Purple pistils emerge from white petals of a wildflower.
White Wildflower A white wildflower in bloom at the Jim Beam Nature Preserve in Kentucky © Oliver Starks

Places We Protect

Jim Beam Nature Preserve

Kentucky

Visit this sanctuary near the majestic limestone cliffs that run along the Kentucky River.

As it celebrated 200 years in business in 1995, the internationally renowned Jim Beam Company joined forces with The Nature Conservancy to create the Jim Beam Nature Preserve in Kentucky’s Palisades region, just 20 miles outside of Lexington. For the company, with several brands and operations all over the world, establishing a nature preserve in the Bluegrass State represented a way of giving back to the land that provided so much over two centuries and a promise to never lose touch with the company’s Kentucky roots.

Location: Located in the Palisades region, in Jessamine and Garrard counties, near where the Kentucky River cuts down into the oldest rocks exposed in the state.

What’s At Stake: The Palisades is home to at least 25 mammal species and 35 reptile species. Two endangered bats -- the Gray bat (Myotis grisescens) and Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) -- utilize the forested corridors that serve as a source of insects. 

The Palisades region also harbors the largest concentration of rare plant species with the Bluegrass Region, which are concentrated in some of the more unusual habitats of the Palisades - the rocky riverbanks and the clifftop sites.  These include:

  • Water stichwort (Arenaria fontinalis)
  • Svenson's wild-rye (Elymus svensonii)
  • Mountain lover (Pachistima canbyi)
  • Starry cleft phlox (Phlox bifida ssp. stellaria)

Beech (Fagus), tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) and oak/hickory (Quercus/Carya) forest types similar to those in Appalachian Kentucky are located on sites on old sandy river terraces and bluff-top ridges which have more acid or infertile soils than are typical for the Inner Bluegrass Region. The steep cliff tops surrounding the Kentucky River harbor the largest concentration of forest within the Inner Bluegrass, which is otherwise largely agricultural or suburban. Blue ash (Fraxinus quadrangulata), chinquapin oak (Quercus muehlenbergii), and sugar maple (Acer sacharum) are abundant on the steep limestone slopes, along with less common trees like rock elm (Ulmus thomasi), yellow wood (Cladrastis lutea) and yellow buckeye (Aesculus octandra).

Threats: Urban sprawl, vandalism and invasive species – especially bush honeysuckle.

Milestones: Established the nature preserve, together with the Jim Beam Company, in 1995. The company planted 2,000 trees in the year 2000 and donated funds for maintenance and general care in honor of top retailers, distributors and broker partners throughout the United States.

Action: Provide public access without compromising the delicate nature of the preserve. Prevent damage to native species by invasive weeds. Gather additional information on the species present at the site.

Partners: Volunteers, including Boy Scout troops and civic groups.

The one-mile loop trail located at the Jim Beam Nature Preserve showcases cultural treasures--such as significant stretches of dry laid stone fences--that provide a glimpse into the past. The trail also features an overlook with a view of the Kentucky River when the leaves are off the trees.