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Program 1010

1. Griffith Woods
2. Tom Dorman State Nature Preserve
3. Jessamine Creek Gorge
Season 10 Menu

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

Harrison County

For more information:

The Nature Conservancy, 642 W. Main Street, Lexington, KY 40508, (859) 259-9655

Griffith Woods

When European explorers first encountered Central Kentucky’s Bluegrass region, they found vast expanses of rolling hills carpeted with grasses and wildflowers and presided over by majestic old trees like bur, chinquapin, and Shumard oaks; blue and white varieties of ash; and the Kentucky coffee tree. This Bluegrass savanna ecosystem—which was unique in all the world—all but disappeared as the region was settled and converted to agriculture and has been “functionally extinct” for more than a century. But at Griffith Woods, in Harrison County, three agencies are hoping to bring back a little piece of it.

Just 170 acres, this tiny remnant of Bluegrass savanna includes several trees that may be more than 400 years old. It is not open to the public, though the Nature Conservancy does sponsor work outings for those willing to lend a hand in restoring this unique landscape. The preserve is managed by a partnership among the Conservancy, the University of Kentucky, and state government.

Garrard County

For more information:
Tom Dorman State Nature Preserve, c/o Dave Skinner, Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, 801 Schenkel Lane, Frankfort, KY 40601, (502) 573-2886

Tom Dorman State Nature Preserve

A section of the Kentucky River Palisades.

Tom Dorman is one of several preserves that protect pieces of the Kentucky River Palisades, a 100-mile stretch where the winding river has cut deep gorges in the limestone, creating high cliffs and exposing some of the oldest rocks in Kentucky. It is a region of scenic views and rare plants and animals, from starry cleft phlox and Eggleston’s violet to endangered bats, salamanders normally found in the Appalachians (whose ancestors probably rode the crests of floods and found themselves stranded farther west), and even the occasional bobcat.

The Tom Dorman State Nature Preserve features 220-foot cliffs and covers 818 acres in Jessamine and Garrard counties. Our local host is Dave Skinner of the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, who shows our Dave the views from both land and water.

The Garrard County side of this preserve is open to the public, from sunrise to sunset each day, but the Jessamine side is closed because of habitat fragility and difficulty of access.

Another relatively accessible place to get a look at the Palisades is the Raven Run Nature Sanctuary owned by the Lexington-Fayette County government, which we visited in Program 921.

Jessamine County

For more information:
Jessamine Creek Gorge Preserve, c/o the Nature Conservancy, 642 W. Main Street, Lexington, KY 40508, (859) 259-9655

Jessamine Creek Gorge

Preserving the Kentucky River and its Palisades, of course, means protecting the tributaries and streams that drain the surrounding lands. Our next stop is an important piece of that puzzle—and a stunningly lovely place in its own right.

Jessamine Creek Gorge, which ends at the Kentucky River, shelters a remarkable diversity of wildlife itself, including seven threatened or endangered plant species (like snow trillium and mountain lover) and Gray and Indiana bats, both of which are on the federal endangered species list. The relatively undisturbed forest of the gorge also includes towering sycamores, oaks, sugar maples, and beech trees. All told, the 75-acre preserve hosts some 400 different plant species.

Because of all those rare residents, this southwestern Jessamine County preserve is not open to the public. Access is by guided tour only.

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

SEASON 10 PROGRAMS: 1001100210031004100510061007
100810091010: Kentucky’s Last Great Places1011101210131014

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