Country Music Highway
As it moves from the Ohio River at South Shore, to the Virginia border at
Shelby Gap, U.S. Route 23 passes through some of the most beautiful country in
Kentucky. Travelers on Route 23 enjoy never-ending vistas of hills, hollows, and
lakes that make “Kentucky’s Appalachians” a great place to visit.
Route 23 also takes you past the birthplaces of an incredible number of
country music stars. At least 10 headliners grew up in these hills. So it’s no
accident that Route 23 was officially named “Country Music Highway” a few years
While there are few places to visit directly related to the music stars,
you’ll never be bored during a weekend tour down Country Music Highway. Each county
that produced a star also has a lot to offer visitors. Here’s a rundown of just
some of the things to see and do:
Greenup County: Billy Ray Cyrus grew up in Flatwoods. Poet laureate Jesse
Stuart grew up in this county, too, and immortalized it in his writings. You can
visit the studio where he did much of his writing, and his beloved W Hollow, now
a State Nature Preserve. A few miles away is Greenbo Lake State Resort Park, which,
among other distinctions, twice held the state largemouth bass record. Other sites
include the Greenup Locks & Dam, the McConnell House, Lucy Virgin Downs Gravesite,
and two of the few remaining covered bridges in Kentucky-The Oldtown and Bennett’s
Mill covered bridges.
Boyd County: Home of Naomi and Wynonna Judd, Ashland’s crown is the Kentucky
Highlands Museum, followed closely by the Paramount Arts Center-a fully restored
old theater. Ashland also offers one of the nicest walking tours in the state.
Outside of town you’ll find Irish Acres, an antiques establishment that draws
enthusiasts from around the world.
Carter County: Route 23 doesn’t touch Carter County, but country music
sure did. Tom T. Hall is from Olive Hill. Also in Olive Hill is Carter Caves State
Resort Park, where you can tour four of the 20 caves known to exist on the property.
Each of the four has a unique historic or geologic importance. Also found in the
park is Smokey Valley Lake, which, until recently, was Kentucky’s only declared
trophy bass lake. The Northeastern Kentucky Museum is located in Carter County.
And in season, you can catch a performance of Someday, an outdoor musical commemorating
the Civil War.
Lawrence County: Ricky Skaggs was raised in Blaine. You can also find the
Fred M. Vinson birthplace and home, and cross a bridge that spans both the Tug
and Levisa forks of the Big Sandy River. Relatively unknown Yatesville Lake State
Park offers some of the best fishing in the area.
Elliott County: Although a bit off the track of Route 23, Keith Whitley
was born in Sandy Hook, and you can see his homeplace there. It’s also the site
of the Hamilton Branch Diamond Mine and the scenic beauty of places like Laurel
Gorge and Caney Gorge.
Johnson County: Johnson County gave us three country music stars. Loretta Lynn
and Crystal Gayle are from Van Lear, and Hylo Brown came out of Paintsville. Butcher
Hollow, Loretta Lynn’s childhood home, is still there, and you can see exactly
how the “coal miner’s daughter” spent her early life. Other attractions include
the Mountain HomePlace at Paintsville Lake State Park; the Mayo Mansion; and the
gravesite of frontier heroine Jenny Wiley, who ended her captivity saga near Paintsville.
Paintsville is a good place to spend the night, splitting your weekend
up nicely. There are several places to stay (we’d recommend the Carriage House
Hotel) and a number of restaurants.
Floyd County: Dwight Yoakam hails from Betsy Lane. Floyd County is one
of the few places on Country Music Highway where you can regularly hear country
music performed live. The Kentucky Opry-a group of local performers-calls the
Mountain Arts Center in Prestonsburg home. Country music headliners also appear
on a regular basis.
Other attractions in Floyd County include Jenny Wiley State Resort Park and the
Jenny Wiley Theatre; the Samuel May house; and Thunder Ridge harness racing.
Pike County: Patty Loveless was raised in Elkhorn City, which is near the
Breaks Interstate Park, a park jointly administered by Kentucky and Virginia.
There are several sites in Pike County associated with that famed feud, the Hatfields
and McCoys. In fact, Randolph McCoy and several other family members are buried
in Dils Cemetery in the heart of town. Route 23 goes down the center of the Pikeville
cut-through, the second-largest earth-moving project in the Western Hemisphere
(only the Panama Canal was bigger). You can see the effects of the project from
the scenic overlook in Bob Amos Park. Also found here is a railroad museum and
the Augusta Dills York mansion.
