Image of redback salamander.
Redback salamander Found at Boone County Cliffs State Nature Preserve © Fyn Kynd

Places We Protect

Boone County Cliffs State Nature Preserve

Kentucky

The Kentucky Chapter's first land acquisition after its beginnings in 1975.

While The Nature Conservancy began working in Kentucky back in 1964 with the acquisition of Thunderstruck Shoals, the organization did not open a Chapter office until more than a decade later. The 74-acre Boone County Cliffs represents the Conservancy’s first land purchase after officially establishing the Kentucky Chapter in 1975.

Boone County Cliffs is named for the outcrop of 20- to 40-foot conglomerate cliffs composed of gravel deposited as glacial outwash about 700,000 years ago. Part of an area in northern Kentucky referred to as the "Enchanted Valley,” Boone County Cliffs retains a beauty which has remained undiminished for centuries and prevails as an exceptional example of lasting natural forest habitat protection in a rapidly urbanizing part of Kentucky.

After land comprising the Boone County Cliffs Nature Preserve were secured, the Conservancy dedicated the property to be managed as a state nature preserve. The transaction ensured the property remained in permanent conservation management while providing the Conservancy with resources needed to further conservation work across the state.

Size: 74 acres

Location: Situated along a tributary to Middle Creek in Boone County.

What’s At Stake: Boone County Cliffs State Nature Preserve boasts rich flora, fauna and unique geological features. This area is characterized by a calcareous mesophytic forest consisting of sugar maple, basswood, beech, white oak, white ash and slippery elm. The nature preserve also supports an abundance of wildflowers, ferns and shrubs.

The moist, spring fed stream valley located at Boone County Cliffs is also home to redback salamander – which are rare in Kentucky – and dusky salamander, an indicator species of exceptionally clean water. The cliffs also support a high diversity of resident and migrating birds such as numerous species of Wood Warblers, Wood Thrush, American Robin and a variety of Woodpecker species.

Threat(s): Invasive, non-native species, particularly garlic mustard. Also urban sprawl as this is one of the fastest growing areas in Kentucky.

Milestones: Acquired 46 acres at Boone County Cliffs in 1975. In 1987, the Conservancy dedicated the property as a state nature preserve to be jointly managed with the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission. Twenty-eight additional acres were added in 1990. In 2010, Boone County used proceeds from the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund to purchase the Boone County Cliffs Nature Preserve and the nearby Dinsmore Woods Nature Preserve to be incorporated into the County’s parks system and Kentucky’s state nature preserves system.

Partners: Boone County, Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund

What to See: Plants

This area is characterized by a calcareous mesophytic forest consisting of:

  • sugar maple (Acer saccharum)
  • basswood (Tilia Americana)
  • beech (Fagus grandifolia)
  • white oak (Quercus alba)
  • white ash (Fraxinus americana)
  • slippery elm (Ulmus rubra).

The preserve also supports an abundance of wildflowers, ferns, and shrubs, with over 300 species recorded.

What to See: Animals

The moist, spring fed stream valley is home to the redback salamander (Plethodon cinereus) -- a rarity in Kentucky -- and the dusky salamander (Desmognathus fuscus) -- an indicator species of exceptionally clean water. In addition, the cliffs support an unusually high diversity of bird life, with over 90 species recorded. This rich forested area provides a home to some resident species and a rest stop for migrants.