The Mrs. Baylor O. Hickman Nature Preserve borders a portion of the Rockcastle River that has been designated as a Wild River Corridor that contains outstanding scenic, biological, geological, cultural and recreational resources. Specifically, clean, well-oxygenated water found along this stretch of the river boasts freshwater mussel species found only in the southern Appalachian Mountains and Cumberland Plateau region. In all, 25 rare species can be found within and along this part of the river and surrounding forest.
Note: Due to the sensitivity of the site, the preserve is not open to the public without a Conservancy guide.
Size: 143 acres
Location: Pulaski County. The nature preserve is situated along the Rockcastle River in the Daniel Boone National Forest and accessible from small country roads off of KY 80.
What’s At Stake: The nature preserve is characterized by mesic slopes underlain by sandstone and shale. Sandstone cliffs separate upland and bottomland forest. Abundant beech and hemlock, with an understory of rhododendron, thrive in the landscape.
Spring floods scouring the riverbank keep the community open, preventing the establishment of dense woody vegetation and supporting a unique gravel wash prairie, featuring grasses such as big bluestem and Indian grass, located along the boulder-strewn edges of the river.
The nature preserve also harbors the state endangered tussock sedge and the globally-endangered Rockcastle aster (unknown to science before the Conservancy surveyed of the area), and three rare plants that are candidates for federal listing: Kentucky lady's slipper, hairy Jacob's ladder and white wood mint. Also worth noting is the Cumberland bean pearly mussel, the state endangered Cumberlandian combshell, and several state threatened mussels including elktoe, fluted kidneyshell and rare little spectacle case.
Several rare fish also inhabit the river, including the state endangered olive darter and the state threatened Mountain brook lamprey and ashy darter.
Threats: Invasive plant species such as tree-of heaven, princess tree and Japanese stilt grass. Pests such as the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid. Removal of Kentucky Lady-slipper. Occasional use of all-terrain vehicles.
Milestones: Purchased the 1,126-acre property from a private individual in 1988. Sold 983 acres to the U.S. Forest Service in 1990, retaining ownership and management responsibilities on the remainder. Established the 143-acre Mrs. Baylor O. Hickman Memorial Preserve in 1992.
Action: Protect rare species and forest habitat that benefits waters flowing into the Rockcastle River. Eliminate and control the spread of invasive species.
Partners: United States Forest Service