The Mrs. Baylor O. Hickman Preserve borders a portion of the Rockcastle River that has been designated as a Wild River Corridor containing outstanding scenic, biological, geological, cultural and recreational resources. The relatively clean, well-oxygenated water found along this stretch of the river contains freshwater mussel species found only in the southern Appalachian Mountains and the Cumberland Plateau region. In all, 25 rare species are found within and along this part of the swift river and in the 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 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: Mesic slopes underlain by sandstone and shale with abundant beech and hemlock, and an understory filled with rhododendron. Sandstone cliffs separate upland and bottomland forest. A unique gravel wash prairie can be found along the boulder-strewn edges of the river. Spring floods scouring the riverbank keep this community open, preventing the establishment of dense woody vegetation. Prairie grasses such as big bluestem and Indian grass dominate the area. The state endangered tussock sedge can also be found here.
The preserve also harbors the globally-endangered Rockcastle aster, which was unknown to science before the Conservancy's survey 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.
Of particular interest 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 two state threatened species, Mountain brook lamprey and ashy darter.
Threats: Invasive plant species such as tree-of heaven, princess tree and Japanese stilt grass. Other threats include Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, removal of Kentucky Lady-slipper and 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 the rare species, forested habitat and riparian area of the Rockcastle River. Work to eliminate and control the spread of invasive species.
Partners: United States Forest Service
For more information on visiting this and other Nature Conservancy sites in Kentucky, see our Preserve Visitation Guidelines page.