By Shara Sumner @Sharautopia
The best discoveries are those you find when you aren’t even looking for something. My discovery of the Jones-Kenney Wildlife Management Area embodies that very sentiment. While examining Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park in Google Maps , I noticed a forested area just northwest of the park. When I zoomed in, I found the WMA. I live less than an hour away, and have visited Pennyrile SRP many times, and had never heard of this area!
To my surprise, I found out that Jones-Kenney was Kentucky’s first Wildlife Management Area (WMA)! It’s located just west of Dawson Springs on Hwy 62. Dawson Springs is located in the heart of the Pennyrile region of western Kentucky and was designated as Kentucky’s first certified Trail Town in 2013.
Jones-Kenney is roughly 2000 acres and is preserved and protected by the Nature Conservancy of Kentucky and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. The WMA is open under state wide regulations. Hikers need to be aware of hunting season dates within the WMA before visiting.
I only explored a fraction of the WMA, the attractions I focused on were Natural Bridge and Hunters Bluff aka “Dawson Cliffs” and Salt Peter Cave and falls. These natural wonders can be found after a very short hike from the parking area on Archery Range Road off of Hwy 62. I also spent a ½ day navigating the rock formations and rock shelters found at the base of Hunters Bluff. To access this area you will go past the entrance into the WMA on Hwy 62 about an 1/8 of a mile until you see a parking area beside a bridge. Unfortunately none of these features or trails to them are marked. The location will be left for the avid explorer to discover.
Dawson Springs is home to a genuine outdoorswoman, who also happens to be the mayor! Jenny Beshear Sewell is a colorful story teller, the "go to" person in Dawson Springs if you want to know about the area history or where to find an adventure off the beaten path. If you're in the area, I'm sure she would love to share an adventure story or two with you...and if she's got her boots with her, she very well may join you!
The Nature Conservancy and the KYF&WL have no current plans to develop the area for public use like Mantle Rock, however they would love to see more people utilizing the area. I would personally love to see trails marked and parking areas maintained. I hope that the exposure of the WMA through this journal piece, will prompt these developments.
I have spent many days hanging out in the WMA since discovering it in early spring. Each season, it becomes a brand new place to explore. There is minimal degradation in the WMA. Please respect this. It is our duty as explorers to be good stewards of the precious natural features we discover.