The Complete Guide to Kentucky State Parks

The Complete Guide to Kentucky State Parks

WRITTEN BY Susan Reigler
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Pam Spaulding
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2tv6jg
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Complete Guide to Kentucky State Parks
    Book Description:

    The Complete Guide to Kentucky State Parks is the one-stop resource for information on great places to view Kentucky's natural beauty, tour historical sites, golf, camp, fish, hike, backpack, swim, ride horseback, rock climb, and enjoy almost any other type of outdoor recreation. Whether you are a day tripper, weekend escapee, or weeklong camper, this unique guide is ideal for any one of the seven million visitors who enjoy Kentucky state parks each year. Author Susan Reigler showcases all forty-nine state parks and historical sites, as well as the Kentucky Horse Park, the Breaks Interstate Park, and the Falls of the Ohio State Park. The book contains vivid details and numerous lush photographs and is organized geographically to help with planning trips around the state. A comprehensive map is included for each region. For every park, the essential information is provided: • Natural or historical attractions of the park • Types of recreation available • Camping and lodging facilities, museums, and gift shops • Addresses and phone numbers • Magnificent color photographs -- 170 in allIf you want to see the moonbow at Cumberland Falls, one of only two in the world, to listen for a ghostly bugle at Perryville Battlefield, or to explore the longest cave system in the world, let this book be your guide. Don't be without it when planning your vacation in Kentucky.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7364-1
    Subjects: Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. ix-xii)

    Buckskin-clad long hunters (one who hunts for weeks or months at a time), dense woodlands that shelter bears, roaming herds of elk and bison, and wetlands where bald eagles perch in overhanging branches are all sights that would have been familiar to Kentucky’s most famous early citizen, Daniel Boone.

    Were Boone to return to the state today, he would find all these sights preserved and protected in Kentucky’s state parks. Even his eponymous settlement, Fort Boonesborough, is still around, though rebuilt and moved a bit from its original site. And he might be tempted to take up golf or sailing,...

  4. NORTH CENTRAL KENTUCKY PARKS
    • [Map]
      (pp. 1-3)
    • BIG BONE LICK STATE PARK
      (pp. 4-7)

      When european explorers ventured down the Ohio River in the 18th century, they followed a wide buffalo trace from the river’s south bank and discovered a 10-acre bog dotted with mineral springs. Large game animals, including bison, deer, and elk, were attracted to the salty, sulfurous water. This made the swamp a perfect hunting ground for the area’s American Indians, and so it seemed perfectly natural, too, to find scores of large bones mired in quivering mud. Indeed, the “jelly ground,” as the explorers called it, often trapped unwary beasts coming to the springs to drink. But these were no...

    • BLUE LICKS BATTLEFIELD STATE RESORT PARK
      (pp. 8-12)

      Fields of tall yellow goldenrod and deep purple ironweed are one of Kentucky’s most beautiful late summer natural features. The showy blooms are so widespread and so familiar that goldenrod is the official state flower.

      In reality, as any botanist will tell you, there are many kinds of goldenrod. Kentucky has no fewer than 34 species of the plants belonging to the genusSolidago.Some are common and conspicuous. Others are not. A 55-acre state nature preserve set aside within Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park is almost the only place in the world where the federally endangered Short’s goldenrod,...

    • BOONE STATION STATE HISTORIC SITE
      (pp. 13-14)

      By the late 1770s, Fort Boonesborough, near Richmond, had become a thriving community. This meant it was too crowded for founder Daniel Boone, who could spend weeks at a time in the wilderness without missing human companionship. So in 1779, Boone moved his family to land in Fayette County, near Lexington, and with a handful of other families established Boone Station.

      Boone, his wife Rebecca, and five of their children who still lived at home occupied a double log cabin. Among the other families at Boone Station were those of the Boones’ married daughters, Jemima and Rebecca. Unfortunately, by 1781,...

    • CONSTITUTION SQUARE STATE HISTORIC SITE
      (pp. 15-17)

      Danville, its tree-shaded streets lined with stately antebellum and Victorian homes, is one of Kentucky’s most charming towns. It is known today as the location of prestigious Centre College and the annual Great American Brass Band Festival. More than 200 years ago, in the 1780s and early 1790s, it was the birthplace of Kentucky’s statehood.

