Friday September 12, 2008


Raven Run Nature Sanctuary




[Update:  Since I've been here they've built a new nature center out here and the paths are now only accessible from behind it.  Just follow the paved path/sidewalk at the north end of the parking lot to reach it. 



Raven Run is just about ½ hour south of Lexington, Kentucky and there are several miles of hiking trails out here along with a lot of historical remnants to see.  These include an old homestead, plenty of old stone fence remains, a kiln and a grist mill.  They also have some nature programs.  Check it out:


The paths have an interesting structure.  I’ll totally oversimplify it but, in general, there’s a large circle around a pair of lassoes (or lollipop loops) in the middle, one angling to the right and one to the left.  The circle is the known simply as the Red Trail.  It runs 4 miles in length and passes through forested areas.  Meanwhile, the lassoes (or Green Trails) wind around on paths that have been mown through meadowland.  


The Blue Trails are then a third set that connects both of these at several points, almost like the spokes in a bicycle wheel.  They can help you can make your hike as long or short as you like while still being able to explore parts of both environments.    


Yellow Trails (the markers of which are so bleached by the sun, they look white) then split off to the outside of the red trail circle and take you to different points of interest which including a waterfall, a grist mill and a Kentucky River overlook. 


And, if all that weren’t enough, there are 2 more separate pathways:  another system of meadow trails off the west side of the parking lot leading to the Prather homestead (built in the late 1700’s), and the Freedom Trail which has a fantastic name because it’s paved to allow for wheel chair access.  It’s kind of steep though...  If you’re in a wheelchair, you might want to come out with someone else to assist unless you've got brute strength to spare. 


Access to the main trail system is to the northeast side of the parking lot (behind the bathroom).  The path will form a zigzag back to the Nature Center where you’ll need to sign in.  This is a nice little shelter with a lot of information on the sanctuary, its trails, history and wildlife.  It’s definitely worth a stop in. 


One time when I was out here I saw a bunch of men and women formally dressed when I came out from a hike.  I wondered what the heck was going on!  Turns out the mayor was having a press conference to announce that more acreage was being added to the sanctuary.  I don’t know when this will go into effect, but it will supposedly add a lot more land.



You can get a map of the trails here and then you’ll go left around the barn adjacent to the nature center to access the paths.  You can go straight to go to the meadow trails, or you can go right or left to start on the red trail loop.  Going left will take you past the gravesite of Archibald Moore, an old homesteader here.  Going right will take you to the river overlook about a mile down the path.  I went left.  You’ll notice that quite a bit of underbrush has been cut down.  They’re apparently trying to prevent invasive species of plant life from taking over.


The first trail junction you’ll come to if you go this way is for a blue trail (the only blue trail I noticed which did not link up with a meadow trail).  This is an inner loop back to the red.  Go 30 steps down to see the Moore spring which Archibald Moore might have used for his water supply.  It’s contaminated now though.  Keep going and you’ll eventually cross over a stream (the south fork of Raven Run) and then connect back up with the red trail again.



This particular time I doubled back to the red trail after seeing the spring.  You’ll start to notice markers put up alongside some of the trees if you go this way.  These tell you what kinds of trees they are.  The first one I noticed was for a Black Walnut I believe.  There will be several more of these signs. 


I presently came to a wooden bridge over a creek.  This is the south fork of Raven Run again at a point further upstream than the one that the blue trail crosses over (that trail has no bridge).  This particular crossing is an especially lush place in the springtime.  I often stop here and just listen to the water trickle down while taking in the scenery.  It’s a fantastic place to relax!



You’ll begin a climb up after the bridge and will soon link back up with the aforementioned blue trail.  During this climb, you’ll start to notice the stone fences.  These are amazing and they’re visible for long periods.  These were used to divide property lines and the stones which were used in their construction usually came from the tilling of the farm fields according to the history pamphlet provided at the Nature Center.  These fences are visible mostly toward the first part of the red trail and the last part.


