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Weekend Wanderings

Kentucky’s first settlements

Three of Kentuckys first settlements group together for an easy weekend exploration of Kentucky’s roots–Fort Boonesborough, Danville, and Harrodsburg. Start your tour at Fort Boonesborough State Park, where you’ll find a reconstruction of the refuge fort built by Daniel Boone and his party.

Erected about a quarter of a mile from the original site, to protect it from flooding, the reconstruction is a working fort complete with cabins, blockhouses, and period furnishings. Resident artisans perform pioneer craft demonstrations and share pioneer experiences with visitors. And there are numerous encampments and special events conducted by re-enacting groups who find a welcome at the fort.

A fire earlier this year burned parts of the visitor center and several of the cabins. But this hasn’t stopped the demonstrations of colonial life.

Also administered by the park is Boone Station State Historic Site, a short drive away. Daniel Boone and his family left Fort Boonesborough in 1779 and built a station on this site, living there for three years, and suffering numerous hardships. It was during this period, for instance, that Boone lost his son, Israel, and nephew, Thomas, at the Battle of Blue Licks. Incidentally, that battle–the last of the American Revolution–will be re-created at Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park August 16-18.

Both the fort and Boone’s Station lie a short way off I-75. For information about both sites, contact: Fort Boonesborough State Park, 4375 Boonesborough Road, Richmond, KY 40475, (859) 527-3131.

From Boonesborough take I-75 south to Richmond and pick up KY 52. Follow it west, through Lancaster, and on to Danville, where you’ll find Constitution Square.

You can experience the fervor of those early political maneuverings at Constitution Square State Historic Site, where a self-guided walking tour takes you through replicas and original buildings, offering some insights into the struggle for statehood and life in early day Kentucky.

A re-creation of the original log courthouse, for instance, contains artifacts, papers, and reproductions of furnishings used by the political movers and shakers of early Kentucky. Also re-created are the jail and meetinghouse.

Some original buildings still stand, including the pre-1792 log post office, said to be the first one west of the Alleghenies; Grayson’s Tavern, built in 1785; and Fisher’s Row, two circa-1817 rental properties once occupied by local merchants and the Watts-Bell House. All these buildings are open to visitors. What is not open, unfortunately, is the old schoolhouse. Now a private residence, it is said to be the first brick schoolhouse west of the mountains.

Danville boasts numerous restaurants and lodging establishments, and makes a good place to spend the night.

For more information, contact: Constitution Square State Historic Site, 134 South Second Street, Danville, KY 40422, (859) 239-7089.

From Danville follow U.S. 127 north to Harrodsburg, where, among other sites, you’ll find Old Fort Harrod State Park, a re-creation of the refuge fort that became the heart of the town.

It may not have housed the first women settlers in Kentucky when James Harrod started the fort in 1774. But the need for women and children was quickly rectified. And the list of documented firsts for Harrodsburg could fill volumes. It was, for instance, the locale for the first religious service in the state, the first school, the first ordinary (what we call a tavern), the first doctor’s office, and even the first spinning wheel.

The reconstructed fort now includes 12 cabins where artisans practice weaving, blacksmithing, woodworking, broom-making, tinsmithing, doll-making, and basket weaving. Within the cabins you’ll see period furnishings, household tools, and farming artifacts. In addition, there are garden plots, sheep and goats, a one-room log schoolhouse, and a cemetery.

For details, contact: Old Fort Harrod State Park, P.O. Box 156, Harrodsburg, KY 40330, (859) 734-3314.

Day Trips & Short Stops

A walk with waterfalls

Generally speaking, Kentucky isn’t known as a waterfall state. But we really do have more than our share of dramatic falls. Trouble is, they tend to be little known, and they’re scattered all over the state. For instance, how many of these can you locate? Or have you even heard of them? Break Leg Falls; Bad Branch Falls; Tioga Falls; Honeymoon Falls.

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park has the largest falls in the state. But it’s notable for other reasons, and if you judge it based on the flow of water, it’s larger than Niagara Falls. It’s also the site of the only consistent moonbow in the New World. Under the light of the full moon, a rainbow appears in its mists every month. In fact, there are only two such locations in the world: the other is Victoria Falls in Africa.

A short walk downstream of Cumberland Falls is Eagle Falls. About 44 feet high, and equally wide, the waters of Eagle Creek fall like a bridal train off a rock ledge, then flow into the Cumberland River.

You can see Eagle Falls from the east side of the river. Or if you’re up to a strenuous hike, cross the river and follow the Eagle Falls trail. Among other things, it provides a more dramatic look at Cumberland Falls.

Dog Slaughter Falls lies outside the park border, but not by much. If you follow Moonbow Trail along the Cumberland River, you’ll come to Dog Slaughter Creek in about 2.5 miles. You’ll have to ford the creek, however, which isn’t recommended during periods of high water.

Dog Slaughter Falls is only about 15 feet high. But it falls into a pool lined with hemlock and rhododendron, making it one of the prettiest in the state.

For more information, contact: Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, 7351 Hwy. 90, Corbin, KY 40701, (606) 528-4121.

Outdoor Log

Deep-water bass on a fly

Say “fly fishing for bass” to the average angler and they think of top-water action and a largemouth, perhaps, hitting a hair bug or balsa popper while it floats on the surface.

To be sure, there’s little in the angling world to match the excitement of a bass hitting on top. But a lot of times the fish don’t look up: to really find them, you have to go subsurface.

Contrary to popular opinion, this does not leave the flyfisher out. Armed with the proper sinking lines and weighted flies, it’s possible to fish the entire water column, wherever the fish happen to be.

Take the time, for instance, George Mead and I were fishing Dale Hollow Lake for summer smallmouth. The fish were eating crayfish on a sloping shoreline, about 10 feet down. Conventional anglers were taking them with soft plastic crawfish imitations.

To do the same, we switched to sinking lines. George went with a high-density sink tip, while I chose a full sinking line. Our flies were crayfish imitations made with flexible materials (including marabou feathers and living rubber legs), and weighted with lead dumbbell eyes.

We had to fish much slower than conventional fishermen. Even a fast sinking line is none too fast, sinking at the rate of only a few inches per second.

The ideal set-up, when fishing lakes, is to use a shooting head system. This consists of a selection of short lines (30 feet long) that connect to a level running line using loop-to-loop connectors. You choose the head that most meets conditions, and loop it to the running line. It just takes seconds, and you’re good to go.

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