Within The Parklands of Floyds Fork many treasures of the landscape and our natural history lie hidden. For millennia the land has shaped the way humans and animals live and interact. In turn, humans and animals have made their mark on the land, leaving behind many clues. Become a landscape detective by being observant, asking questions, and reading those clues to understand the history of the natural world around you. We have identified over 100 “special places” within the park boundaries that we don’t want you to miss, many of which are highlighted here.
Next time you’re exploring The Parklands, be sure to stop by and take a look at the nuanced landscape. Within it lies a world waiting to be discovered that will not only introduce or expand your knowledge and appreciate for local natural history, but leave you in awe of the remarkable flora, fauna, history and culture that we have in our area.
- Garden Gateway - The Garden Gateway, a signature entrance to Beckley Creek Park from Shelbyville Road, displays a mixture of perennial plants that bloom throughout the growing seasons, many of which reflect in Dragonfly Lake below. The gateway highlights all the natural beauty The Parklands of Floyds Fork has to offer.
From the Garden Gateway, the southernmost limit of The Parklands is seven times the distance from the viewer to the furthest ridgeline south (Wibble Hill). Look south from this area to get a sense of the scale of The Parklands.
- The George and Betty Gibbs American Chestnut Grove - American chestnuts are hardwood trees that once covered the eastern half of the country. They were an important source of rot-resistant timber, wildlife habitat, and food. The species faced extinction when a fungus was introduced to the country in the early 1900s on imported Asian chestnut trees. The blight killed four billion American chestnut trees. Since 1983, the American Chestnut Foundation has been selectively breeding American chestnut trees to be resistant to the fungus. With the help of a generous donation by George and Betty Gibbs, a small grove of both native and blight-resistant trees were planted near the William F. Miles Trailhead.
- Coppiced Woods - Kentucky lies in the heart of the Central Hardwood Forest, and one of the dominant forest types in the region is oak-hickory. Within The Coppiced Woods near William F. Miles Lakes, is the best example of oak-hickory forest within The Parklands. When hiking through the woods here you will notice many trees with multiple trunks, a feature called “coppicing.” These are not trees growing side by side, but are single trees with two or more trunks. This happens when tree trunks are severely damaged by storms, fires, flooding, logging or even trampling by deer. New sprouts regrow from the original stump base. Many tree species resprout, including hickory, maple, ash and particularly oak, so these Woods are a great spot to learn about coppicing. Take the Coppiced Woods trail through a forest full of trees with multiple trunks. Look at the environment surrounding the trees. Do you see evidence of flooding or fires? Look at the original stump. How big is it? Use these clues to determine what caused these trees to coppice. That’s right, this area was likely logged around 1915 when the area was first being settled. It is unclear exactly why the trees were cut, but white oak is often used for whiskey barrels and hickory is used for tool handles and furniture—so it’s safe to say this forest is a nice retrospective into the area’s settlement.
- The Oxbow - The Oxbow is a unique spot along Floyds Fork where the river bends back around itself in a horseshoe fashion. The constant current carves out the bank on both sides of the neck of the Oxbow. The land between these banks gets a little narrower every year.
- Water Treatment Plant - Every living thing needs water to survive, but there is a limited amount of water on this planet. Fortunately, the earth recycles water naturally in a process called the water cycle. Humans have built upon this natural process. Water treatment plants take wastewater (from toilets, showers and sinks), clean it, and send it back into the water supply. The Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) owns a parcel of land within Beckley Creek Park and is a key partner in the project. You’ll notice the plant when walking the Louisville Loop from the Lakes area, down along Floyds Fork, before reaching the first bridge.
- Gravel Bars - As Floyds Fork meanders through The Parklands, its swift-flowing currents cut away at the outer banks and carry that sediment downstream. When the currents slow over the shallower areas, they deposit the sediment on the inner banks of the river forming a gravel bar. The mound of deposits provides a place for plants to take root, which in turn stabilizes the bar and allows more sediment to build up. A unique treasure can be found at gravel bars. The bedrock, made of limestone (the Grant Lake formation) and shale, erodes and releases fossils that the stream deposits on the gravel bars. The Grant Lake formation is filled with fossils, such as brachiopods, bryozoans, cephalopods, clams, and gastropods. These creatures used to live in an ancient sea and have left evidence of their existence behind in fossils.
