Thursday, July 18, 2013

Big Bone Lick State Park

Here's another interesting spot in Boone County, Kentucky, where I live.  This one is just ten miles from my house.

This area is called the "birthplace of American vertebrate paleontology".  During the Pleistocene age, giants that have been extinct for over 10,000 years roamed here and died here, leaving their massive fossilized bones scattered throughout the area.  The mammoth, the mastodon, the giant sloth, as well as ancestors of the bison and the horse frequented the area, drawn by salt deposits, marshes and springs.  The area is recognized as key to understanding the life of the American continent during the Ice Age.

In 2002, the National Park Service designated Big Bone Lick State Park as an Official Lewis and Clark Heritage Trail Site.  The park was also listed in 1972 on the National Register of Historic Places and was further listed as a National Natural Landmark in February 2009.

The first map of Kentucky in 1784 bore the legend "Big Bone Lick; Salt and Medical Spring.  Large bones are found there."  Explorers had noted that large bones lay scattered throughout the valley.   Meriwether Lewis traveled to Big Bone Lick in 1803 on his way west to join William Clark and the men assembling in Louisville for the Corps of Discovery.  He sent a box of specimens to Thomas Jefferson, who had a keen interest in paleontology.  Later, Jefferson sent Clark back to Big Bone Lick for the first organized vertebra paleontology expedition of the United States.  Jefferson kept his collection of bones in what later became the East Room of the White House.

There are outdoor dioramas, which depict the animals that existed here.  3.5 miles of hiking trails are available for exploration.

There is a museum with indoor exhibits, with lots of historical information and displays of fossils.


Mastodon skull

Mastodon tooth

The park includes hiking trails, campgrounds, and a seven acre lake for fishing, including largemouth bass and bluegill.

Perhaps one of the most popular attractions here:  a herd of American bison.  Bison lived here in the past, and are being reintroduced.

Every year Big Bone Lick State Park hosts a Salt Festival.

Music is a big part of the festival, just as it is down the road in Rabbit Hash.


Pam said...

Fascinating post Judy, and I loved the music! That tooth is something else!

judy in ky said...

I'm glad you liked the music... I do too. I like the kind of music that's popular here... authentic bluegrass. They call it "Bluegrass in the Bluegrass". (Kentucky's nickname is the Bluegrass State.)
Isn't that tooth amazing?