      The center of that political activity was this square block now surrounded by a bustling downtown. If you visit Constitution Square on a weekday between September and May, you will probably be sharing the space with busloads of schoolchildren. The historic site is a prime...

    • E. P. “TOM” SAWYER STATE PARK
      (pp. 18-21)

      On a warm, clear friday night in September, a field at the edge of this park in suburban Louisville is dotted with hard-to-distinguish large, lumpy shapes. There are no lights, but there is a murmur of excited chatter. “I can see some moons!” “Look at the colors!”

      This is a meeting of the Louisville Astronomical Society, a gathering of sky enthusiasts who maintain the Urban Astronomy Center at E. P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park and invite the public to join them several times a year. Many make their own telescopes (the lumpy objects in the field), and all are happy...

    • FORT BOONESBOROUGH STATE PARK
      (pp. 22-25)

      If you are fascinated by the life and legend of frontiersman Daniel Boone, this should be your first Kentucky Boone stop. Not only is the fort here, but there is also a museum with exhibits on all aspects of Boone’s life and career.

      The replica of Fort Boonesborough, built using more than 10,000 logs, is imposing, the walls of the stockade rising high into the air. But it gives an impression of vulnerability, too, one that could well have been shared by the pioneer families who made their homes within the fort in the 1770s. It is hemmed in on...

    • GENERAL BUTLER STATE RESORT PARK
      (pp. 26-30)

      The park is named in honor of General William Orlando Butler. A member of a prominent military family (his father served under Washington in the Revolutionary War), Butler distinguished himself during the War of 1812, serving with Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans and in the Mexican War, of which he was the final commander in chief.

      At home in Carrollton, he practiced law, published poetry, and ran for public office several times, serving as a U.S. congressman from 1839 to 1843. Other political ventures were less successful. Butler was defeated in his bids to be governor. And...

    • ISAAC SHELBY CEMETERY STATE HISTORIC SITE
      (pp. 31-32)

      Isaac shelby, military hero in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, frontier statesman, and Kentucky’s first and fifth governor, was so widely respected in his lifetime that counties and towns in no fewer than three states are named in his honor. So it is quite a paradox that the smallest property in the state park system, a tiny quarter of an acre, is devoted to Shelby’s life and career.

      The site, once part of Shelby’s estate, which he named Traveller’s Rest, is reached by a private, tree-lined farm road off Knob Lick Pike. (There are signs from U.S....

    • KINCAID LAKE STATE PARK
      (pp. 33-37)

      When you turn into the entrance of Kincaid Lake State Park, the road takes you right through the center of the park’s newest facility, a nine-hole golf course that opened in 2004. The fairways are visible on either side of the road. Just beyond the modern golf course, you will come to the park office, one of the oldest buildings in use in the park system. The little log cabin was built in 1878, and if you look closely, you will see that it is held together by dovetailed joints and wooden pegs. No nails.

      There are other ways in...

    • LINCOLN HOMESTEAD STATE PARK
      (pp. 38-40)

      It seems a bit strange that most of the park dedicated to the courtship of Abraham Lincoln’s parents is taken up by a golf course. Honest Abe was not among the many American presidents who have been duffers. But it is an attractive course, and a visit to the buildings on the site, which are bounded by split-rail fences very like the kind that young Abe was famous for building, will give you a good dose of Lincoln family history. The buildings are open for tours from the beginning of May to the end of September.

      The two-story Francis Berry...

    • MY OLD KENTUCKY HOME STATE PARK
      (pp. 41-44)

      Every year on the first Saturday in May, tens of thousands of spectators who have gathered at Churchill Downs in Louisville to watch America’s oldest annual sporting event break into song. The sentimental strains of “My Old Kentucky Home” ring out to escort the horses onto the track for the running of the Kentucky Derby.

      A large proportion of the day’s singers of the official state song are not Kentuckians. That is perfectly fine, since its composer was not one either. Like the racing fans attending the Derby, Pennsylvanian Stephen Collins Foster was a visitor to Kentucky. Like many in...

