Natural Curiosities in Kentucky

by Martha Grassham Purcell

Kentucky, rich in minerals, fertile soil, varied forests, and diversified products, is also a land where Nature has been lavish with her curiosities.

Some of the most important natural curiosities are the following: In Boone County there is Split Hill, where a deep zigzag path of great extent has been formed; in Breckinridge County there is Sinking Creek, a stream so large and powerful that it drives machinery the entire year; at a point about six miles from its source it disappears and shows no trace for more than five miles, when it reappears and flows into the Ohio. As early as 1847, a Mr. Huston utilized, for a mill erected on this stream, a natural dam of rock, eight feet in height and forty feet in width.

In Carter County there are also two smaller streams that flow for some distance underground. In the same county, in early days, there was an artesian well that threw up a jet, about the size of a barrel, to a height of four feet.

Christian County contains also some sinking streams, forks of Little River, beside Pilot Rock, which rests upon elevated ground, has a comparatively level summit, covers about one half acre of ground, and is about two hundred feet high. This county also contains a natural bridge, which crosses a deep ravine with an artistic arch of sixty feet, and is thirty feet in height.

Picturesque falls, ninety feet high, are found in Clinton County, while "Rock House," forty feet high and about sixty feet square, is located in Cumberland.

In Edmonson County, besides the wonderful Mammoth Cave, there is "Dismal Rock," almost perpendicular and one hundred and sixty-three feet high.

In Grant County, for many years an object of great curiosity, was an immense poplar tree, nine feet in diameter; it is said a man on horseback, after it lay prostrate, could barely touch the top of the trunk with the tips of his fingers.

A natural fortification, a circular tableland, from fifty to one hundred and twenty-five feet high, impossible of ascent except in one place, is an object of great interest in Hancock County.

In Jessamine County, amid awful grandeur and gloom, the Devil's Pulpit is found, with a total elevation of three hundred feet.

In Lincoln County the Knobs, some with a base one hundred and fifty yards in diameter, two hundred feet high, and entirely destitute of vegetation, attract great attention.

Mantel Rock, or Natural Bridge, in Livingston County, in picturesqueness rivals the far-famed Natural Bridge of Virginia. This rock, resting against the hillside, is eight and three fourths feet thick and twenty feet wide; its arch spans two hundred and twenty feet. One of the paintings that attracted most attention in the Kentucky building at the St. Louis World's Fair was the artistic reproduction of this picturesque place by Mrs. Georgia McGrew Edwards.

In Lyon County, near Eddyville, 1848, several men explored a cavern for half a mile, where a large stream of water, an underground river, was found to be flowing.

About three miles from Benton, in Marshall County, on a high hill, there is a lake about sixty yards in diameter, whose depth is unknown; its waters neither rise nor fall, but stand about fifty feet above the bed of the creek below.

In Meade County, between Salt River and Sinking Creek, are several knobs and groves that the pioneers used as points of observation from which to detect the movements of the Indian parties just after they crossed to the south side of the Ohio River.

Bardstown, in Nelson County, is built on an elevation under which is a natural tunnel, several feet in diameter, of circular form, reaching from the eastern to the western extremity of the eminence.

Owen County has several objects of interest, among them being Point of Rocks, about seventy-five feet high, overhanging Deep Hole, whose depth has never been ascertained.

In Rockcastle County, Bee Cliff rears its summit three hundred and fifty-five feet above the river; there are also a number of saltpeter caves where large quantities of saltpeter were manufactured during the War of 1812. The largest, called Great Saltpeter Cave, with its many rooms, some of which cover an area of several acres, with its subterranean river and weird grandeur, is a rival in all respects but size to the noted Mammoth Cave of Edmonson County. The Fall Cliffs, at some points three hundred feet in height, are unsurpassed in grandeur.

Among the places of interest in Union County there is, standing upon level bottom land, a rock two feet thick, twenty feet wide, and fifty feet high which, on account of its spur resembling the horn of an anvil, is called Anvil Rock. In the same county a large flat rock, deeply indented with impressions of the human foot of various sizes as well as the distinct footprints of the dog is found.

In Warren County, Wolf Sink, one hundred and fifty feet wide by three hundred feet long and in depth varying from twenty feet on the south side to one hundred and fifty feet on the north side, is an interesting place.

The Cumberland River in its passage through Whitley County has a perpendicular fall of more than sixty feet, forming Cumberland Falls, a picturesque cascade, the roar of which can be heard sometimes for more than twelve miles both above and below the cataract. Behind the sheet of falling water one can pass nearly across the river bed.