Friday, April 18, 2014

Kentucky State park Foundation Awards Grants to KyPARKS

This is an awesome thing.  The Kentucky State Park Foundation awards matching grants to two KyPARKS for trail projects.  Gil Lawson, spokesperson for the TAH Cabinet, wrote the following comments below. I get so excited when I see other parks taking ownership of their trail systems in ways to enhance or improve the conditions of the trails.  In addition, Cumberland Falls and Carter Caves State Resort Parks are and have been using AmeriCorps Volunteers to do a myriad of trail and cave projects.  The Delta 3 team is currently at Carter Caves State Resort Park.  Happy Easter Weekend to everyone.  Ron Vanover, Kentucky State Naturalist

FRANKFORT, Ky. – The Kentucky State Parks Foundation has awarded matching grants to two Kentucky State Parks for trail projects.  The foundation is a nonprofit organization that supports state parks and various projects in the parks.

“We appreciate the support we receive from the Kentucky State Park Foundation,” Parks Commissioner Elaine Walker said. “These grants will go to projects that will offer more recreational opportunities to our guests and the citizens of the Commonwealth.”

The foundation awarded a $2,500 grant to Nolin Lake State Park at Mammoth Cave for a .5-mile section of the Brier Creek Mountain Bike Trail that will be used by cyclists. This section will be designed to minimize the amount of pedaling and braking required by cyclists.

Nolin Lake has a campground along the lake, picnic area, playground and boat ramp, and is popular for boating and fishing.

Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park in Gilbertsville received a grant of $1,167 to help restore two miles of hiking trails that lead from the park’s convention center to the marina and riding stables.  

Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park sits near the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. The park at Gilbertsville features a lodge, cottages, marina, campground, golf course, convention center and full-service restaurant.

For more information about Kentucky State Parks, visit For information about the Kentucky State Parks Foundation, contact President Molly Caldwell at or visit

Monday, April 14, 2014

Pictures Are Worth a Thousand Words

I wanted to share some pictures I took at the Annual Natural Bridge Wildflower Weekend this past Saturday.  Great views of some beautiful wildflowers.

Left to right: rue anemone, large flowered trillium, red trillium, rue anemone, spring beauty, bloodroot, mayapple, hepatica, purple violet, bloodroot, trout lily, trout lily, rue anemone, phlox, purplse violet, and large flowered trillium.

Best regards.  Safe travels everyone.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Kentucky Department of Parks News Release

By: Gil Lawson
Feb. 14, 2014
Contact: Bret Smitley,

Arches and Waterfall Weekend at Cumberland Falls March 7-9

CORBIN, Ky. – Cumberland Falls State Resort Park is hosting its “Arches and Waterfall Weekend” March 7-9

The weekend will include hikes to area natural arches and waterfalls as well as evening programs on astronomy and history.

Moderate hiking is required on most trips.  Van space is limited. If van space fills up, guests may have to drive their own vehicles. Hikes will start in the lounge of the Dupont Lodge.

The registration fee for the weekend is $10 for an adult and children under age 12 are free.

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park has a lodge, Riverview Restaurant, cottages, hiking trails, fishing, other recreational activities and a great view of Cumberland Falls. Call the park at 1-800-325-0063 for information.

Weekend Schedule

Friday, March 7             

4 p.m.        Tour of Cumberland Falls – Meet at visitor center

7 p.m.        Star Party (Astronomy Program) Moonbow Room of the Lodge

Saturday,  March 8

10 a.m.        Dog Slaughter Falls Hike – 2 mile strenuous hike

2 p.m.          Natural Arch and Yahoo Falls  2 miles total, return about 5 p.m.

8 p.m.          History of Cumberland Falls – Dupont Lodge

Sunday, March 9

10 a.m.        Hike to Princess Falls in the Big South Fork – 2 miles total 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Tracking and Woods Lore Weekend Coming Soon

Kentucky Department of Parks News Release

Gil Lawson
Feb. 12, 2014
Contact: Coy Ainsley,

Carter Caves Hosts Tracking and Woods Lore Weekend, March 7-9

OLIVE HILL, Ky. – Step back in time to the 18th century, when American Indians and European Americans lived closer to nature. 

Carter Caves State Resort Park at Olive Hill invites you to its Tracking and Woods Lore Weekend, March 7-9. Learn some of the skills that were necessary for everyday life, and of the cultural sharing that has made our modern lives richer. Guests will enjoy nature, tracking, culture and history in outdoor and indoor settings.  