    • NOLIN LAKE STATE PARK
      (pp. 45-47)

      Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) is a beautiful tall, straight tree with almost foot-long needles that grow in bundles from the tips of the tree’s twigs. This gives the branches a fluffy, tufted look. These eye-catching trees are valued for timber in their native Deep South and are also an important source of turpentine. Very unusually, they are also found sheltering the tent camping ground at Nolin Lake State Park. As the needles are shed, they leave a soft layer on the campsite floor. You almost want to lie down on them for an afternoon nap. Among the system’s newer parks,...

    • OLD FORT HARROD STATE PARK
      (pp. 48-51)

      Fort Boonesborough enjoys the frontier name recognition, but the oldest permanent white settlement in Kentucky, established by pioneer James Harrod in 1774, was Fort Harrod. That makes the town that grew up around it, Harrodsburg, the state’s first and oldest.

      Harrod does not enjoy the same fame as Daniel Boone, perhaps because of his tragic life and mysterious death. Like Boone, he was born in Pennsylvania, but the exact date is unknown. Many of his family members, including his brother and his father’s first wife, were killed in American Indian raids. During his exploration of the Northwest Territory, he learned...

    • PERRYVILLE BATTLEFIELD STATE HISTORIC SITE
      (pp. 52-56)

      The most important Civil War battle in Kentucky, the Battle of Perryville, took place on October 7–8, 1862. Even though the Bluegrass State had not seceded from the Union, slavery was legal, and regiments from Kentucky fought for both the North and the South. Lincoln was concerned that his native state could be lost at any time. Perryville was significant not only for the political fate of Kentucky, according to Pulitzer Prize–winning historian James McPherson, but also for the course of the war:

      It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that the Confederacy would have won the war...

    • ROUGH RIVER DAM STATE RESORT PARK
      (pp. 57-61)

      Rough river dam state resort park is not among the system’s more appealing facilities. The surrounding landscape of Grayson and Breckinridge counties is tired and eroded. The 1960s-era lodge is not aging gracefully, and the trail leading from it around the lake is choked with poison ivy. The park’s airfield no longer offers airplane fuel.

      But during one weekend in July, you will have more fun at this park than at almost any other. That is when the air is filled with the music of the Official Kentucky State Championship Old Time Fiddlers’ Contest. The energy and pure pleasure of...

    • TAYLORSVILLE LAKE STATE PARK
      (pp. 62-65)

      Driving along any of the major interstates or federal highways in Louisville on a Friday evening or Saturday morning between Memorial Day and Labor Day, you will notice a large number of vehicles towing boats and heading east. Chances are very high that the boaters are heading for Taylorsville Lake, less than an hour from the city, and they probably have fishing gear onboard.

      The long, meandering lake opened in 1982 when the Army Corps of Engineers completed the dam it built for flood control of the Salt River. Thanks to strict fishing limits early in the lake’s history, the...

    • WAVELAND STATE HISTORIC SITE
      (pp. 66-68)

      This is yet another Kentucky site associated with Daniel Boone. The stately red brick, Greek revival mansion fronted by four white Corinthian columns was built between 1844 and 1848 by Boone’s grandnephew Joseph Bryan.

      Of the plantation’s original 2,000 acres, only 14, with the mansion at their center, are preserved today. And because the main house is surrounded by gardens and important outbuildings, such as the smokehouse, icehouse, and some slave quarters, the remaining property provides a good picture of what life was like here in the years before the Civil War. But a couple of key details are missing....

    • WHITE HALL STATE HISTORIC SITE
      (pp. 69-72)

      On a chilly, windy October evening, the light is fading on the grounds of White Hall. Lights flicker behind the lace curtains in the tall, narrow windows of the opulent Italianate house. A bat circles the roof and then weaves among the branches of trees on the front lawn.

      It is a Ghost Walk evening at the 44-room mansion, and the guide who leads visitors up the sidewalk to the front door cautions everyone to be quiet “so as not to disturb the spirits.” The history of the house, peopled by individuals who had key roles in Kentucky history, is...

    • WILLIAM WHITLEY HOUSE STATE HISTORIC SITE
      (pp. 73-76)

      In the last quarter of the 18th century, many explorers and settlers arrived in Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap, traveling westward along the Wilderness Road. The threat of attack by American Indians (not to mention bears, poisonous snakes, and other frontier wildlife) was very real, so many of these newcomers headed to fortified settlements, such as Harrodsburg and Boonesborough.

