Jefferson Memorial Forest, Metro Parks, City of Louisville, Jefferson and Bullitt County, Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund purchased 621 acres of 6,676 total acres in six tracts.
This is one of the nation’s largest urban forests started in 1945 when 1300 acres were acquired by 1948. More land was added during several distinct periods of recent history during the environmental awakening period in 60’s and 70’s, in early 80’s and late 80’s, and most recently in 90’s until today with assistance from Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund funds. The forest serves as a recreational Mecca for the citizens of Jefferson County and the Commonwealth in general with over 35 miles of hiking trails, horseback riding trails, playgrounds and pavilions, fishing, tent camping, and as a resource for environmental education. The forest is generally grouped into three categories: the recreational forest (26%) which is generally considered to be poor in quality with associated lawns, meadows and other open areas, the recovering forest (40%) which is an area of better quality forest that will be allowed to recover from past disturbances, and the significant resource area (34%) which is the highest quality forest that will be restored to mature status. The forest community found on lower slopes and ravines is the acidic mesophtyic dominated by American beech, sugar maple, white and northern red oak, and tuliptree with understory of flowering dogwood, pawpaw, maple leaf viburnum, spicebush, hornbeam, ironwood, and hearts a burstin. On the north and east slopes of this community you will find rich spring wildflower displays of wild ginger, baneberry, jack in pulpit, blue cohosh, twinleaf, Solomon seal, waterleaf, and other species. On the upper slopes and ridges the forest changes to a drier acidic forest dominated by white, black, chestnut oak, southern red, and scarlet oak; pignut, mockernut and sweet pignut hickory with sourwood, mountain laurel, and low bush blueberry in the understory. Contained within this forest in small narrow bands is a more open type of forest with an open canopy and widely spaced post, blackjack, and chestnut oaks, with some highbush and low bush blueberries in the understory. The highest and driest forest found here is a pine-oak forest dominated by Virginia Pine and chestnut, scarlet and black oak. One unique community found here is the shale barren, which is an area of exposed bedrock and shallow soils with sparse vegetation except a few chestnut and post oaks with some native grasses, rough blazing star, bird-foot violet and hairy wood mint. More than 283 plant species, including the state endangered narrow-leaf bluecurls and rare little ladies tresses have been observed. More than 32 amphibians, 135 birds, 37 reptiles, and 34 mammals have been found here.
Open 8 am to dusk except Dec 24 and 25 and Jan. 1 for hiking, fishing (Tom Wallace Lake), tent camping, horseback trails, picnic shelters and playgrounds, and environmental education including camps To get there from I-65 take I-265 West (Gene Snyder Freeway) to the New Cut Road exit and turn left going south. Travel approximately 1.2 miles and at the yellow flashing light, turn right onto Mitchell Hill Road. Travel 1.5 miles and turn left into the Welcome Center parking lot (11311 Mitchell Hill Road). The Welcome Center is a white, two-story building with a red roof.