Welcome to part two in our exploration of the most amazing places in the Central and Southern Appalachian Mountains — this time exploring some of our most fabulous Public Lands.

Breaks Interstate Park

Photo byJessica Anderson at WhetstoneStudio.com

Approximately 250 million years in the making, Breaks Interstate Park is one of the deepest gorges in the U.S. The centerpiece is a 1,650 foot deep abyss, the largest east of the Mississippi River, and establishes a well-suited nickname for the park — the “Grand Canyon of the South.”

For millions of years, the Russell Fork River, a tributary of the Big Sandy, has cut through the compact sandstone of Pine Mountain, creating the breathtaking five-mile Breaks Canyon that bisects the park today.

Breaks Interstate Park sits on more than 4,500 acres of the Appalachian Mountains along the Kentucky and Virginia border, making it one of only two interstate parks in the country. The park has more than 12 miles of hiking and walking trails that allow visitors to access the depths of the gorge or take in views from its highest point. Mountain biking and horseback riding trails are maintained by the park for those who prefer a faster pace.

In recent years, kayaking and whitewater rafting the Russell Fork has become a sensation. Depending on the release from the John W. Flannagan Reservoir, rapids range from Class 2 to Class 5 in difficulty, with some of the most challenging rapids found in the Breaks gorge.

At the end of the day, the lodge offers 34 rooms with balconies overlooking the Appalachian Mountains. If you prefer a more traditional overnight stay, a 122-site campground awaits with full hook-ups for RVs. — MH

More Info : Located about 27 miles east of Pikeville, Ky. Visit: breakspark.com

White Hall

Photo by Kentucky Department of Parks

Once home to the newspaper publisher, emancipationist and Muhammad Ali namesake, Cassius Marcellus Clay, the White Hall mansion is a little piece of history hidden deep within Madison County, Ky. This 44-room Georgian and Italianate-style mansion built in the late 18th century has been recognized for its modern features of the time — boasting indoor plumbing, central heating and 10,000 square feet of heirloom furnishings. Green Clay, one of the wealthiest landowners and slaveholders in Kentucky, first built the home for his family in 1798. Clay’s youngest son, the colorful and decidedly anti-slavery Cassius Marcellus, inherited the home and added on to it in the 1860s. His daughter, Laura Clay, was the first woman nominated for president by the Democratic National Party in 1920. Members of the Clay family donated the home to the state of Kentucky in 1968; in 1971, after significant reconstruction, the home was opened as a historic site. — JG

More Info Located 8 miles from Richmond, Ky., on I-75 N. Visit: parks.ky.gov


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  1. Victor Merfeld on June 19, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    To see and use our own heritage. What a gift!

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