In the latter half of the 1700s Squire Boone, Daniel Boone’s brother, acquired 1500 acres in what would later become Jefferson County, KY. He actually never lived there and, in 1792, the same year that Kentucky became a state, he sold off a 500 acre section. This land was subdivided, and was bought and sold several times, until 160 acres were purchased by Ben and Charlotte Stout in 1867. It remained in the lineage of the Stouts until 2006 when it was sold to the Parklands of Floyds Fork.
The early settlers cleared the forest from the rich soil of the bottomland for crops, and now, in contrast, the Parklands has initiated a reforestation project on 40 acres of the flood plain to reestablish the native forest ecosystem. To date 30,000 trees have been planted including a variety of oak, hickory, walnut, persimmon, cherry, hazelnut, and pecan.
On the edge of this bottomland floodplain are the parking lot and trailhead. The path opens on a field in succession which was displaying some end of season seed heads of forbs (non-grass meadow plants).
Yellow Wingstem – also known as Yellow Ironweed.
We had seen it throughout the late summer and fall with its bold yellow flower heads.
Common Teasel – the upturning bracts below the cone are the identifying feature.
The bracts can be seen on the flower heads from late this summer.
The identification of this one has me stumped, but the structure suggests an aster or daisy family member.
Also seen were these rose hips, the fruit of a wild field rose. They are a good source of Vitamin C for wildlife.
Soon the field transitioned into the reforestation area where a variety of native trees were easily identified.
One of the exciting trees to see was Bur Oak. For an oak, it has a very unique bark that has an almost cork appearance, with exaggerated ridges even on small twigs. Did you know that cork is harvested bark from an oak tree native to Southwest Europe and Northwest Africa, the Cork Oak. The tree in the photo below was about 4 inches in diameter.
Bur Oaks have a leaf that many would not initially recognize as that of an oak. There can be quite a bit of variability in the shape of the leaves, but they typically have sinuses that cut deep into the the leaf surface toward the midrib, almost appearing to cut the leaf in two. This is better seen on the second photo below.
Soon the trail enters the stream side woodland that borders on Floyds Fork Creek.
It is not a particularly old wood and I suspect that it was farmed until somewhat recently. The remnants of this stone wall probably dates back to the initial clearing of the bottomland for farming.
It was at this time that we got our first view of Floyds Fork.
We enjoyed the way the autumn sun lit up the white bark on these medium sized Sycamores along the bank.
The stream is somewhat shallow here, as compared to other sections of the Parklands, and is litter free.
The photographer particularly liked this view of arching trees above the stream, and the remnants of leaf color.
What I loved about the hike was the stream access – the banks are low and the grade allows for an easy step down to the shoals to study the creek and its wildlife. Amongst the stones on the banks are many fossils that have been unearthed by the current, as well as the shells of numerous fresh water mussels.
One of the more common trees that we saw in the wood was Box-elder. It can be identified by its green twigs with opposite branching and, at this time of year, by the presence of its winged seeds that are similar to those of the maples. In fact, the Box-elder is a member of the maple family although its leaf looks nothing like a maple. Plants are classified based on their flowering and fruiting structures.
They are very efficient at reproduction and we witnessed that on this hike where we saw swathes of them, with a tree growing in every square foot of soil.
The name Box-elder comes from the past use of its wood for making crates (boxes). The fibers of the wood are very inter-tangled resulting in great strength and durability for shipping.
In this stretch we also saw this Mile 22 sign posted on a Sycamore tree along the bank. Floyds Fork is an episodically navigable stream. After significant rains kayakers will take advantage of the higher water levels to challenge themselves.
Eventually the trail comes upon a tributary to Floyds Fork and heads back to the parking area. Here we saw this just across the deep creek ravine – a collection of stones built into the ravine hillside. That caused us to do some speculation – perhaps a foundation for a mill, or a bridge pier to allow someone to cross the steep ravine.
