May is, perhaps, the finest time to be out and about
in Kentucky. The weather has settled down to balmy days, and this is a great
time for outdoor activities. And there are no better places to pursue them than
at Kentucky's many resort parks.
There are 17 resort parks scattered throughout the
Commonwealth. Each of them offers a lodge and dining room, many of which have
been renovated in the past few years. Thus, the lodges once again compare to
the finest private resorts found in the state. Most of the resort parks have
cottages as well. And while there are campgrounds at 16 of the resorts (Pine
Mountain offers primitive camping only), most of them are seasonal. So, if camping
is your thing, check first to assure that it's open.
The resort parks share several other things in common.
All of them, for instance, have gift shops offering Kentucky-made crafts. All
have picnic areas and playgrounds. And all of them have recreation and interpretive
programs of one type or another.
Depending on the specific park, you can find just
about any activity. There is regular golf at 12 of them, for instance, ranging
from mini par-3 courses to full-blown 18-hole facilities with pro shops, and
11 of the parks have miniature golf.
If batting a larger ball is your cup of tea, 12 of
the parks have tennis courts, and at least one of them (Kenlake) has a full
indoor tennis center.
There are plenty of water sports available as well.
A dozen of the parks have marinas, and 13 of them rent boats, making them ideal
bases for fishing, water skiing, or recreational boating. All 17 have swimming
pools (two of which have indoor as well as outdoor pools), and half a dozen
provide beaches as well as pools.
Virtually every park has nature trails of some kind.
These range from one-mile paths, to longer, more strenuous hiking opportunities.
At five of the resort parks there are horseback riding facilities, with stables
and sometimes rental horses available.
We're often asked which is our favorite resort park.
And the answer is always the same: the last one we visited. But here are three
of our favorites:
Pine Mountain State Resort Park. Arguably
the prettiest park in the system, Pine Mountain opened as Kentucky's first state
park in 1924. Home of the Mountain Laurel Festival the last weekend in May,
it is also home to a new 18-hole championship golf course designed by famed
course architect Michael Hurdzan. There are 8.5 miles of hiking trails, including
one to Chained Rock. Be sure to check out the petrified trees in front of the
nature center. Contact: Pine Mountain State Resort Park, 1050 State Park Road,
Pineville, KY 40977, (800) 325-1712.
Lake Barkley State Resort Park. Tucked into
the forests lining Lake Barkley, the park offers one of the most interesting
lodges found in the system. Post-and-beam construction on a grand scale, the
Lake Barkley lodge features three acres of glass, offering outstanding views
of the lake. Amenities at the park include a lighted airstrip, fitness center
with indoor heated pool, 18-hole golf course, nine miles of hiking trails, and
full-service marina providing access to 58,000-acre Lake Barkley. Contact: Lake
Barkley State Resort Park, Box 790, Cadiz, KY 42211, (800) 325-1708.
Carter Caves State Resort Park. Beneath the
forested hills of this park lie at least 20 caves. Four of them are open to
tours, including Cascade Cave with a 30-foot underground waterfall. On the surface
there are 20 miles of hiking trails, leading to unique formations such as Box
Canyon. The only natural bridge in Kentucky with a road passing over it is found
here, too, along with canoeing on Tygart's Creek, guided horseback rides, and
fishing in Smokey Valley Lake. If that's not enough to fill your days, there's
a nine-hole golf course and two swimming pools as well. Contact: Carter Caves
State Resort Park, 344 Caveland Drive, Olive Hill, KY 41164, (800) 325-0059.
Kentucky's state resort parks are billed as "the
nation's finest." That might be just a marketing slogan, but the 17 facilities
making up the system certainly justify it. What's more, they are spread throughout
the Commonwealth, so that you are never very far away from one of them.
For a booklet describing all of Kentucky's state
parks, and a calendar of special events, contact the Kentucky Department of
Parks, 500 Mero St., Frankfort, KY 40601, (800) 255-PARK (7275), or go to their
Web site at www.kystateparks.com.
Day Trips & Short
Kentucky's first settlement
Where was Kentucky's first settlement? Good question.
One that historians and semanticists play with all the time. Was it Boonesborough?
This traditional claim is supported because it was the first settlement that
had women. But it wasn't really number one.
That honor goes to Harrodsburg where, almost a year
earlier in 1774, James Harrod established what would become the first permanent
settlement west of the Allegheny Mountains. Indeed, for many years afterward,
Fort Harrod was the center of Kentucky life, forming a triangle with Fort Boonesborough
and Logan's Station that preserved and protected "this dark and bloody
Old Fort Harrod has been faithfully reconstructed
near where Harrod's fort once stood. There you can see a re-created slice of
Kentucky colonial history, as costumed crafts people perform pioneer tasks,
such as broom making, weaving, blacksmithing, and tending gardens as well as
an animal corral with farm animals that kids will love.
It's not all pre-statehood that's celebrated here
either. The Lincoln Marriage Temple, for instance, shelters the original cabin
where Abraham Lincoln's parents were married. And the Mansion Museum houses
Civil War artifacts, a gun collection, Native American artifacts, and a collection
of Lincoln memorabilia.
An outdoor drama-Daniel Boone-The Man & The
Legend-is performed in the park's amphitheater from mid-June through August.
For details, contact: Old Fort Harrod State Park,
P.O. Box 156, Harrodsburg, KY 40330, (859) 734-3314; Daniel Boone-The Man
& The Legend, (800) 85-BOONE.
Bass in the buckbrush
It sometimes happens that a lake gets such a reputation
for one particular fish that we tend to forget it is equally productive for
So it is with Kentucky Lake. World renowned for the
quality of its crappie fishing, it's an incredible bass factory as well.
May is an especially good time for largemouth because
blooming buttonball bushes, called "buckbrush" locally, seem to attract
bruiser largemouth into the shallows. When the word goes out that the bass are
in the buckbrush, savvy anglers head for the bays, where flooded shorelines
multiply with white-flowered bushes growing into the water, sometimes submerged.
Most anglers opt for flippin', using either a jig
and frog, or plastic worm. The boat is quietly nosed tight to the flooded brush,
and the bait flipped into holes and openings. Dark colors work best when flippin'
a jig and frog: try black, if the water is murky, brown if it's clear.
But sometimes you have to fish deeper into the bushes
by working a lipless crank-bait through the branches. The vibrating patterns
of these baits often bring in fish when nothing else will do.
With their free-hanging treble hooks, however, it
isn't easy to work a lipless crankbait through the thick tangles of branches
that fill the water. But if you concentrate on your retrieve you can work the
bait through the brush without hanging too often.
A bait with a flattened head often works better,
because the flat acts as a bumper that flips the bait up and over a potential
snag. Green, yellow, and chartreuse baits are the colors of choice in the buttonballs.
Spinnerbaits often prove good choices, too, and they
don't hang up as readily as other baits. Work them as deep into the brush as
you can, letting the blades flip-flop on the surface. As with lipless crankbaits,
green, yellow, and chartreuse seem to work best.
During the middle of the day, bass will more likely
be found on points and along drop-offs leading to deep water. But mornings and
afternoons they'll be in the buckbrush. But be prepared for walloping strikes.
When bass are in the buckbrush there's nothing polite about the way they hit.