      When William and Esther Whitley and their daughters moved to Kentucky from Virginia in the 1770s, they too traveled through the Cumberland Gap and along the Wilderness Road. Unlike many other settlers, however, they acquired 10 acres along this frontier route...

  5. SOUTH CENTRAL KENTUCKY PARKS
    • [Map]
      (pp. 77-79)
    • BARREN RIVER LAKE STATE RESORT PARK
      (pp. 80-85)

      The barrens region of south central Kentucky got its name when the early settlers encountered vast stretches of tall grasslands (in other words, prairie) that extended over this part of the state. Since it was not covered in the dense woodlands to which they were accustomed, they assumed the soil was barren.

      Far from being unproductive, the land was being managed by the resident American Indians, who preserved the prairie by regularly burning it. This practice maintained the grasslands for the herds of bison and elk on which they depended for food and hides. Today, the importance of agriculture in...

    • DALE HOLLOW LAKE STATE RESORT PARK
      (pp. 86-90)

      The three-story glass and limestone lodge at Dale Hollow State Resort Park is perched on a cliff hundreds of feet above the surface of the lake. From the water, especially at dusk, when electric light shines from its tall windows, the lodge looks like a futuristic castle standing guard over the islands beneath it.

      You will find that the view of the water from those tall windows is wonderful, too. The dining room has floor-to-ceiling plate glass on three sides and a 37-foot-tall stone fireplace. Each light-filled room has a private balcony with lake views.

      The lodge features excellent accommodation...

    • GENERAL BURNSIDE STATE PARK
      (pp. 91-94)

      If you have ever had a fantasy about shutting yourself off from the world with the aid of a moat, consider camping at this park. A causeway from U.S. 27 crosses over the water of Lake Cumberland to Kentucky’s only state park located entirely on an island. General Burnside State Park is situated at the far eastern end of the lake. A walk to the edge of its wooded bluffs will give you commanding views across the water and of the nearby mountains.

      And if the name Burnside is ringing a bell, you might be the proud possessor of a...

    • GREEN RIVER LAKE STATE PARK
      (pp. 95-98)

      Dawn on a hot summer day finds the campers at Green River Lake State Park waking to a golden sunrise, light painting the dense trees on the hills around the lake and casting glowing ripples on the water. The youngsters are the first to be up and about. They pedal all sizes of bicycles through the narrow lanes of the campground, past small tents and large RVs. Some are a bit wobbly. Others streak toward their destinations as though they are in the Tour de France. You can tell that they want to squeeze every drop of time out of...

    • LAKE CUMBERLAND STATE RESORT PARK
      (pp. 99-103)

      It was a very quiet, early summer morning at Lake Cumberland. The weekend crowds had left, and the wooded circle of two-story, chalet-style cottages overlooking the lake was deserted. Walking around the building from the wooden deck of one of the Wildwood Cottages, I was startled to see a tiny, spotted fawn tumbling down the slope of the mound at the center of the cottage circle. Legs flailing in all directions, it rolled to a stop. Its fur still shining wet, this little deer had just arrived in the world. Another sound of an animal crashing through nearby trees meant...

    • OLD MULKEY MEETINGHOUSE STATE HISTORIC SITE
      (pp. 104-106)

      At first glance, the Old Mulkey Meetinghouse appears to be an oversize log cabin or perhaps a small log barn. But look more carefully. The design contains important Christian symbolism. It may not be as grand as Notre Dame or Westminster Abbey, but the devout of frontier Kentucky honored the architectural conventions of church building as best they could with the materials they had.

      Notice that a little bit of the wall sticks out on both of the long sides of the building. It is subtle, but the resulting shape of the meetinghouse is that of a cross. Notice, too,...

  6. EASTERN KENTUCKY PARKS
    • [Map]
      (pp. 107-109)
    • BUCKHORN LAKE STATE RESORT PARK
      (pp. 110-114)

      Tucked away deep in the Appalachians, Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park takes some determination to reach. Your car will crawl up winding, two-lane roads after the relative speed of the Mountain Parkway. Once you finally gain the park entrance after a surprisingly sudden turn off Kentucky 1833, the road leading to the lodge seems endless, too. But use the drive to relax and begin to take in the park’s features.

