Big Bone Lick State Historic Site
Date Visited: October 28, 2019
Address: 3380 Beaver Road – Union, KY 41091
GPS: 38.88344, -84.7474
Website: Kentucky State parks
Museum and Visitor Center Hours:
March 16- November 12 – Open daily 8:30 am – 4:00 pm
November 13 -March 15 – Open Monday – Saturday 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
Price: Admission to the park as well as the museum and visitor center is free to all visitors year round.
Big Bone Lick State Historic Site gets its name from the Pleistocene megafauna fossils found there and the park has been called the “Birthplace of American Vertebrate Paleontology.” Fossilized remains of giant mastodons, wooly mammoths, and ground sloths were discovered here in 1739. Animals were believed to have been drawn to this particular location by salt licks deposited around the sulfur springs located within the park. They then became trapped in the salty marshes with no means of escape.
In 1972 Big Bone Lick State Park was listed on The National Register of Historical Places. In 2002 the National Park Service designated it an official Lewis & Clark Heritage Trail Site. In 2009 it also had the distinction of being listed as a National Natural Landmark.
The museum and visitor center on site is pretty impressive. Informational displays, fossils and taxidermy are all included. The Harlan’s Ground Sloth was by far my favorite piece in the museum. The thing just looked so cool and well darn right terrifying! The 1,000 pound mastadon skull is worth a look as well. There is also a gift shop so you can pick up your swag (magnets and postcards for me).
Behind the visitor’s center is an equally cool Megafauna diorama. Mammoths and sloths struggle to free themselves from sinking in the muddy marsh. I believe they were doing repairs and upkeep to the display at the time we were there.
The Discovery Trail is a 4.5 mile trail that begins at the Megafauna diorama located just behind the visitor’s center. It combines all of the park’s hiking trails in one continuous circuit. While hiking the trail you will pass through grasslands, woodlands, a woody savanna, the salt-sulfur springs, and the bison viewing area.
The temperature was great while we visited so we got to walk the entire trail. The trail is open daily from dawn to dusk. Below is a list of the trails separately and their lengths.
- Big Bone Creek Trail: 1 mile, easy.
- Bison Trace Trail: .5 mile, easy.
- Cedar Run Trail: .5 mile, easy.
- Corralberry Trail: 2 miles, moderate.
- Gobblers Trace Trail: .5 mile, moderate.
My favorite thing about this place are the bison. They are always there so whatever day you visit you will get to see them. The largest male was immense and they had the cutest little youngster there too. They weren’t very active while we were there, but they were still cool. The bison is the largest of all North American land mammals and the last of the wild bison in Kentucky were seen around 1800.
The park has 2 playgrounds, restrooms and picnic grounds with tables and grills for all your family gatherings. Two of the picnic shelters offer tables, grills, water and electricity and may be reserved for events up to one year in advance. If there weren’t already enough things for you to do did I mention there’s a miniature golf course. The 18-hole course is open April 1st- October 31st to all visitors and is located near the entrance of the campground. Not for sure what the price is though.
We didn’t stay at the campground, but they do have one so I thought I would give you some info. Their campground has a total of 62 campsites with utility hookups, grills and a swimming pool for guests. Showers, rest rooms, and laundry facilities are also available for guests. There is also a grocery store on-site. Check-out time for the campground is 1 pm and check-in time is 2 pm. The campground is closed November 13th – March 14th. Not sure on pricing though so visit the website for more information.
All in all this place was great. Nice hiking, educational displays and Bison! What’s not to love.