Visiting Kentucky on Your Next Road Trip
By Ann Emerson
From bluegrass horse country and lakeside retreats to mountains, rushing rivers, forests and cool caverns, Kentucky's visitors find a bonanza of natural marvels. RVers enjoy Kentucky not only for its natural beauty, but for its fantastic Kentucky campgrounds and higher end Kentucky RV camping resorts.
Kentucky's northern bluegrass heartland is the home region of Big Bone Lick State Park in Union. The name makes more sense when you realize that this once swampy territory of mastodons, mammoths and sloths is considered the "Birthplace of American Vertebrate Paleontology." The fossilized remains of Ice Age animals which wandered swamps and springs in search of salts and minerals now provide important clues to prehistoric life in Kentucky. And while Big Bone Lick was formerly the home of ancient bison, today's park has a range that's inhabited by a managed herd of modern American buffaloes. Of course, there's more to do than simply learn about Kentucky's Ice Age. Visitors here can walk the Discovery Trail boardwalk over a marsh, fish for bass or bluegill, stroll around the lake or play a round of miniature golf on a course with a panoramic view of Kentucky's heartland.
In the "Bluegrass State's" western waterlands, Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area at Golden Pond is a 170,000-acre strip of land that separates Lakes Kentucky and Barkley and stretches into the neighboring state of Tennessee. This World Biosphere Reserve has hundreds of miles of undeveloped shoreline plus hiking, biking and horse trails winding past valleys, meadows and waterways. Plus find close by Kentucky camping too. Woodlands Nature Station at Golden Pond Visitor Center offers guided backcountry and canoe excursions, birding programs, and a wildlife observation area showcasing such critters as owls and red wolves. Another interesting tour at Land Between the Lakes is the self-guided drive through the Elk and Bison Prairie and Range.
Mammoth Cave National Park is located in Kentucky's southern wonderlands in the town of Mammoth Cave. This unique park is a World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve encompassing the world's most extensive cave system; Mammoth Cave rangers present narrated cavern tours designed to appeal to participants of all abilities and interest levels. Underground geologic formations such as stalactites, stalagmites, domes and pits are studied at close range. Outside Mammoth's caves, there are woodlands, bluffs, waterfalls and rivers offering countless opportunities for hiking, canoeing, fishing and equestrian activities. Those who want to take an above-ground tour can drive along one of Mammoth's picturesque roadways or hop aboard the Miss Green River II for a scenic and educational cruise along the Green River.
Another worthwhile stopping point in southern Kentucky is near Stearns at Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. This natural treasure extends into Tennessee and follows the path of the Cumberland River's southern junction as it rushes and falls through gorges and valleys. While Cumberland River whitewater earns rave reviews from rafters, kayakers and canoeists, it's certainly not for the faint of heart. Remote river runs with Class III and IV rapids are guaranteed to provide rowdy rides. Park guests preferring high, dry ground can hike, ride horses or pedal bikes through Big South Fork. Hunters and fishermen share space with black bears and river otters while they seek their niche at this wild and wonderful recreation area.
In the Bluegrass State's eastern highlands, travelers find Cumberland Falls State Resort Park at Corbin. Cumberland Falls, the "Niagara of the South", features a 125-foot-wide wall of water that cascades 60 feet to a rugged gorge below. Visitors who are fortunate enough to view Cumberland's centerpiece by the glow of a full moon might see the waterfall's distinctive moonbow. For those who tour by daylight, popular activities include whitewater rafting, hiking and swimming. Equestrians and anglers also find plenty of promising options at this park. Note to wildlife watchers: Stay alert for sightings of such elusive residents as bobcats, gray foxes and red-shouldered hawks.
A second eastern attraction that envelopes Cumberland Falls is Daniel Boone National Forest near Winchester. The forest that was once the site of Boone's backwoods explorations now spans 21 Kentucky counties. One of the most widely visited southern forests, Daniel Boone hosts 5 million guests annually. Tourists in these woods find two swimming and fishing lakes, natural stone archways, craggy mountains, four remarkable rivers and a captivating underworld of caverns. You won't be easily bored here. Swimming, hiking, spelunking, rock climbing and whitewater sports are popular Daniel Boone activities. RV travelers don't even have to leave their vehicle to experience incredible vistas of rivers, cliffs and canyons on the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail.
In the southern corner of the state you'll find Breaks Interstate Park, on the Kentucky/Virginia border, southeast of Pikeville. According to local legend, this site was a favorite stomping ground of Daniel Boone. And can you blame him? The "Grand Canyon of the South" boasts the biggest ravine east of the Mississippi River - a five-mile-long, 1,600 foot-deep chasm carved by the Russell Fork River, a rushing branch of the Big Sandy. Hiking and biking trails provide outstanding views of powerful, tumbling waters and vertical cliffs. There's also fishing and boating at Laurel River Lake and breathtaking canyon views from the top of a solid rock formation called "The Towers." There are so many great things to do in Kentucky, we recommend making camping reservations in advance at Kentucky campgrounds and Kentucky RV camping resorts.
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