      Tall, rocky cliffs line one side of the route. If you come here in May, you will see dust mop–shaped bundles of tiny white flowers growing out of the...

    • CARR CREEK STATE PARK
      (pp. 115-116)

      Carr creek state park is essentially a campground and a beach. The campsites are arranged in a pair of loops ringed by trees, so even though the park is situated on a little peninsula jutting into Carr Creek Lake, you will not see the water from any of the sites. The beach is popular with area residents, who use it frequently during the humid Kentucky summers. Mostly wooded mountains surround the lake. But since the park is located deep in eastern Kentucky coal country, you can see bare patches from strip mining. In fact, a power station built on a...

    • CARTER CAVES STATE RESORT PARK
      (pp. 117-122)

      At least 20 caves pocket the earth beneath Carter Caves State Resort Park, and if you have never been in a cave before, the tours here provide a splendid introduction to the underground world. Guided tours of four caves are offered. Cascade Cave and X Cave are open year-round. Tours of Saltpetre Cave and Bat Cave are added in the summer. Experienced spelunkers can get permits to explore several of the park’s other caverns, too.

      The tour of Cascade Cave begins with a slightly Gothic touch. Your guide will open a creaking metal door set in the hillside and, with...

    • CUMBERLAND FALLS STATE RESORT PARK
      (pp. 123-127)

      As is the case with any rushing water, you will hear Cumberland Falls before you see it. But even that preview will not prepare you for the 125-foot-wide wall of water that plunges 68 feet over a sheer drop to the broken boulders at its base, churning up clouds of white and green foam. There is nothing else like it in Kentucky, and for its size and beauty, Cumberland Falls has been called the Niagara of the South.

      Canada and New York’s larger, more famous falls cannot boast a unique feature of Kentucky’s. For a few nights each month, when...

    • DR. THOMAS WALKER STATE HISTORIC SITE
      (pp. 128-130)

      On any weekend in the summer, the grounds at this little park near Barbourville are crowded with families using its picnic tables and shelters. Children race up and down the hillsides, teens pound a ball back and forth on the basketball court, and the smell of grilling meat fills the air.

      At the center of this activity, surrounded by tall maple trees and tulip poplars, sits a tiny log cabin. It looks like a child’s playhouse, and it is all but ignored by the park visitors. This is a replica of the very first house built in Kentucky by a...

    • FISHTRAP LAKE STATE PARK
      (pp. 131-132)

      It must be frustrating to be an aspiring Little Leaguer living in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. Where could there possibly be enough flat, open space to build a ball diamond? One unlikely but excellent location turned out to be at the base of Fishtrap Lake Dam. At 195 feet, this is the highest dam in the state, and it would no doubt provide some serious bragging rights if a batter could swat a homer over the top.

      The ball field (which even has lights for night games) notwithstanding, most people venture here to fish on the lake, which takes...

    • GRAYSON LAKE STATE PARK
      (pp. 133-136)

      The combination of American beech and eastern hemlock dominating the same mature forest is relatively unusual. For both species to thrive, there has to be the right combination of moisture and sheltered terrain. This happy convergence of ecological circumstances is found at Grayson Lake State Park, and the opportunity to hike the 0.8-mile Beech-Hemlock Trail is an excellent reason in itself to visit the park.

      You will find the trailhead behind campsite 28. The contrast between the bright sunshine in the campground and the peaceful gloom of the woods is striking. So is the difference between the smooth, light gray...

    • GREENBO LAKE STATE RESORT PARK
      (pp. 137-141)

      Much of the drive from I-64 to Greenbo Lake State Resort Park takes you past farms built on the rich bottomland of the Little Sandy River. So the rugged landscape of the park comes as a surprise. The entrance is reached after a long climb up Kentucky 1711. Flat fields have given way to forested hills. The beautiful, still Greenbo Lake, the surface of which reflects the surrounding trees, branches into several of the park’s valleys.

