The Kentucky River Palisades

The Kentucky River Palisades

Tom Dorman Nature Preserve

The Tom Dorman Nature Preserve is at the center of the Inner Bluegrass Region, where the Kentucky River cuts thru many layers exposing the oldest rocks in the state: The High Bridge Formation of Middle Ordovician age (440-450 million years old). This dolomitic limestone forms high “palisade” cliffs along the river and its tributaries.

At 700 acres this preserve is the largest intact forest in the palisades and has several miles of public hiking trails. In 2007 the Kentucky State Parks announced the purchase of 90 acres adjacent to the Dorman for the creation of the new Palisades State Park. The Palisades region harbors the largest concentration of rare plant species within the Bluegrass region. These include Water stitchwort, Svenson’s wild-rye, Mountain lover and Cleft phlox. They are concentrated in some of the more unusual habitats of the Palisades – the rocky riverbanks and the clifftop sites.

The steep cliff lines surrounding the Kentucky River also contain the largest concentration of forest within the Inner Bluegrass, a region which is largely agricultural or suburban. Blue ash, chinquapin oak, and sugar maple are abundant on the steep limestone slopes, along with less common trees like rock elm, yellow-wood and yellow buckeye. Also of interest are sites on old sandy river terraces and bluff-top ridges which have more acid or infertile soils than are typical for the Inner Bluegrass Region. Here exist beech, tulip poplar, and oak hickory forest types similar to those in Appalachian Kentucky.

The Palisades is home to at least 25 mammal species and 35 reptile species. Two endangered bats, the Gray bat and the Indiana bat, utilize this habitat. Bats require forested corridors that serve as a source of insects. The bats feed on these insects over streams and along forest edges.

VISITOR STATUS:The Nature Preserve is open 365 days a year from sunrise to sunset. Visitors may enjoy low impact activities that include hiking, photography and bird-watching. To protect the unique habitat of the preserve, you must stay on the trails at all times.

More information can be found at the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission website.

Dupree Nature Preserve

The Dupree Nature Preserve, the Conservancy’s newest nature preserve in Kentucky, is a 300 acre area, open to the public, that represents a shifting landscape in conservation which recognizes that nature sustains not only wildlife, but human beings as well. This thinking led the Conservancy to seek out a place that will make nature more accessible to humans, who mostly reside in urban areas like Lexington.

The timing couldn’t be better since more and more research reveals detrimental effects on human health and well-being related to a lack of connecting with nature. For example, Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, argues that lack of time outdoors compromises mental and physical health. Louv’s work is supported by a growing amount of data illustrating that cognitive processes such as planning, memorizing, paying attention and problem solving are impaired when outdoor recreation and exercise is limited.

With people in mind, the Conservancy is making the Dupree Nature Preserve a showcase for getting people outside in order to deepen their understanding, appreciation and support for Kentucky’s lands and waters. Through hands-on, place-based environmental outreach and education, the Conservancy will engage rural and urban, young and old, through an infrastructure and activities that do not exist at any nature preserve in Kentucky. Along the way, visitors will learn about the important role nature plays in protecting water quality, cleaning the air and providing recreation opportunities that enhance local communities and economies.

More information can be found at the Nature Conservancy’s site.

Boating and Fishing On The River

Some of the best fishing in Central Kentucky is available on the River. Record Muskie, Rockfish (Bass), Cat and other species have been taken from the waters along Garrard County. The Dix (Dick’s) River is a noted trout stream. Boating is a pleasure with wildlife such as otter, wild turkeys, a variety of birds, and deer are always spotted on outings.​

Boat Ramps

A boat ramp is located at the end of Old Lexington Rd. Coming over the US 27 bridge at Camp Nelson, make an immediete left at the top of the hill onto Old Lexington Rd. and follow the road to the river. There is ample parking for trucks and trailers.

A second boat ramp owned and maintained by Garrard County is located at the end of Buckeye Rd/KY 39. From Lexington, tkae US 27 south for approximately 34 miles to the first light in Lancaster. Turn left onto Buckeye Rd/KY 39 and follow approximately 12 miles to the river. There is ample parking for trucks and trailers and a picnic area.

If you’re in the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky – explore history, heritage and nature’s scenic beauty in Garrard County and beyond.