Elk flock to park reclaimed from KY mining wasteland

Elk herd up

Perhaps it’s only fitting that a chunk of the elk that Kentucky reintroduced are making their home on land reclaimed from mining. I don’t want to sound like a tool of the mining industry, but the Mine-Made Paradise Adventure Park near Hazard, KY, offers one of the most lively elk experiences I’ve ever had.

Kentucky is the big leader in the east in reintroducing elk (with the help of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation), where they were decimated in the 1800s. They started with 1,500 in 1997 and now have about 5,000–enough to give away starter herds to other states. They’re giving Missouri 30-50 this year. Kentucky is also a big leader in coal production and coal propaganda.

But it’s great to see something positive come of a burnt out mountain top removal mining site instead of another TV ad for or against coal. The park is officially still under construction, but will eventually entertain elk tours, ATV classes and horse riders.

One of the very friendly workers told me that right now about 100 elk show up in early morning near what will be the visitor’s center. He told me to just wander around and see what I could see. Right now the park is a barren but fun maze of dirt roads and trails. We were just about to give up and I decided to take the beagles for a walk in some of the woods. It’s not all barren wasteland; they’ve left clumps of forest in some valleys.

At first I spotted a couple elk on a hill. Then I looked and saw a couple dozen lounging near the forest edge. They spooked and ran into the woods. I thought that was the last I would see of them. So I let the beagles sniff and enjoy their tracks (they enjoyed their fresh scat a little too much). Then I saw where the elk went: into a huge herd of about 100 over a hill. They were all on the move, running over the rolling hills, stopping to graze, then fleeing again.

I’ve seen the elk in Yellowstone and out west, but never so many or so active.

Also nearby: on the way to the park, off route 1098, you will pass a peculiar rooster farm, guarded by dogs. The pretty-looking roosters are each tethered to a barrel. Anyone have any idea what they are up to?

The Colonel Sanders museum in Corbin, KY, which is the Des Plaines, IL, of KFC.

Dee’s Drive-Inn: An amazing drive-in restaurant where the waitress comes to your car. We were not the first to order our dinner with a hot dog for our dogs. Louisa, KY.

The Paveillion–world’s fanciest gas station with a country western theme. Louisa, KY.

eagle Where to SEE EAGLES
elk Where to SEE ELK
Read about elk reintroduction

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