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Nature preserves are a great way to get outdoors

AS AN OUTDOOR WRITER, I am fortunate to be able to travel to different areas in Kentucky and experience great history and activities. After each assignment, I try to find a side trip for fun, and possibly to use in another article down the trail. This little trail is a result of one of these side trips. 

After a recent trip, I found Dry Fork Gorge in a list of online search results for a trail near my route home. It wasn’t exactly on the way, but I enjoyed the drive along the back roads and through the countryside to get there. The rolling hills and old barns had me pulling over and reaching for the camera. I didn’t see another car for several miles. The drive was as rewarding as the hike.

The trail is 2.5 miles and unmarked. Managed by Metcalfe County Fiscal Court, Dry Fork Gorge’s 80 acres protect underwater resources that make up the headwaters of the Little Barren River, which empties into the Barren River and ultimately into the Green River near Woodbury. The hike takes you through dense woods where deer and turkey reside. I saw one deer near a rub it probably made, and several turkeys greeted me at the parking area. The gorge lies within the International Bioreserve area of Mammoth Cave and has rich and diverse forest habitat. The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet website says the gorge has more than 461 observed plants species, including many Appalachian species on the edge of their range. 

Dry Fork Gorge was purchased through the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund, which is the primary source of state funding for the purchase and management of natural areas. It buys land from willing sellers for nature preserves, state parks, state forests, wildlife management areas, environmental education areas, wild rivers and wetlands. The fund’s board protects each site in perpetuity with a conservation easement or deed restriction. 

To date, the fund has helped protect 172 areas in 67 counties, offering great settings to educate people about nature. The fund also works with the Kentucky Environmental Education Council to provide educational opportunities to promote learning and skills for a sustainable and healthy environment. 

I encourage you to learn more about these organizations by visiting their websites at I also encourage you to research preserves and plan your visit before going. The Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund has a great interactive map showing the preserves and information about each. One of the missions of the fund is to protect areas with rare and endangered species, so there’s a good chance of seeing a tree or plant that’s hard to find anywhere else.

If you’re looking for a special hike in Kentucky, be sure to check out these protected areas listed on the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund website, as many are not listed elsewhere. These hikes are an adventure and offer great opportunities to see Kentucky and enjoy nature. 

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