The Little South Fork of the Cumberland River is one of nine rivers designated as a "wild river", which means it is relatively free-flowing and unimpeded by humans. The Commonwealth's Wild Rivers Program monitors these riparian corridors to ensure that they remain healthy and as natural as possible. The KHLCF works with the Wild Rivers Program to purchase large tracts in the corridors to provide public access and further protect these valuable resources.
The Steele Hollow State Natural Area
The Steele Hollow State Natural Area conserves almost 2.5 miles of the Little South Fork. It provides access for fishing and passive recreation, as well as protects several rare species including the federally endangered palezone shiner and Tennessee clubshell, and the state listed Illinois pondweed and Rafinesque big-eared bat. This pondweed only occurs in pools associated with good quality free-flowing water. This region is where the Cumberland Plateau meets the Highland Rim, creating diverse ecological communities on the site, including Appalachian mesophytic forest, Appalachian subxeric forest, acidic xeric woodlands, xeric Virginia pine woodlands, dry sandstone cliff, mesic/wet sandstone cliff, calcareous mesophytic forest, calcareous sub-xeric forest, xeric calcareous woodland/forest, and riparian forest. Along the trails visitors will travel through many of the different plant communities and see diverse tree species including American beech, black walnut, cucumber tree, black cherry, several oaks, basswood, and yellowwood. Common shrubs are flowering dogwood, witch hazel, spice bush, streambank mockorgange, and mapleleaf viburnum. The herbaceous understory is lush and diverse, particularly in the lower elevation coves. Spring wildflowers include spotted geranium, sharplobe hepatica, Mayapple, bloodroot, and Allegheny spurge. Wildlife is equally diverse, particularly bird life. The site provide habitat for many warblers, including the Blue-winged warbler, Cerulean warbler, Ovenbird, Kentucky warbler, Louisiana waterthrush, and Hooded warbler. The highlight for hikers is the trail to "the Pilot", a knob that sits 600 feet above the river and provides outstanding views of the valley below.
Open to the public by foot traffic only, no ATV or horseback riding, and overnight camping and campfires are prohibited within 30 feet of a wild river. Hunting and fishing are allowed according to state law. From Monticello take KY 92 East for 10 miles, then right on KY 1756 for 3 miles, then continue on Parmleysville Road for 1 mile, then Griffin Rice Mt Road for 0.3 miles, then Steele Hollow Road for 1 mile. After you cross the Little South Fork on a metal bridge you are on the property – parking is just up the hill.
Burnett Branch State Natural Area
This unit is closed until stream restoration and access issues are completed.