Sunday, September 19, 2010

Kentucky Places: Tom Dorman State Nature Preserve

This site is dedicated to the "real" Kentucky, not the homogenized world most of us live in but the parts of the state that are unique. Unfortunately, when it comes to the natural world all we really have left are the scraps. The Kentucky that Daniel Boone first encountered has long been clear-cut or plowed under, and is now being paved over as you read this. However we do still have a few scraps to remind us of what used to be. One of my favorite scraps close to Lexington is the Tom Dorman State Nature Preserve. The Dorman is almost 1000 forested acres right on the Kentucky River in Garrard County just outside of Nicholasville on US 27. Although it's only 30 minutes from Man O' War Boulevard it seems secluded - I've rarely encountered anyone else hiking there. You get some great views of the Palisades, the giant limestone cliffs along the river that are the reason none of the big towns in Central Kentucky are located right on the river.

Here's what you do: pack a lunch and hike the main loop trail clockwise out of the parking lot. After 10-15 minutes, you'll see a sign for the the ridge trail, which dead ends about 1/4 mile from the loop. Take the ridge trail until it ends (you'll see another sign) and eat you lunch on the huge boulders at the end of the trail, overlooking the river. When you're done with your lunch (and your nap), return the way you came until you reach the loop trail again, then continue on the loop clockwise once again. The trail will take you down to the river's edge (where you can take another nap) then it'll lead you back to your car alond an old pioneer road. I've been told by locals that this road was used during colonial/pioneer times to reach a ferry located on the river before there was a bridge.

The Nature Conservancy also owns several preserves nearby, but the Dorman is the largest and the best place to hike. As an aside, the Tom Dorman State Nature Preserve is owned by a state government agency that you've probably never heard of, the Kentucky State Nature Preserve Commission. The KSNPC is responsible for protecting Kentucky's endangered species and most significant natural areas. They are definately worthy of your support if you care anything about retaining some of Kentucky's last unique places. The best way you can do that is get a nature license plate the next time you register your car, it only costs $10 extra (tax deductible) and the KSNPC gets the money and uses it to buy fantastic places like the Dorman!