State parks worth a detour: John James Audubon in Kentucky

HENDERSON, Ky. – Famed ornithologist John James Audubon would feel right at home at the quaint, wooded state park that bears his name.

It’s likely that Audubon, who spent nearly 10 years in this Ohio River town, regularly prowled the nearby woods and waters, sketching and collecting critters and gathering information that laid the groundwork for his masterwork, “The Birds of America.”

The 724-acre John James Audubon State Park is a pretty place, scattered across a rolling, heavily wooded landscape about a half-mile south of the Ohio River. The main park grounds include 6.5 miles of trails and a 28-acre fishing lake, golf course and tennis courts. About half of the acreage is managed as a nature preserve. Birding is popular.

The park is also home to the Audubon Museum, which houses an impressive collection of the ornithologist’s work and numerous period artifacts. A nature center is adjacent.

Audubon State Park recently nearly doubled in size with the addition of a 649-acre wetland. Physical improvements for the wetland, which separates the main park property from the neighboring Ohio River, are largely still in the planning stages but will include about 5 miles of hiking trails and other access and observation points. The wetland, which is home to numerous wildlife and bird species including an active bald eagle nest, is closed to boating.

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