      Because so many aspects of the park seem intimate—the narrow lake, the cozy 36-room lodge, the one-room schoolhouse near the entrance—Greenbo Lake...

    • JENNY WILEY STATE RESORT PARK
      (pp. 142-147)

      As you follow the road leading into the park, you may notice a yellow and brown sign with three human outlines stenciled in black. Two of the figures are tall American Indian warriors. They flank the third, smaller figure of a woman wearing a bonnet, her long skirt almost reaching the ground. She is Virginia Sellards Wiley, whose story is one of the most harrowing in the history of the early American frontier.

      On October 1, 1789, a band of American Indians from four tribes attacked the Ballard County, Virginia, log cabin where Jenny lived with her husband Thomas and...

    • KINGDOM COME STATE PARK
      (pp. 148-152)

      The notable statistic about Kingdom Come, situated along the crest of Pine Mountain, is that it is at the highest elevation of any of Kentucky’s state parks. You will appreciate this as your car grinds up the 1.5-mile road into the park from Kentucky 119. As the engine whines, the story of the little engine that could may very well come to mind.

      The park gets its name from another story.The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Comeby Kentuckian John Fox Jr. was published in 1903. About a young orphan from the Cumberland Mountains named Chad who got caught up...

    • LEVI JACKSON WILDERNESS ROAD STATE PARK
      (pp. 153-156)

      Millstones belong to that rare class of objects that are both extremely utilitarian and curiously artful. One of the attractions at this park is an outdoor display of millstones lining the walkways near McHargue’s Mill. Inspection of the collection, the largest in the country, reveals that the pioneers went to the trouble to import heavy stones from Europe. Apparently, Kentucky’s soft limestone just could not hold up under repeated grinding, or at least had to be replaced regularly. The carved grinding surfaces result in an interesting variety of patterns.

      The log replica working mill, built on the same Little Laurel...

    • NATURAL BRIDGE STATE RESORT PARK
      (pp. 157-161)

      Spring is a fine season to visit Natural Bridge State Resort Park, located near Red River Gorge Geological Area on the edge of the vast Daniel Boone National Forest. That is when more than 100 species of wild-flowers, delicate pink and yellow lady’s slippers among them, bloom in the woods. In summer, flocks of goldfinches and other songbirds cover the hanging birdfeeders on the porch just outside the lodge restaurant. The park’s sky lift is predictably popular in the autumn, when the cable ride whisks visitors up a steep mountainside for panoramic views of fall foliage.

      But winter may be...

    • PAINTSVILLE LAKE STATE PARK
      (pp. 162-165)

      As is the case with many Kentucky state parks, Paintsville Lake State Park is located on the shores of water impounded by a U.S. Army Corps of Engineer dam. Usually, the Army Corps office and the park facilities are well separated. But here, they are within sight of one another, and that can work to a visitor’s advantage.

      Along Kentucky 2275, which ends at the park entrance, you will see the signs marking the Army Corps office. Take the road, which leads to the top of a hill, and park. The office includes a visitor and information center.

      On the...

    • PINE MOUNTAIN STATE RESORT PARK
      (pp. 166-170)

      Pine mountain state resort park opened in 1924 as the system’s first state park. Trails, shelters, and accommodations were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and many of these structures still serve the park, which combines a stunning natural setting with many annual traditions that have developed through its decades of operation.

      Certainly the foremost of these is the Mountain Laurel Festival, held every May at the height of the flowering shrubs’ blooming season. Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) is evergreen and so provides color against the rocky outcroppings of the mountains year-round. In May, June, and July, it blooms with...

    • YATESVILLE LAKE STATE PARK
      (pp. 171-174)

      If your idea of the perfect getaway is pottering around the inlets and coves of a lake and sleeping in a tent in the woods, Yatesville Lake State Park will be your ideal. The largest lake in eastern Kentucky, Yatesville Lake has an irregular shape thanks to lots of branches. These just beg to be explored. Take your boat into one for quiet fishing or just a bit of privacy while you are out on the water. When you are ready to call it a day, the park has 16 camping sites accessed from the water. Tie up to the...