Workshops and field trips throughout the weekend will give participants hands-on experience in identifying animal signs in the forest. One field trip will focus on the environment of life in a cave. There will be indoor program options offered throughout the weekend including interpretation on the “Rise and Demise of Buffalo in Old Kentucky.”  Tracking and Woods Lore is for everyone interested in 18th-century lifestyles, culture, wildlife and our natural environment. 

To learn more about our instructors visit Overnight packages are available. 

The admission price is $25 for adults (ages 16 and older) and $15 for guests age 15 and younger. An overnight package including 2 nights and the workshop fee for two is available for two adults at $149.95 plus tax. The price for one person is $124.95 plus tax.

Registration is required. Call the park at 1-800-325-0059 for more information and to make reservations. 

Carter Caves State Resort Park is located at 344 Caveland Drive in Olive Hill. The park has a lodge with a restaurant, cottages and campground. Besides cave tours, activities include hiking, swimming, boating and fishing.

The park is located off Interstate 64 at Exit 161. Take U.S. 60 east. Go approximately 2 miles and turn left on KY 182 north. The park entrance is 3 miles from the left turn onto KY 182 north.

Agenda for Tracking and Woods Lore Weekend

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A $1 Million Private Funding Commitment to Conservation

Date: January 8, 2014
Contacts: Jessica Kershaw (DOI), 202-208-6416
Secretary Jewell Announces $1 Million Private Funding Commitment to Advance Youth & Conservation Initiative
American Eagle Outfitters, Inc. is First Company to Pledge to Newest Public-Private Partnership to Develop Next Generation of Outdoor Stewards

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of an ambitious initiative to engage and employ the next generation through America’s great outdoors, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced a public-private partnership with American Eagle Outfitters, Inc. that will help reach Interior’s goal of providing 100,000 work and training opportunities to young people and veterans on public lands.

American Eagle Outfitters, Inc. (AEO) announced an historic $1 million commitment to develop the next generation of outdoor stewards. The funding commitment is the first in AEO’s philanthropic history and is also the first pledge toward Jewell’s target of raising $20 million from private partners by 2017 to support the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC). 

The 21CSC, launched by the Obama Administration as part of the America’s Great Outdoors program, is a national collaborative effort to put America’s youth and veterans to work protecting, restoring, and enhancing America’s natural and cultural resources. 

Jewell made the announcement today at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C., in recognition of the Civilian Conservation Corps that President Roosevelt created over 80 years ago.

“What we’re doing today embodies the spirit of President Roosevelt’s CCC – coming together to put young people and veterans to work on our public lands which will instill a lifelong conservation ethic that not only benefits them, but our public lands and our country,” said Secretary Jewell. “American Eagle Outfitters has a long history of philanthropy, conservation and volunteerism and I applaud them for this unprecedented commitment to the youth initiative. This lays a strong foundation toward reaching our goal to provide positive experiences for young people and veterans on our public lands that offer both employment and meaningful connections to the outdoors.”

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Thursday, December 19, 2013

WAW - Winter Adventure Weekend

Winter Adventure Weekend 
January 24-26 at Carter Caves State Resort Park
by: Gil Lawson

OLIVE HILL, Ky. – Carter Caves State Resort Park will present a weekend of hiking, kayaking, recreational tree climbing, cave tours, winter survival, rappelling, archaeological field trips, rock climbing, a zip line and other adventures with its fifth annual Winter Adventure Weekend, January 24-26, 2014.

Guests will be able to select from a list of trips they want to take – for beginners and advanced winter adventurers alike. All of the trips and events are led by guides.

Each trip level is based on the difficulty and skills required. The higher the level, the more skills and special equipment are needed. Guests will be responsible for appropriate dress, water, snacks and other items.

2013 KyPARKS Commissioner Elaine N. Walker
getting ready to do the zipline
The list of the trips, along with registration information and other details for the 2014 event are available at All participants must register online at this site. The nonrefundable fee for adults (age 13 and older) is $30, and the nonrefundable fee for children ages 6-12 is $20. Some  trips have additional fees. (All participants must be at least 6 years old. Some trips have additional age requirements.)

There are many new trips at this year's event, including but not limited to slacklining, geocaching and a rope-making workshop. The park is also incorporating some wild caving trips in this year’s event, including one being led by old-style carbide cap lamps. Some past Crawlathon event field trips that are returning include Pit Plunging, Tygart’s Gorge Hike and Cave Trek, Lantern Trip into Sandy Cave. Some trips will be offered on Friday afternoon.

