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Contents:
Program 1010

1. Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
2. interview with Thomas Barnes
3. Blanton Forest State Nature Preserve
4. Hi Lewis Pine Barrens State Nature Preserve
5. Bad Branch State Nature Preserve
Season 10 Menu

Kentucky’s Last Great Places | Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Bell County

For more information:

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, U.S. 25E South, P.O. Box 1848, Middlesboro, KY 40965-1848, (606) 248-2817


Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

Dave begins this exploration of places that haven’t changed since early European exploration of Kentucky with some of the first scenery those early explorers would have seen. Cumberland Gap in Bell County is an ancient opening in an otherwise daunting stretch of the Appalachians. Used for centuries by animals and the Native Americans who hunted them, it was known to the Shawnee as “the path of the warriors.”

Once white men like Gabriel Arthur, Dr. Thomas Walker, Daniel Boone, and James Knox had led the way, of course, Cumberland Gap became “the path of the settlers.” An estimated 200,000-300,000 people made their way along the Wilderness Road through the gap between 1775 and 1810.

Kentucky Life Program 716 includes a segment on early mapmaker Thomas Walker and Bell County history.

Right: Dave Shuffett on the old Wilderness Road.




Fayette County

Thomas Barnes

Next, Dave talks with Thomas Barnes, whose book Kentucky’s Last Great Places inspired our journey. A professor of forestry at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Barnes is also a writer and photographer. Another of his books, Wildflowers and Ferns of Kentucky, was published in 2004 by the University Press of Kentucky.

Barnes came to Kentucky for academic experience but decided to stay. He talks with Dave about the reasons for that choice and why he is so passionate about saving the state’s last few unspoiled natural places. During the interview, you’ll also be treated to many of the stunning photographs he took for Kentucky’s Last Great Places.




Harlan County

For more information:
Blanton Forest State Nature Preserve, c/o Kyle Napier, P.O. Box 102, Whitesburg, KY 41858, (606) 663-0362
Kentucky Natural Lands Trust, 433 Chestnut St., Berea, KY 40403, (877) 367-5658

Blanton Forest State Nature Preserve

At 2,350 acres, Harlan County’s Blanton Forest is the largest patch of old-growth forest left in Kentucky and one of the largest in the Eastern United States. Located on the south slope of Pine Mountain, it was spared from logging by landowner Grover Blanton, a local store owner. His children honored his wishes to preserve the forest intact, and in 1992 a biologist with the Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission “discovered” it and recognized it as a natural treasure. A volunteer fund-raising effort soon got under way, and Blanton Forest was purchased and donated to the state. It officially became a state nature preserve in October 2001.

Blanton Forest contains several forest communities, including mixed-mesophytic deciduous forest with many kinds of canopy trees, such as sugar maple, tulip poplar, various oaks, hemlocks, beech, and several species of magnolia trees. Dave hikes through it with Kyle Napier of the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission and Daniel Collett of the Kentucky Natural Lands Trust, making stops at Knobby Rock and Sand Cave.

Blanton Forest is open to the public. The Kentucky Natural Lands Trust, a private organization working to preserve surrounding areas on Pine Mountain, also offers guided hikes.

Kentucky Life first visited Blanton Forest with Marc Evans, the biologist who recognized its significance and began the campaign to make it a state preserve, in a segment that aired as part of the series’ second episode, Program 102. You can watch that segment online from KET’s Electronic Field Trip to the Forest.




Harlan County

For more information:
Hi Lewis Pine Barrens State Nature Preserve, c/o Kyle Napier, P.O. Box 102, Whitesburg, KY 41858, (606) 663-0362

Hi Lewis Pine Barrens State Nature Preserve

Still accompanied by Kyle Napier, Dave next visits another Harlan County treasure. Hi Lewis is a rare Kentucky example of a pine barrens, where sandy, quick-draining soil supports plants usually thought of as prairie residents as well as various drought-tolerant species. They include little bluestem; Indian grass; low-bush blueberries; and such rarities as diminutive screwstem, frostweed, and the largest known Kentucky population of yellow wild indigo. The Hi Lewis preserve is also home to several fruiting American chestnuts, made extremely rare and precious by the devastation of the species by chestnut blight.

Because of its concentration of very rare plants (the preserve is only 164 acres), Hi Lewis is not open to the public. Access is by written permission only.




Letcher County

For more information:
Bad Branch State Nature Preserve, c/o Kyle Napier, P.O. Box 102, Whitesburg, KY 41858, (606) 663-0362

Bad Branch State Nature Preserve

Though still on Pine Mountain (actually a ridge stretching 125 miles through southeastern Kentucky and into northeastern Tennessee), our next stop is a much wetter place. In fact, water is the defining feature of Bad Branch State Nature Preserve, which protects a stretch of Bad Branch that has been designated a Kentucky Wild River. Dropping more than 1,000 feet in less than three miles, Bad Branch Gorge features pools and riffles, sandstone cliffs and outcrops, and a spectacular 60-foot waterfall.

All that water and the presence of so many different microhabitats make this Letcher County preserve a naturalist’s dream. Its 2,444 acres host one of Kentucky’s largest concentrations of rare species, including the state’s only known nesting pair of common ravens.

Bad Branch is open to the public, with a 7.4-mile loop hiking trail that takes you to High Rock, a massive sandstone outcropping at the Pine Mountain summit that offers one of the best views in Kentucky. But it’s a strenuous walk, made by only about 100 people a year—including, of course, Dave and our video crew.


Videographer Brandon Wickey captures the view from High Rock.


Kentucky’s Last Great Places | Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

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