  7. WESTERN KENTUCKY PARKS
    • [Map]
      (pp. 175-177)
    • BEN HAWES STATE PARK
      (pp. 178-180)

      Ben hawes was a mayor of Owensboro, a city four miles to the east of this park. Ben Hawes State Park is a popular destination for the region’s golfers, since they can choose to play all 18 holes of the park’s centerpiece course or get in a quick round with a 9-hole configuration. The front 9 are fairly flat, too, while the back 9 are tucked among hilly, wooded terrain.

      The wooded portion of the park, southwest of the golf course, contains a four-mile network of interconnected, looping trails. Some of these pass along deep depressions like large, hollowed-out ditches....

    • COLUMBUS-BELMONT STATE PARK
      (pp. 181-183)

      On september 3, 1861, Confederate troops commanded by General Leonidas Polk captured a site overlooking the Mississippi River on the 180-foot bluffs at Columbus, Kentucky. Not satisfied with having gun emplacements to guard the river and blockade Union shipping, Polk ordered a giant iron chain stretched across the river. It was a secured by a sixton anchor at the Confederate camp on the opposite bank at Belmont, Missouri. The Confederates dug in at Columbus, constructing massive earthen trenches, and prepared to control the river at their “Gibraltar of the West.”

      It must have seemed like a good idea at the...

    • JEFFERSON DAVIS STATE HISTORIC SITE
      (pp. 184-186)

      A combination of flat farmland and small subdivisions dominates the scenery on either side of U.S. Highway 68 near Hopkinsville. This is pretty typical of western Kentucky landscape in general, but as you approach Fairview, there are two striking anomalies.

      The first is that you will frequently pass or meet black, horse-drawn buggies moving along the roadside at a fraction of the speed of other vehicles. There is a large Amish community here. The second is a tall gray obelisk piercing the sky on the south side of the highway, an engineering achievement in striking contrast to the low-tech ways...

    • JOHN JAMES AUDUBON STATE PARK
      (pp. 187-192)

      A great blue heron stands statue-still in shallow water at the lake-shore, alert to the movement of fish. In the canopy of trees overhead, warblers dart about in the highest branches, while woodpeckers, from the diminutive downy to the crow-sized pileated, drill the trunks for insects.

      This is just a snapshot of the bird life visitors can find at John James Audubon State Park, encompassing more than 700 acres near the Ohio River. America’s most famous wildlife artist lived nearby and explored this area from 1810 to 1819. Its woods, bluffs, and ponds were rich sources for his studies and...

    • KENLAKE STATE RESORT PARK
      (pp. 193-198)

      Music enthusiasts know Kentucky as the home of bluegrass and the location of the Country Music Highway, a route in eastern Kentucky along which many stars were born. Yet another music genre reigns supreme every summer when thousands of fans flock to Kenlake State Resort Park for the annual Hot August Blues Festival.

      For the better part of a steamy summer weekend, the park’s lakeside amphitheater reverberates with the amplified strains of such blues favorites as B. B. King’s signature tune “The Thrill Is Gone” and Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues.” A large banner hanging from the side of the...

    • KENTUCKY DAM VILLAGE STATE RESORT PARK
      (pp. 199-203)

      It was not in Middle Earth but in western Kentucky, at lunchtime on a January Saturday, when a shout, “The eagles! Look, eagles!” echoed around the park lodge dining room. The excited voice belonged not to a hobbit but to a park ranger at Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park.

      Everyone within hearing rushed to the windows. Below the lodge, just above the surface of Kentucky Lake, two American bald eagles soared and circled. One dropped like a missile and rose with a wriggling fish in its talons. Both birds made for the shoreline trees, long wings beating with powerful...

    • LAKE BARKLEY STATE RESORT PARK
      (pp. 204-208)

      A canal connects Lake Barkley to Kentucky Lake, forming the largest engineered body of water on earth. Together, the lakes have just over 1,000 miles of shoreline and almost 187,000 acres of water. No wonder they attract birds migrating along the Mississippi Valley flyway. The presence of wintering American bald eagles in the area is well known. But on trips here in spring and fall, you will spy birds not commonly associated with Kentucky.

      I was having breakfast in the lodge dining room on a clear, early November morning when I was intrigued to see a line of large white...

