Where the Buffalo Roam – Big Bone Lick

Bison along the Bison Trace Trail at Big Bone Lick

I’ll bet you can’t guess where this herd of buffalo is. South Dakota? Montana? Somewhere out West? Nope. Believe it or not, this herd of bison roams through a patch of Big Bone Lick Park in Union, Kentucky.

Why are there bison in a park in Northern Kentucky? That’s a good question.

Bison at Big Bone Lick

Bison are enclosed in a patch of the original Bison Trace

The Ohio Valley was once home to many Native American tribes as well as bison who crossed the Ohio River and made their way along the bison trace meandering through Northern Kentucky into Indiana until 1800 when their population diminished because of hunting.

Salt springs can still be found along one of the walking trails. They once drew bison who would lick the salty ground near the Big Bone Lick Creek.

The salt springs drew animals and people alike.

The springs drew other animals as well. We saw deer there as we hiked and read on one of the placards that wealthy tourists used to visit the area under the belief that the salt springs had medicinal qualities. Especially during the Yellow Fever and Cholera outbreaks.

The smell of the sulphur is as pungent as ever, so most hikers pass briefly by on their way to the creek. The day we went, there were kids and dogs playing in the creek and searching for fossils while adults set up picnics creekside.

Loved this tree along the creek

Wooly Mammoth

Outside the Visitor’s Center which contains details about the fossils commonly found in the area is a plaster display of wooly mammoths who once thrived in the Ohio River Valley. The educational aspects of this park make it popular for field trips. Interpretive panels describe what prehistoric life was like here during the Ice Age.

Wooly Mammoth display

I’ll bet kids love the display. It’s just gruesome enough with vultures scavenging the entrails of a fallen beast, as well as the wooly mammoth buried by dirt with its tusks sticking up out of the earth.

History comes alive! (with this gruesome vision of death)

Family Fun

The trails throughout Big Bone Lick Park are easy to walk and are full of families with children and dogs playing in the creek, camping, fishing, and visiting the bison and playground areas. Less than an hour from Cincinnati, it’s a state park with something for everyone to enjoy.

But if you’re camping, you may want to wander a little further beyond the park for more family fun and exploration.

Jane’s Saddlebag

Jane’s Saddlebag

Jane’s Saddlebag is a small compound of open grass, an outdoor amphitheater for events, a playground, a wine shoppe, restaurant and kitschy hillcountry outbuildings that lend Jane’s a fun-loving approach to local history.

Try their sweet red or strawberry wine

There’s also a petting zoo for the kids, and Wyatt’s General Store for Kentucky souvenirs. It’s a charming little place for the adults to sip some wine while the kids play, or to have a slice of pie and wander through the general store while the kids run in the grass.

Just beyond Jane’s is the Ohio River. A reminder of how vital the Ohio River Valley was in prehistoric times as well as in early civilization, and today.

Kentucky is bourbon country

Have you ever visited Kentucky?


6 responses to “Where the Buffalo Roam – Big Bone Lick

    • That is exactly what I thought while I was there. I know parents have been struggling with things to do with their kids. This park has educational components as well as trails to wander and the creek to play in. I wish I’d known about it when my kids were younger.

  1. Hi Juliann, we camped at Big Bone Lick a few years ago and loved it. Great campground and interpretation center – the buffalo grazing in the meadow were an added bonus. Your photos of the bison are excellent. There were several small calves when we were there – shy and sweet. 🙂 ~Terri

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