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Dedicated State Nature Preserves on Carter Caves State Park

Dedicated December 16, 1981, Bat Cave and Cascade Caverns State Nature Preserves consist of two tracts totaling 155 acres located within the boundaries of Carter Caves State Park. These preserves are located within the boundaries of Carter Caves State Resort Park. Bat Cave was dedicated into the nature preserves system for the protection of the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis). This federally endangered species has wintering numbers in Bat Cave estimated at 28,000. The Cascade Caverns portion of the preserve was dedicated into the nature preserves system to protect two rare plant species, the mountain maple (Acer spicatum) and the Canadian yew (Taxus canadensis). To prevent disturbance of the bats in hibernation, the caves are closed to public visitation from October to May. However, the hiking trails on the portion of the preserve which is above ground are open year round.

    Features - two cave systems, rare bat winter roost, rare plants
    Access - cave tours  one mile of trails on surface
    Facilities - state resort park
    Parking - abundant
    Hazards - steep banks above Tygarts Creek at Cascade Caverns
    Activities - hiking, geological study, birding
    Directions - Carter County. From the junction of I-64 and U.S. 60 N.E. of Olive Hill, follow U.S. 60  
    east 1.5 miles. Turn left at the junction with KY 182, drive east for 2.5 miles to Carter Caves State
    Resort Park entrance. Inquire about the preserve at the lodge.

State nature preserves located within Kentucky state parks are special places with different management priorities. While the parks are there primarily for public recreation, the acreage that has been dedicated as a nature preserve is set aside for the rare, threatened or endangered species and communities that occur there. KNP is focused on management for these species and communities while providing opportunities for scientific research and nonconsumptive recreation. For information concerning use of state park facilities, programs, recreation opportunities and lodging visit the Carter Caves State Resort Park website.


Carter Caves State Park - Heritage Lands

Carter Caves State Resort Park, Kentucky Department of Parks, Carter County, 100 of 1820 total acres purchased by the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund.

This important acreage serves as a link between the park and Tygart’s State Forest to form a continuous forest area of more than 2,500 acres. The property begins with the clifflines and rock outcroppings from Smokey Lake and runs northwest giving rise to two primary forest types: one on southwest slopes and the other on northeast slopes. The southwestern slope forests are dry to moist and dominated almost exclusively by white oak with black oak and pignut hickory of secondary importance.  The northeastern slopes are more mesic but are mostly young forest dominated by tuliptree with white oak, sugar maple, a few hickories and elm. The cliffline and rock outcropping plant communities are dominated by sugar maple, chinkapin oak, blue and white ash, American basswood, northern red oak, and American elm. There is one large open fescue field in the center of the tract. The forest understory is not well developed and has a decent spring wildflower display of yellow lady slipper orchids, shooting star, large white trillium, bloodroot, foamflower, wild geranium and jack-in-the-pulpit. More than 175 species of plants, including the state endangered limber honeysuckle which was rediscovered from historical records near this site and the state threatened downy arrowwood. One cave that harbored several federally endangered Indiana bats was also found at this site.  Finally, the federal candidate Allegheny wood rat was found.

Access:  The park offers hotel style rooms in the lodge as well as cottages and cabins and space for tent camping.  A variety of recreational opportunities are available including  golf, fishing, canoeing, and cave tours in addition to hiking trails. ATV's and off-road vehicles are not allowed.  Take I-64 to exit 161 and drive 1.5 miles on US 60 east to KY 182 north for 2.7 miles and turn left into the park.

Access Type: Open to Public
County: Carter
Region: Eastern Region
Size: 1820
Owner: Kentucky State Parks

​Kentucky State Parks under KHLCF deed restriction or KNP dedication

Purchased with Assistance of:
Lat: 38.377363
Long: -83.122781
Image of Terrapin Creek

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