Participants will be able to submit photos in the Winter Photo Salon competition. Categories include winter adventure, caving and local nature-adventure photos. The images will be shown during the Saturday night program, and winners will be awarded ribbons.    

Carter Caves State Resort Park is located at 344 Caveland Drive in Olive Hill. The park has a lodge with a restaurant, cottages and campground. Besides cave tours, activities include hiking, swimming, boating and fishing.

The park is off Interstate 64 at Exit 161. Take U.S. 60 east. Go approximately two miles and turn left on KY 182 north. The park entrance is three miles from the left turn onto KY 182 north.  The phone number for the park is 1-800-325-0059.

Sandhill Crane Tours

Barren River Hosting Sandhill Crane Tours This Winter
Nature Watch Weekends Jan. 24-25 and Feb. 7-8
by: Gil Lawson

LUCAS, Ky. –  During the colder winter temperatures you may to hear the distinct cry of migrating birds overhead. You may want to take a second look at the flock soaring above you, because it just may be Sandhill Cranes rather than Canada geese. 

Barren River Lake State Resort Park is again offering two weekends in January and February to view these beautiful birds.

Sandhill cranes are tall, gray birds reaching heights up to 4 feet, weighing up to 12 pounds with a wingspan of 6-7 feet.  They have two distinct features about them: one is their appearance of a crimson, red-crowned forehead, white cheeks, and fluffy rear end; the other is when in flight, the long dark legs trail behind and the long neck is kept straight out, rather than tucked in towards the body.

Each year thousands of Sandhill Cranes make Barren River Lake a stop as they congregate in huge numbers to migrate. The lake’s exposed mud flats in winter provide the birds with a perfect spot to rest and socialize as they settle in for the night. Ample farmlands and wet meadows offer an abundance of food.

If you would like to learn more about these intriguing birds with a unique sound, Barren River Lake State Resort Park offers Nature Watch Weekends Jan. 24-25 and Feb. 7-8, 2014, to view these cranes as they migrate through the area.

Each weekend begins with an educational session conducted by a wildlife biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources on Friday evening at 7 p.m. Registration is $40 per adult and $20 per child 8-12 years old (must be at least 8 years old to go on van tours). The fee includes all educational sessions, a box lunch, a T-shirt and a choice of a Saturday sunrise or Saturday sunset tour. 

For more information, contact Jamie Avery at THIS LINK or 1-800-325-0057. When making reservations ask for the Sandhill Crane lodge room rate of $49.95 plus tax. 

The Park is surrounded by rolling, tree-covered hills, on the edge of a beautiful 10,000-acre lake. There are 51 lodge rooms, 22 cottages and 99 campsites at the park. Enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of an upscale fish camp in the Driftwood Restaurant. If you are looking for something to do during your visit, you can play on the 18-hole golf course, hike along a nature trail, visit the marina to rent a boat, check out a fishing pole or sports equipment, browse the gift shop or just enjoy a peaceful seat overlooking the lake.

The resort is 44 miles southeast of Bowling Green. Take Interstate 65 to the Cumberland Parkway east, to U.S. 31E south.

Sandhill cranes in a field (photo by Don McCoy)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Bird With us at the Breaks Park Christmas Bird Count!

Cedar Waxwing (Photo courtesy of Dr. Thomas Barnes at University of KY)
I am very fortunate to live and work in an area that is an Ornithologist's (fancy word for bird watcher) Heaven. Every Spring and Autumn produces a migration of birds from all over and they visit the park as a stop over when heading North or South depending on the time of the year. However, many fail to realize that the dead of Winter can produce great sightings of birds here at the park as well.

Join us on Saturday, December 21st for our annual National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count. It is a service we provide to the Audubon Society as a way to help them monitor bird migrations and populations. Things will kick off at the park's Visitor Center at 8 o'clock where we will review the map and decide on locations to bird. We will bird all day and wrap up around 8 o'clock PM where we will join for a chili dinner (provided the park) and will compile our information of the number and species of birds counted from the day. Don't consider yourself an expert at bird identification? There will be some of the best birders in the area will be there, and are more than happy to pair up with you beginners to help make your birding adventure an enjoyable and educational one.

For additional information, feel free to contact me by emailing me HERE or by calling my office at (276) 865- 4413 ext. 3213.