Today, Floyds Fork has over 20 species of freshwater mussels. They prefer the quiet deep waters of pools near riffles, where the water is well oxygenated. Extremely intolerant of pollution, freshwater mussels are essentially living filters. Mussels suck water into their bodies, remove food such as algae and zooplankton and pump the “cleaned” water back out. Because mussels absorb any pollutants in the water, a healthy population is a great indicator of clean waters. Walk out onto a gravel bar and you’re likely to see shells embedded there, especially near the mouths of tributary streams.Travel the Sycamore Trail to see a great gravel bar or walk out from the North Beckley Paddling Access where a gravel bar is often visible.
- Allee Wetlands - Within the Humana Grand Allee, a 3-acre wetland provides important wildlife and aquatic habitat. Taking a stroll on the Boardwalk will reveal opportunities for bird watching as well as plant and wildlife viewing. Small fish, amphibians, and a variety of aquatic insects live within the wetland. This dynamic habitat also provides food, water and cover for waterfowl, song birds, small mammals, and reptiles.
- Floyds Fork - Floyds Fork originates only 10 miles from the Ohio River, its ultimate destination, but must flow roughly 87 miles in the opposite direction to get there. It meanders southward around Louisville through bottomland forests, farm fields, and upland meadows before emptying into the Salt River, by which it flows another 25 miles to reach the Ohio. The Parklands has been built along Floyds Fork between Shelbyville Road and Bardstown Road, but the stream flows, in total, through Henry, Oldham, Shelby, Jefferson, and Bullitt counties.
Kentucky has one of the most diverse arrays of freshwater fish in the nation, ranking third out of the 50 states according to The Nature Conservancy. Bluntnose minnows, smallmouth bass, greenside darter, green sunfish, longear sunfish, striped shiner, central stonerollers, and rainbow darter, are just a few of the over 40 species of fish that call Floyds Fork home.
Floyds Fork is named for John Floyd, a frontier surveyor and early settler, who was instrumental in the settlement of the region. He was among the first to reach the Falls of the Ohio, one of Louisville’s first landowners, Kentucky’s first militia leader, one of Kentucky’s first judges, and a friend of Daniel Boone. In 1774 a small band of Kentucky’s earliest surveyors pushed through the wilderness along the Salt River near what is now Shepherdsville. When they came across an unnamed stream, they honored their leader by designating it “Floyds Fork”. In 1783, Floyd was badly wounded in an Indian attack and died at the young age of 32 years old. What else might he have accomplished if he had lived longer?
- Floyds Flats - From the Black Willow Trail near Floyds Fork, before you reach the Sara and W.L. Lyons Brown Bridge, you can see the Flatts area of Beckley Creek Park. This area may also be accessed from the picnic area in Distillery Bend. You’ll know it when you see it- the smooth, limestone bottom of Floyds Fork stands in deep contrast from the rocky bottoms elsewhere in the Fork.
- Leaping Bridges - Take a walk along the Louisville Loop or a drive along the parkway to see one of the many leaping bridges within The Parklands. These bridges were built with an asymmetrical design intended to create the impression of a leaping deer. The wider, heavier base represents muscular haunches and then the shape grows slimmer as it lands on the other side. There’s even a sense of movement in the slanted railings. Can you imagine the bridge as a deer leaping over the creek?
- Silos and Stone Walls - Throughout The Parklands you will notice many repeated features, including limestone walls, leaping bridges and yellow silos. The modern stone walls imitate the walls that can be seen lining portions of the creek, evidence of early farmers attempting to stabilize the banks of Floyds Fork. The silos, original to the area, have been painted yellow to mimic ears of corn, a staple of traditional Kentucky agriculture.
- Agriculture in Architecture - Look around at the trailhead structures and the buildings in Creekside Center. The architectural features are a contemporary expression of Kentucky’s rural architecture. Like traditional tobacco barns, the structures in The Parklands are characterized by silver metal roofing, vertical black wood siding and warm honey hues within. Can you picture the stacks of hay and the honey-colored tobacco hanging in the barn to dry?