Dozens of feet plodded the dirt as they trekked beneath tall trees and above the Kentucky River, close enough to hear the flowing water. They were treading a Jessamine County trail off the beaten path that is open year-round for hikers and nature-lovers.
The Jim Beam Nature Preserve is in southern Jessamine County west of U.S. 27. The 115-acre preserve was created by The Nature Conservancy in 1995 in celebration of the Jim Beam Brands Company’s 200th anniversary.
A dozen hikers from Garrard and Jessamine counties followed Jeff Sole, director of conservation programs for The Nature Conservancy of Kentucky, on a guided hike through the Jim Beam preserve in May.
“This is our first time here, and it’s a good opportunity to see what’s around the neighborhood,” said Bob Grewenow of Garrard County, who camped and hiked with a youth group in Wisconsin for more than two decades before recently moving to Kentucky. “It’s a whole different ecosystem (in Wisconsin).”
While the 1.5-mile established trail winds through the Jessamine County ecosystem, the preserve also includes a small portion of Garrard County, and it contains more than just plants.
“We maintain it, and it is a pretty neat preserve,” said Lynn Schwantes, the preserve monitor for The Nature Conservancy. “The wildlife preserve part of it — it is a wildlife preserve as well as flowers and trees — so we like that part of it, too.”
Hikers who walk the trail once in the July may have new things to see as soon as August or September, Schwantes said.
“You really have to come through every month to see the different flowers, but spring and fall is best,” he said.
The mouth of the trail received a face lift from Travis Watts of Boy Scout Troop 115 when he redid an information board as his Eagle Scout project in fall 2010. The area now neatly displays information about the history of the preserve as well as trees, plants and bats on the reserve.
Assistant scoutmaster Steve Bokros, who attended the guided hike in May, said the scouts are glad to have a nature preserve in the county.
“We try to (do a lot of hiking trips), but with the way gas is, we try to stay in the area,” Bokros said.
Several nature preserves are relatively close to Jessamine County and the Jim Beam — the Sally Brown Nature Preserve, Crutcher Nature Preserve and Tom Dorman Nature Preserve are all found in Garrard County and offer loop hiking trails.
The Jim Beam Nature Preserve is located off Hall Road in southern Jessamine County. To get to the preserve, turn west off U.S. 27 onto Hall Road and then turn right on Payne Lane after .7 miles. The preserve is off a gravel road that breaks off Payne Lane.
The preserve is open from sunrise to sunset all year round for hiking, photography and bird-watching.