Wild and Scenic Kentucky
Some people head outdoors seeking beauty and serenity, while others are looking for adventure. And Kentucky offers plenty of both—often at the same time. On this special expanded edition of Kentucky Life, host Dave Shuffett and the crew hike, bike, ride, sail, paddle, and cruise their way around the state, from the Breaks of the Big Sandy River to Reelfoot Lake and from the Ohio to the Big South Fork.
Here’s a rundown of their itinerary:
Rafting the Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River • Known as the “Beast of the East,” the gorge section of the Russell Fork is an intense whitewater run (class 5+ rapids) that draws paddlers from across the United States. Dave checks out the gorge section but opts to try his luck on the more manageable upper section of the river—rated “only” class 4.
Hiking the Pine Mountain Trail • This unusual linear state park runs along the crest of Pine Mountain in southeastern Kentucky. The trail is still being developed, but when it’s completed, it will extend almost 120 miles. Dave hikes a section of the trail with Shad Baker, a Letcher Countian who spearheaded the effort to create the park.
Bear Watching at Kingdom Come State Park Nature Preserve • This Letcher County preserve is a popular spot for people to gather and catch a glimpse of black bears—a native species once eliminated from Kentucky that has returned in recent years.
Daniel Boone National Forest • Dave explores parts of this 700,000-acre forest, which offers lush vegetation, hundreds of miles of hiking trails, magnificent scenery, and many opportunities for recreation. He even climbs the forest’s last remaining fire tower, at Tater Knob.
Sailing on Cave Run Lake • Avid sailor Bill Jones takes Dave out on the premier sailing lake in this region of Kentucky.
Canoeing the Red River • The section of the Red River that flows through the Red River Gorge is the only stream in Kentucky to be designated a National Wild and Scenic River. Dave and Garry Chaney of Red River Outdoors canoe an eight-mile section.
Natural Arch Scenic Area • Even in an area renowned for its natural arches, this 50- by 90-foot beauty stands out. Dave and faithful canine companion Sadie hike a one-mile trail, getting several great views of Natural Arch along the way, before ending at the arch’s base.
Horseback Riding in Big South Fork • The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is located along the southern edge of the Daniel Boone National Forest, along the Kentucky-Tennessee border. Dave and Mark Krider of True West Stables explore some of this rugged and beautiful landscape on horseback.
Big Bone Lick State Park • Dave takes a trip back in time—all the way to the last Ice Age—at this Boone County park, which has been called the “birthplace of American vertebrate paleontology.”
Ohio River Cruise • Named La Belle Riviere (“The Beautiful River”) by early French explorers, the Ohio remains one of the most picturesque rivers in America. Dave cruises the stretch between Warsaw, Kentucky and Madison, Indiana with experienced sailors and self-described “river rats” Frank and Elsie Harris.
Clifty Falls State Park • Ducking out of the state for just a bit, Dave visits this Indiana state park located just outside the town of Madison.
Cave Country—Down Below • Dave explores the world below the surface of Southcentral Kentucky’s cave country with visits to Crystal Onyx Cave and the Frozen Niagara section of Mammoth Cave.
Cave Country—Up Above • Mammoth Cave is justly famous as the world’s longest cave system, but there’s much beauty to be found on the surface, too. The section of the park known as the North Side is an ideal place for those seeking solitude among the area’s rugged hills and deep valleys. Dave hikes with former National Park Service superintendent Lee Davis, who chose to return home to cave country after his retirement. Dave and Sadie also make a side trip to the Cedar Sink Trail, which leads to a massive sinkhole.
Mountain Biking in the Land Between the Lakes • Dave joins a group of avid mountain bikers on the Canal Loop, a 14.2-mile biking trail at Land Between the Lakes. It’s known for challenging terrain as well as scenic lake views.
Wildlife Watching at Land Between the Lakes • The Woodlands Nature Station offers visitors close-up views of many species native to Western Kentucky. Naturalist John Pollpeter gives Dave a tour that includes a “sing-along” with a couple of coyotes. He also visits the Elk & Bison Prairie, a reconstructed grasslands environment where biologists have reintroduced two native species more than a hundred years after they disappeared from Kentucky.
Henderson Sloughs Wildlife Management Area • Dave ventures out into the sloughs—a wetland area where, 200 years ago, John James Audubon spent countless hours hiking, camping, and sketching the area’s huge migratory bird populations.
John James Audubon State Park and Nature Preserve • This park boasts one of the most extensive collections of Audubon’s art around, as well as the world’s largest collection of Audubon memorabilia. Dave and retired Audubon Museum curator Don Boarman follow in the footsteps of the famed wildlife artist in a walk through the park’s nature preserve.
Reelfoot Lake • This legendary lake was formed in the winter of 1811-1812 by the most powerful series of earthquakes ever recorded in North America. Most of it lies in northwest Tennessee, but its northernmost tip, in Fulton County, is now a National Wildlife Refuge. At Reelfoot, Dave introduces a new member of the family: golden retriever Charlie. For his Kentucky Life debut, Charlie accompanies Dave and Sadie on a tour of the lake with Tennessee State Park Naturalist David Haggard. The tour highlights why Reelfoot Lake is renowned as a destination for outdoors lovers—especially fishermen, birdwatchers, and nature photographers.
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