We hope to see you there!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Meet Me Under The Mistletoe

Meet me under the mistletoe!  Yes, mistletoe has intrigued people for years.  I remember as a small lad taking a shotgun and shooting the mistletoe out of trees in hopes that the succulent, evergreen plant would work its magic with some "kissing" adventures.  As I look back on those years, I cannot help but chuckle with much laughter about that.

Several years ago, while driving down I-75, I asked my two sons, “What type of plant is that in the top of those trees.”  Their reply was, “I don’t know.”  After telling them the answer, they both wanted me to immediately stop the vehicle, get out, and climb the tree for a sprig of mistletoe.  Why?  It was the “kissing thing” again!  I guess you could say that history does repeat itself.

Where have I seen the most mistletoe plants?  The stretch of Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway, between Winchester and Clay City, has trees along the roadway that are absolutely covered with these parasitic plants.   Also, in Frankfort, you can get a quick view off route 421 near Hardees'.  In fact, it is in the same vicinity where I mentioned the Black Vultures in a recent blog.  During this time of the year, look for the evergreen plants hanging in the branches.

There are so many songs with lyrics about mistletoe.  Some songs that mention mistletoe include: “Blame it on the Mistletoe,” “It Must Have Been The Mistletoe,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” “Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas.” and  “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," just to name a few.  Why even Justin Bieber has a song out about Mistletoe. I guess there are a lot of people out there that believe in mistletoe powers.  Go figure!

I also came across this article and wanted to share it with you.  It was written in 2005 but has a lot of interesting information about “Mistletoe.”  I think you too will find it useful as you learn more about this mysterious, kissing plant.  See "Read More" below.

Before closing, I wish you and yours a splendid year filled with much happiness.  What are your waiting for?  Now get out there and find a sprig of mistletoe, so you can secure your  kiss!

Friday, October 25, 2013

John James Audubon to Celebrate 75th Anniversary on November 2

by Gil Lawson –  John James Audubon State Park will close out its yearlong 75th anniversary celebration with a special museum event November 2.

All three parts of the historical anniversary exhibit will be on display, along with a special collection of future plans for the next 75 years.  Hors d’oeuvres, museum tours and music by Eric Scales will be on the main level of the museum from 6-7 p.m.

In the lower level, from 7-9 p.m., guests will enjoy a gourmet meal by Avarice Watson, music, a preview of short films about the park, special speakers and the unveiling of the newest print from the most recent Audubon copper plate purchase, “The American Bittern,” plate No. 337. The copper plates were used to print books that featured Audubon’s work. One print, or “re-strike,” will be auctioned off at this time. 
The American Bittern

Prints of “The American Bittern” will be available for sale after November 4 at the museum.

Michael Aakhus, dean of arts from the University of Southern Indiana, will speak. Aakhus will discuss the unique process of printing from the historical plates, which the park museum has exhibited in its gallery. This is the second plate from the Audubon collection from which Aakhus has produced restrikes.

Park manager Mark Kellen will present a multimedia program on the park history, including the recognition of key people throughout the park’s growth.

For tickets, contact: Mark Kellen, park manager, at 270-826-2247 or Kim McGrew-Liggett at 270-827-1893 or Cost: $50 per ticket; limited to the first 100 people.

John James Audubon State Park is the site where Audubon studied and painted birds from 1810-1819. The park is equipped with cottages and a campground, and offers many recreational opportunities, including a nine-hole golf course, 6 miles of hiking trails, fishing and more. It also has a museum and nature center that interprets Audubon’s life through a collection of his paintings and memorabilia.

The park is located on U.S. 41 in the northern outskirts of Henderson, ½-mile south of the U.S. 41 bridge over the Ohio River.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

State Naturalist Travels - Dewey Lake and Jenny Wiley

My travels this week took me to beautiful eastern Kentucky.  The colors were spectacular. I guess I am rather bias since I spent 13 years as park naturalist at Jenny Wiley State Resort Park from 1992-2005.  A great park with great people….wonderful communities.
The old saying, “That photos are worth a thousand words. ” I hope you enjoy the scenic views.  A very special thanks to Mrs. JoAnn Harvey, Prestonsburg, Ky, for the pictures.  Spectacular in color.
Fall colors are peaking all around in Kentucky.  Get out there and enjoy the views with your family.  And, remember KyPARKS are great places to spend the weekend.  Visit THIS LINK and make your reservation.
Safe travels.