nature center have made the park a star among state parks. But along the I-Routes are plenty of other premier state parks worth a Quick Stop.In Arizona, Slide Rock State Park in beautiful Oak Creek Canyon on U.S. 89A, which parallels I-17 some 20 miles south of Flagstaff (from the Oak Creek Canyon exit on I-17) and seven miles north of Sedona, is an all-family fun place. Among Arizona's newest state parks, Slide Rock's main feature is just that: a 100-yard-long slip-and-slide rock slab, over which Oak Creek flows, and along which you can slide, propelled by the creek's cooling current.

California's Marshall Gold Discovery State Historical Park - where James Wilson Marshall's discovery on Jan. 24, 1848, triggered the California Gold Rush - lies along the South Fork of the American River. The river is a favorite gold panning stream for Quick Stop adventurers. While no fortunes have come recently from the river, panning for a few retrievable specks of gold is fun, keeps the kids busy and gets the whole family out-of-doors. Gold panning is not permitted within the park, which is on State Route 49 some 30 miles south of Auburn, Calif., and I-80. The park and its excellent Gold Rush museum are open daily, $3 per car; (916) 622-3470.

A park no one need come away from empty-handed is Connecticut's Dinosaur State Park, off I-91 just south of Hartford. What you can come away with are plaster casts of some of the park's more than 2,000 185-million-year-old footprints of dinosaurs, preserved in the park's sandstone.

Park rangers help visitors make footprint castings (casting materials, including plaster of Paris, are available at stores near the park); it takes only 10 to 20 minutes. The park's casting area is open daily from early April until late November. Park admission: adults, $1; ages 6-17, 50 cents; ages 5 and under, free; (203) 566-2304.

America's first shared state park - Interstate State Park - has its Wisconsin and Minnesota units on opposite sides of the St. Croix, the border river between the states and a designated National Scenic Riverway. The park is off I-35 northeast of Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Interstate State Park flanks The Dalles, a spectacular gorge formed by 200-feet-high glacier-hewn bluffs. You can paddle a rental canoe or float the river, visit the Ice Age Interpretive Center in Wisconsin's Interstate Park, explore enormous whirlpool-made potholes in both park segments, hike self-guided interpretive trails or simply enjoy the scenery. For recreational information about the St. Croix National Riverway and its parks, phone (715) 836-2821. Both parks are open daily.

Glacier-made, too, are the gorges of Turkey Run State Park through which flows picturesque Sugar Creek (swimming is prohibited in the creek). Bridging the creek and its tributaries both inside the 2,182-acre park and in surrounding Parke County are some 34 covered bridges - more than in any other county. Rockville, the county seat, is six miles south of the park on U.S. 41 and calls itself the "Covered Bridge Capital." A self-guided map to the bridges is available from the Tourist Information Center in Rockville. One of the bridges - the 121-feet-long Narrows Bridge, built in 1882 - crosses Sugar Creek within the park. Although the bridge is closed to traffic, you can see it close-up - as do thousands of park visitors each year - while canoeing Sugar Creek.

Turkey Run State Park, one of Indiana's most scenically pristine places, is open daily. Admission: $2 per car.

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GETTING THERE. From I-70: Leave I-70 at the U.S. 41 exit (first exit east of the crossing of the Wabash River), in Terre Haute, Ind. Drive north on U.S. 41 approximately 30 miles to the entrance of Turkey Run State Park, on your right.

From I-74: Leave I-74 at the U.S. 41/Veedersburg exit, 63 miles northwest of Indianapolis. Go south on U.S. 41 18 miles to the state park.

FOR MORE INFORMATION. For a brochure, write Turkey Run State Park, Route 1, Box 164, Marshall, Ind. 47859; (317) 597-2635. For an excellent tour map of some 30 nearby covered bridges, including those of Turkey Run State Park, write Parke County Tourist Information Center, P.O. Box 165, Rockville, Ind. 47872; or phone (317) 569-5226 or 569-5372.