For more information about the attractions found along Country Music Highway,
and throughout Kentucky’s Appalachians, contact: Ashland Area Convention &
Visitors Bureau, P.O. Box 987, Ashland, KY 41105, (800) 377-6249; Paintsville
Tourism Com-mission, P.O. Box 809, Paintsville, KY 41240, (800) 542-5790; or Kentucky
Department of Travel Development, P.O. Box 2011, Frankfort, KY 40602, (800) 225-8747.
Day Trips & Short Stops
A successful failure
When John James Audubon came to Henderson in 1810 it was as a businessman.
Several enterprises, including a mill, were dismal failures. So he turned, instead,
to art-his first love.
Over the next 10 years he wandered the forests and fields of Kentucky,
observing and painting a myriad of birds and other wildlife. His loss to the business
community was the world’s gain. Audubon’s work still sets the standard for avian
The John James Audubon Museum and Nature Center celebrates the artist’s
life and times. Located in John James Audubon State Park, the museum is filled
with his books, letters, journals, paintings, artifacts, and furnishings. Indeed,
one of the few remaining original folio works of The Birds of North America is
on display. Divided into four galleries, the museum traces Audubon’s life from
his birth in 1785 to his death in 1851.
The Nature Center, adjacent to the museum, offers a look into the world
Audubon discovered and documented. In the Observation Room, for instance, walls
of windows, each with a set of binoculars, overlook a garden of native plants
surrounding a woodland pond. Many of the birds he painted can be seen in this
For an even closer look at Audubon’s world, there are seven nature trails
in the park that wind through a wilderness-like setting that includes some virgin
timber and the largest grapevines in Kentucky.
For your own trip through Audubon’s world, contact: John James Audubon
State Park, P.O. Box 576, Henderson, KY 42420, (270) 827-1893.
Premium pay lake
We normally don’t care for pay lakes.
No, it’s not the fee that disturbs us. Rather it’s the sometimes unkempt
or muddy grounds, lack of restrooms, and lack of fish.
For several years, now, we’ve been hearing about Anglin’s Catfish Paylake, near
Waco. Everybody says the same thing: “It’s not your usual pay lake. This is a
Well, we finally checked it out for ourselves. Nestled in the Knobs country
of central Kentucky, Lloyd Anglin has created a very special fishing hole. There
are seven lakes in total, ranging from 1/4-acre to 14 acres. Each lake has a riprap
stabilized bank, and a handicapped-accessible gravel path surrounding it. There
are fishing piers extending out into the water, and several covered picnic tables
around each lake. Well-manicured lawns fill in the spaces between the lakes.
This park-like setting makes Anglin’s very appealing to family groups.
But it’s the fish that draw the fishermen. We’re talking big fish. Fish that qualify
as trophies in anybody’s book. Catfish to more than 80 pounds. Bass that tip the
scales at 12 pounds. Bluegill to a pound and a half. And crappie to twice that.
While you’re certainly welcome to keep fish (Anglin’s has several package deals
that include keeping your catch, or you can take home any fish for $1.40 per pound),
this is really a trophy fishing hole. Most anglers come here for fun, not to take
home a stringer of fish.
Each of the lakes has a mixed bag of channel, flathead, and blue cats;
bass; bluegill; and crappy. Pond #1, however, is geared more for kids, so is kept
heavily stocked with smaller fish, but lots of them. Pond #7, the new 14-acre
lake, is strictly a trophy setup. The smallest fish in it is 35 pounds. And they
go a lot bigger than that, too.
Indeed, Lloyd Anglin hasn’t missed a bet when it comes to providing any
amenities you need. All that heavy-duty catfishing tackle too much for you to
haul around? For a nominal fee, you can rent a golf cart to do it for you. If
you or your kids get bored with fishing, there’s a game room as well, with pool
tables and electronic games. Bait, tackle, and snacks are available in the clubhouse.
And camping is allowed on the property. You can bring your own tent, or rent one
of the small A-frame camp units he’s installed.
For complete details, contact: Anglin’s Catfish Paylake, 207 Gumbottom
Rd., Waco, KY 40385, (859) 369-5161.