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Kentucky River Palisades

Landscape Snapshot


The Conservancy’s Kentucky River Palisades project encompasses about 100 river miles, stretching from Clays Ferry in Madison County to Frankfort in Franklin County. Most activity, to date, has occurred within the Central Palisades Corridor in Jessamine and Garrard counties.

The Kentucky River Palisades is a unique region boasting 450-million-year-old limestone cliffs, deep gorges, wet weather springs and a system of caves. The Conservancy works throughout the region to protect these habitats for the enjoyment of people and survival of unique wildlife. Some of the places we’ve protected over the years include: the Sally Brown, Crutcher & Wallace nature preserves, the Jessamine Creek Gorge Nature Preserve, the Jim Beam Nature Preserve and the Tom Dorman State Nature Preserve

Trees The largest forested areas remaining in the Inner Bluegrass can be found along the Kentucky River. Beech and yellow poplars, also known as tulip trees, grow tall on terraces and on the banks of the river’s tributaries. Blue ash, chinquapin oak and sugar maple – with a special mixture of rock elm, yellowwood, and yellow buckeye – dominate the steep slopes at higher elevations.

Plants The Palisades region’s diverse landscapes harbor several rare and endangered plant species such as mountain lover, Svenson's wild-rye and cleft phlox – all candidates for federal listing. Snow trillium, a member of the lily family, occurs in the shallow limestone soils and is otherwise unknown anywhere else in Kentucky. The most unusual habitat for vegetation within the Palisades occurs on the rocky riverbanks, called the scour zone, where there is an abundance of big bluestem, wild oats, riverbank goldenrod, shrubby Saint-John's wort and tufted hair grass.

Animals The Kentucky River Palisades hosts endangered bats which inhabit caves along the spectacular cliffs. Salamanders washed down from eastern Kentucky on the crests of floods now dwell high above the river and are found nowhere else in central Kentucky. Bobcats still roam the more remote portions of the Palisades. Great blue herons glide over the water, kingfishers perch on branches above the river's edge, and endangered peregrine falcons once again wheel and soar gracefully above the landscape.

Help Us Protect the Kentucky River Palisades!

Over the years, minimal zoning restrictions fueling home development along the Kentucky River combined with the rapid growth of cities such as Lexington, Nicholasville, Frankfort and Richmond jeopardizes this unique natural setting which harbors unique wildlife, filters water and fuels the spirit of residents and visitors. We're working with the following partners to protect this spectacular landscape: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Kentucky Division of Forestry, Kentucky Division of Conservation – Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easements (PACE) Program, Bluegrass Sportsman’s League, Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky River Authority, Jessamine County Government, Heritage Land Conservation Board.

Contact The Nature Conservancy of Kentucky to find out how you can support these efforts!

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