The vertical positioning of the stones was perplexing. Not typical of foundation work, but its short duration and clean edges suggested that it was not a field fence. Undoubtedly just part of the 200 year history of this homestead.
The trail continued to meander through the open woodland alongside the stream.
Eventually a break in the undergrowth gave us this view which allowed the photographer to capture the treed hillside that had provided the last of fall colors on this sunny afternoon.
The trail finishes at the antique silo of the old Ben Stout farm. Creatively it has been retrofitted with two openings for barn owl boxes at its top.
For a brief hike we did have some fun insect encounters. First amongst these was this somewhat large American Oil Beetle that had teal colored accents. Note the segmentation of its antennae. Ellen said it deserved a role in Pixar Animation Studio’s A Bug’s Life. An interesting thing about its natural history is that its larval form will sit on a flower and then latch onto a bee to be taken back to the hive where it will feed on the same food source as the bee larvae. Also, when attacked it will excrete an chemical that will cause blistering of human skin. It was a good decision not to pick it up.
This Spotted Orbweaver spider was swinging in the breeze. You can make out the silk thread that he was swinging on. It is also appropriately known as the Red Femured Orbweaver. The term “orb” just refers to a circular web.
And lastly we found these Box-elder Bugs clinging to the side of the silo. We enjoyed the effect of the shadows on their forms. As I researched them for this article one source stated, “During certain times of the year Box-elder bugs cluster together in large groups while sunning themselves on warm surfaces near their host tree”. Exactly how we found them on the sunny side of the silo.
Odds and Ends:
The simple beauty of this seed head struck us. It is White Snakeroot, an under appreciated native fall flower. The seed is the small black structure, which measured about 2 millimeters (less than 1/8th inch), and the white appendages allow for wind dispersal.
One of the things you find when the leaves drop in the fall is the surprising numbers of Bald Faced Hornet nests. This time of the year new queens and new males will leave the nest and mate. The new queen will overwinter in a crevice of tree bark or other sheltered locale, and restart a colony next spring. This season’s nest will breakdown in the winter weather and a new one will be built next season.
These fungi on the bare trunk of a dead sycamore were new to me. It appears to be a Wood Ear Fungus, which are from the Jelly Fungi family, and typically grow on decaying wood. The wings of the fungus reminds one of the ears of elephants or mice.
A stream Seek and Find.
Did you see them? In the photo above there are at least 6 minnows, but they are hard to see. What is easier to see is the shadow that they cast on the stream floor.
Lastly, there is a lot of serenity when you find yourself alongside a stream in the fall, and idly watch the leaves “going with the flow” in the current.
In summary, this hike on the Boone Bottoms Trail was another successful trip to the Parklands of Floyds Fork. The park system polishes everything that they do. I’m excited about the bottomland reforestation project, though I realize that I will not live to see it reach its full potential. Perhaps my great grandchildren will celebrate/relish in that ecosystem. But for those that live in the now, I can not imagine a better venue to expose a child to the stream ecosystem. Bring them here on a hot summer day, let them wade in the waters, or float on a tube. The water level is low enough that you will not lose them downstream. Oh to be 6 again.
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Photo credits to Peggy Juengling Burns.
Location – 8703 Stout Road, Louisville, KY.
Parking – Asphalt lot for 30 cars. This is shared with the longer Wild Hyacinth Trail.
Facilities – Portolet at trailhead.
Trail Conditions – grass through the field and bare dirt through the woodland. Minimal elevation change. Definitely an “easy” trail. Great access to the stream. It measures 1.2 miles in length, perfect for young children.
Benches – only at the parking area/trailhead.
Picnic Tables – several at the parking area.
Print Map Link – none, take photo at the trailhead.
Kids – Kids 4 and over should do well here. This stream is excellent for kids water play.
Dogs – welcomed on a leash.
Suggested Paired Hikes – the nearby Wild Hyacinth Trail is longer, has more elevation change, and goes through several habitats. See the link to our article on the Wild Hyacinth Trail below.