At the top of the climb some meadowland will become visible off to your left and there will be access to this at the next trail junction.  You can continue straight on the red trail or break off and follow this (about a mile) loop through the meadow.  The first ½ will be wide open and will offer nice views of the countryside.  The second half will be alternatively made up of forest and meadow as you wind under clearings for some power lines.  These power lines will become quite familiar.  Just following the red trail will take you under them 4 times.  This loop adds the 2 more.



Getting back to the red trail and continuing, there was once a connecting blue trail which cut off part of the red.  It used to come in on the right but it’s no longer open.  From here you’ll make an “S” in which you’ll cross under the power lines again on a curve left and then emerge on a forested ridgeline after the right curve.  Presently another trail junction will enter the picture.  This is a yellow trail (looks white) which takes you down to a waterfall on the south fork of Raven Run.  This is an out and back trail with a moderate descent down the side of a ravine.


Climbing back up to the red trail, you’ll wind back into this same ravine created by the south fork along its ridgeline.  The trail will follow back on one side of the ridgeline, cross the stream over another wooden bridge and then come back out along the other side, passing another spring (the Wayside) on the way.  Just after crossing the stream there’s another blue trail which will go right (where the red goes left) and then back up to the meadow trail system.  Before heading back up though it will follow the south fork for a little while, offering some more lush spots and trickling water - although not today.  It had been pretty dry.


As you come out of the ravine and under the power lines again, there’s yet another blue trail heading back to the meadows and very soon after is another yellow loop which will take you down to the Evans Grist Mill.  There’s a marker here describing how the mill used to work and you can still see part of it at the bottom of a wooden overlook which extends over it. 


There was a dam on the convergence of the Raven Run forks here and the ditch which will be behind you is what fed into and powered the mill.  A road used to come down here across and just upstream from this.   It’s no longer visible but people would drive down this road to have their wares milled.  There’s a nice scenic spot where the forks converge just upstream here too.



Climbing back up to the red trail, you’ll cross under the power lines one last time (another blue trail comes in) and then begin to follow along the southern ridgeline of the fully converged Raven Run.  I passed a deer in here that was not bothered by me at all.  It just kept munching away on its green lunch! 


There are 3 more blue trails before reaching the overlook and another yellow trail which heads down toward the stream.  This used to be one of my favorite places to hike in the sanctuary.   It’s apparently been permanently closed now though, and is blocked off by wood fences.  A sign indicated that this was done in the interests of preservation and safety.  The only part of this trail that does remain now serves, more or less, as a shortcut for the red trail.


The overlook is soon to come.  You’ll reach this after a very short out and back at the next trail junction.  It’s a nice spot over the Kentucky River which you can also look up and see if you’re boating on the river.  It’s a rocky outcrop just above the spot where the Raven Run enters the Kentucky.  This is usually a pretty popular place and it’s rare not to see anyone else here.  When I was kayaking this section of the river, I was amazed to see some maniac with a death wish reaching precariously over the side for something.  It is dangerous.  Please be careful when visiting this.



You’ll climb a wooden staircase on your way back up and I noticed a new little stairway made out of rocks after this too.  Nice addition!  At the next convergence you can go right onto another blue trail or go left to continue on the red.  This will follow along the Chandler Creek, which is dry now although you’ll cross some bridges over it.  Most of these are fairly new and are quite well done.  More stone fences will soon become visible as well.


The last convergence is a very small loop which will take you back to the lime kiln.  You should see this.  Once you’ve made the loop you’ll head on up and out on a steady but fairly easy slope.  Most of it follows right alongside one of the stone fences all the way back.  It’ll be on your right, you’ll cross through it, and then it’ll be on your left.



At the end you’ll see the spot you first entered directly across from you.  From here you can explore the meadow trail system, check out the Prather homestead, or whatever you like.


I went to look at the Prather house.  I’m really glad they preserved this.  There’s also a little cemetery next to it and another labyrinth of meadow trails.   Raven Run has a lot to offer!




This is off Jacks Creek Pike.  The nearest town is Spears which you can look up on an online map site and drill down on to see this road.  After the intersection of Jacks Creek and Spears Road the sanctuary it’s down about 2 miles or so on the left.  You’ll see the chain link fence.  If you miss it, it’s OK because the road ends fairly soon after this near the Kentucky River.  You can double back.