    • LAKE MALONE STATE PARK
      (pp. 209-210)

      Unless you strike out on the Laurel Trail, which snakes along the park’s wooded bluffs, or take a boat out onto the water, you will miss the most dramatic feature of Lake Malone, the 50-foot-high sandstone cliffs that form much of the lake’s southern shoreline.

      This is a pocket-size park by state system standards, and it is somewhat tucked out of the way. The park is about halfway between Central City and Russellville. You have to take several secondary roads for about 20 miles from the nearest four-lane highways. Combined with its small size, this may be why this is...

    • MINERAL MOUND STATE PARK
      (pp. 211-214)

      Mineral mound state park is home to one of the parks system’s signature series 18-hole golf courses. The front 9 holes are laid out through the wooded hills of the park. Many of the back 9 skirt the shore of Lake Barkley, including number 11, which plays over an inlet of the lake. You would think that losing your ball in the trees or the water would be the greatest hazard here. But actually, hole 15 is the tricky one. It is the fox hole.

      When you check in at the pro shop, look behind the counter. You will see...

    • PENNYRILE FOREST STATE RESORT PARK
      (pp. 215-220)

      American pennyroyal(Hedeoma pulegioides) is a member of the mint family. It grows in pungent, foot-high patches and is usually more noticeable by scent than by sight until late summer. That is when its slender stalks are covered with tiny, pale purple flowers. When settlers arrived in western Kentucky, pennyroyal grew abundantly in sunny fields and open areas of woodlands. So the region, now known as the Pennyroyal, was named after the plant.

      Today, botanists classify pennyroyal’s distribution as infrequent. One of the few places wildflower lovers can find it is along the Pennyroyal Trail in Pennyrile Forest State Resort...

    • WICKLIFFE MOUNDS STATE HISTORIC SITE
      (pp. 221-224)

      Just over a thousand years ago, Pope Urban II launched the Crusades, the Chinese were manufacturing gunpowder, and Macbeth was the king of Scotland. In short, the medieval world was a turbulent place.

      On the other side of the globe, at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, life was much more peaceful. It was here, for 250 years (from about 1100 to 1350), that a community of Mississippian mound builders thrived. They were here and then they were gone, and no one knows what happened to them. But the excavations at Wickcliffe Mounds State Historic Site provide a...

  8. ADDITIONAL PARKS
    • [Map]
      (pp. 225-227)
    • BREAKS INTERSTATE PARK
      (pp. 228-232)

      Visitors to breaks interstate park will find beautiful hiking trails bisecting rugged terrain across Kentucky and Virginia, an abundance of native flora and fauna, a wonderful legend about buried treasure, and one of the most notable geological features in the United States.

      That feature is the canyon from which the park (and the region) takes its nickname. The Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River has carved a five-mile-long, 1,600-foot-deep gorge, the oxbow of which is located in the park. It is the largest canyon east of the Mississippi River, hence the Breaks’ designation as the Grand Canyon of the...

    • FALLS OF THE OHIO STATE PARK
      (pp. 233-236)

      Five minutes’ walk down a sandy, winding path leads to the edge of a vast inland sea, teeming with more than 600 species of corals, shellfish, trilobites, sponges, sea snails, crinoids, and fish. But this ocean, washed over by the freshwater of the Ohio River, is frozen in rock. And it covers more than 220 acres of Devonian limestone, the largest such exposed formation in the world. The chance to view this fossilized sea life dating from nearly 400 million years ago is just one of several reasons to visit Falls of the Ohio State Park.

      The park is located...

    • KENTUCKY HORSE PARK
      (pp. 237-242)

      Welcome to the world of everything horse. If you are the parent of a horse-mad daughter and bring her here, she will be completely smitten. And since it is usually, though no longer exclusively, boys who become jockeys, sons will not be immune either.

      Appropriately located in the heart of the largest concentration of horse farms in the world, Kentucky Horse Park is not devoted only to the racing and hunting Thoroughbreds. Fifty or so breeds of horses, from tiny dwarf ponies to massive draft horses, live here. In the summer, there is a daily parade of breeds, a live...

  9. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 243-244)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 245-254)
  11. ABOUT THE AUTHOR AND PHOTOGRAPHER
    (pp. 255-255)