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
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
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
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
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.