Category Archives: Nature & Wonder

Pennyrile Forest State Park

Since we live near Kentucky Lake, we do not necessarily consider it a vacation destination.  Living in this area is like always being on vacation!  When we do leave town, our two favorite places to visit are the Smoky Mountains and the beaches of the Gulf Coast.

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Strange natural rock formations are something that has always intrigued me.  Its related to the same itch I have with abandoned places and other historical aspects of our local culture.  They all have a story to share.

Cave-in-Rock is located in Cave-in-Rock, Illinois at a state park named – you guessed it – Cave-in-Rock State Park.  The large bluff located on the banks of the Ohio River features this abnormality of a large hole shaped like an upside-down Hershey’s Kiss, or perhaps a spinning top.

Inside of the Cave-in-Rock looking out.

What makes this place interesting is that it is not a traditional cave that you will find in areas that feature karst, such as cave country east of the lakes area in western Kentucky and parts of Tennessee. 

Cave-in-Rock was formed by erosion over thousands of years from wind, water and floods on the Ohio.  The cave was apparently altered by the cataclysmic effects of the 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes. The cave opening is about 55 feet wide and only goes back a bit, maybe 200-300 feet.  I couldn’t find any information about its depth.

Our kids explore the cave with the crack across the ceiling providing light.

Native Americans used the cave for centuries before it was first discovered by French explorer M. de Lery in 1729.  He mapped it along the Ohio River and gave the cave its namesake.  From the 1790s until the early 1800s, according to local legend, the cave was used by gangs of outlaws, looking to create trouble with ships along the Ohio River.

My favorite photo from the trip – the same crack is shown from a different angle.

As time progressed and law enforcement became more established, a town sprang up near the site of the cave and ferry service began.  The ferry is still in existence today, carrying about 500 cars each day from Kentucky Route 91 to Illinois Route 1.

The trail to the cave walks along the edge of the bluff and the Ohio River. Sometimes this area is flooded.

Becoming Illinois’ first state park, Cave-in-Rock was established in 1929, acquiring 64.5 acres of land around the cave with smaller parcels added later.  Today the state park features over 240 acres of land, a restaurant, campsites, hiking trails and more.

Getting there is half the fun!  From Kentucky, you can use the free Cave-in-Rock ferry service.


Hematite Lake

One could say Hematite Lake is a well-kept secret, but locals know it as a beautiful place to hike just about any time of the year.

Hematite Lake is located near Lake Barkley in Land Between The Lakes, about 15 minutes north of either the Lake Barkley Bridge at Canton or the Golden Pond Visitors Center.

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Big Springs Cave in Princeton

Downtown Princeton, Kentucky is home to a small park featuring a beautiful cave with spring waters coming out of the ground.  The downtown area is situated on top of the cave and the spring, known as Big Springs Cave.

Before Princeton came into existence, the first community was known as Eddy Grove.  The name came from the spring’s swirling waters, or “eddies”, which is the source of today’s Eddy Creek.

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Mantle Rock Nature Preserve

Mantle Rock is, without a doubt, one of the best-kept secrets in western Kentucky.  This natural wonder is hidden away on publicly accessible land just off Highway 133 near the community of Joy.

Located in Livingston County, 34 miles north of Grand Rivers, Mantle Rock is an incredible sight, considering most of land in this part of Kentucky is relatively flat.  But not here.  Mantle Rock is the largest freestanding arch east of the Mississippi River, spanning 188 feet in length and rising 30 feet from the ground. 

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Dunbar Cave State Park

When you consider all of today’s technology and with man exploring virtually every part of the world, it’s a surprise when something ancient is discovered for the first time.

An example of such a place exists right in our backyard.  Dunbar Cave, which is inside the Dunbar Cave State Park in Clarksville, Tenn., got quite a bit of attention on January 12, 2005 when researchers discovered Native American pictographs and petroglyphs inside the cave.

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Nature’s Rough Side

This prairie king snake just had a snack.

Our office is located in a wooded area with a pond. We have all types of wildlife – groundhogs, lizards, frogs, rabbits, herons – I could go on and on.

We also have snakes. We generally don’t mess with them and let them do their thing (we would act differently if we ran across a poisonous one, which we haven’t yet).

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Honker Lake in Land Between The Lakes

It’s no secret that Land Between The Lakes (LBL) is an adventurer’s playground.  Opportunities for hiking, biking, wildlife viewing, camping and exploring abound.  Honker Lake is one of the most scenic spots in LBL, offering beautiful views year around and chances to see the area’s abundant wildlife.

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Ferguson Spring in Land Between The Lakes

Ferguson Spring
The spring, located between the road and the hill.

Land Between The Lakes (LBL) has many well-kept secrets and hidden gems.  We all know about the main attractions at LBL. However, some places aren’t well-known.  One of those is Ferguson Spring, a beautiful and peaceful location that was once the former site of a farming community.

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Duncan Lake in LBL

Duncan Lake
Duncan Lake in Land Between The Lakes is beautiful in the fall

Most people understand the two lakes referenced in Land Between The Lakes (LBL) are Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley.  One look at a map and it’s unmistakable.  There’s a giant piece of land in between two massive lakes. Continue reading Duncan Lake in LBL