Tom Dorman State Nature Preserve is sight to see

Published 10:34 am Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Tom Dorman State Nature Preserve in northern Garrard County is 908 acres of scenic beauty with an interesting history.

There is an abundance of wildlife with dozens of mammal and reptile species.  There is also a rich diversity of trees, wildflowers, mosses and lichens.

To get to the Sanctuary travel one mile south on U.S. 27 past the Kentucky River. Turn right on Rte. 1845 and follow for one mile.  Turn right at the Sanctuary sign and go straight (do not bear left) for ¾ mile to the gravel parking lot.

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Please stay on the trails so as to not harm the flora and fauna (plants and animals), and to stay out of poison ivy.  Dogs are not allowed

 A moderately strenuous two-mile loop trail winds through the preserve. You may begin the loop at either end of the parking lot, but I recommend the end farther from the road.

Travel about 500 feet in this direction and you will come to a large flat rock across the trail.

There is a large fossil, called a cephalopod in this limestone rock. These cephalopods, which grew to lengths of as much as 60 feet in this area, are related to modern squid.

Most geologists estimate that these rocks are approximately 450 million years old (the Ordovician Period). When these rocks were deposited, the climate here was similar to the Bahamas’ climate today – a warm shallow sea.

 After you continue along the trail for another 10 minutes or so, it begins to steepen downward toward the river.

You are now on an old stage coach route to the old ferry. As you continue onward and downward, you will notice the vegetation has changed since the beginning of your walk. You will also begin to see sinkholes and other solution features. These were caused by naturally occurring acid rain that dissolved the limestone.

When you reach the bottom of the hill, you will see the turn off to the Knight’s Ferry Trail, a one-half mile loop to the river. Almost as soon as you step onto this trail, you will be walking through an old homestead, perhaps the ferry’s captain’s house. The hearth and chimney are to the right.

As you travel along the Knight’s Ferry Trail, you are now walking on sandy soil deposited by the Kentucky River, rather than the clay and limestone on the rest of the trail.

When the river is high and flowing quickly, it carries quite a load of sand and silt. When it overflows the banks the water flow slows in the areas out of the main channel.

It then drops the heavier particles in the load, which is sand. The trail then descends down over several terraces on the floodplain on the way down to the river.

 The Kentucky River here is an entrenched meander into the oldest rocks exposed in the state of Kentucky, thought to be 450 to 500 million years old.

Long ago the river meandered back and forth across a plain.  As the land rose, the river cut down into the rock locking itself into place. As the river goes through a curve, the water on the outside of the curve travels faster, cutting into the rock and creating the 220-foot-high Kentucky River Palisades, which you can see across the river. The Palisades are home to rare plant and animal species.

On the inside of the curve, where the water travels more slowly, the river deposits the sand you are standing on at the edge of the river.  While you are at the river’s edge you will likely see vultures soaring on the updrafts created by the palisades.  If you are lucky you may see a Kingfisher fly by or a turtle in the river.

 After you return to the main trail, you may return the way you came or continue the loop. If you continue the loop, you will soon reach the steepest portion on the trail with many steps and some cut into rock.

Look for mottled limestone along the trail. The light gray limestone has darker gray worm burrows made by worms feeding in the loose sediment at the bottom of the shallow sea.


Mark Reinhardt is a columnist who submits work often to the Jessamine Journal.