McConnell Springs in Lexington, Kentucky offers a fascinating blend of history and natural wonder. In 1775, William McConnell camped at this spring and named the area "Lexington" in honor of the first battle of the American Revolution. Over the years, this reliable spring was the site of a gunpowder factory, a mill, distillery, and a dairy farm. As recently as 1990, the springs were nearly filled in as the area was developed into an industrial park. Thanks to the Friends of McConnell Springs and others, a 26-acre city park was opened in 1993 to preserve the springs.
Located at 416 Rebmann Lane, off of Old Frankfort Pike in Lexington, the park is an excellent family destination. Throughout the year, there are weekend programs specifically for children as well as wildflower, birding, and historical hikes for everyone. The day I visited, I was primarily interested in the two miles of trails. A visit to the architecturally interesting education center revealed a somewhat disappointing interior featuring only a couple of animal displays and some posters on the walls. There are, however, restrooms.
Leaving the education center, the springs are only a few hundred feet away. Two pools, named The Blue Hole and The Boils, capture water which eventually go underground again and emerges nearly a third of a mile away. Though I didn't see it the day I visited, the pool at The Boils supposedly bubbles as high as two feet after a rainfall. A wide boardwalk takes you past both areas and remnants of stone walls add to the interest.
Further along, a side trail enables a visit to the ruins of an old stone dam. The main trail is a broad, well-maintained dirt path that passes several features such as a small quarry and stone foundations. Besides the springs, nature lovers will appreciate an enormous Bur Oak tree estimated to be over 250 years old. It is the last of several old-growth trees that once dotted the area. Some were unfortunately bulldozed before the area was preserved and one other was vanquished by last year's ice storm.
You could walk the entire site in an hour or linger longer to ponder the history, listen for birds, and read the interpretive signage. Near the education center, there is a constructed wetlands designed to filter and slow the runoff from heavy rains. It's an interesting project the likes of which I'm sure we will see more of in Louisville.
Lexington Parks & Recreation has a page about McConnell Springs where you can view a calendar of events. Efforts to restore and enhance the park are ongoing.
Photo: Shawn Nevins