Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content An Official Website of the Commonwealth of Kentucky

Energy and Environment Cabinet

200-foot high limestone palisades along the Kentucky River ~ photo by Greg Abernathy

Tom Dorman State Nature Preserve

Location: Garrard and Jessamine counties
Size: 817 acres
Access: Open to the publicOpen to Public
Brochure/Trail Map: 

The Nature Conservancy 
Purchased with Assistance of:  
The Nature Conservancy 
* Kentucky River Authority
* Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund

Link to Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund
Dedicated on Dec. 20, 1996, Tom Dorman State Nature Preserve protects 908 acres with spectacular 220-foot palisades along the Kentucky River in Garrard and Jessamine counties. This preserve was previously owned by the Kentucky River Authority (KRA), and was known as the Kentucky River Authority Palisades State Nature Preserve. The preserve’s name was changed to honor the former director and chairman of the KRA.
Because of Tom Dorman’s vision and strong support, this state nature preserve was created.

The Nature Conservancy assisted with the acquisition of some of the acreage that is now protected. The Tom Dorman State Nature Preserve is one of the largest protected natural areas in the Kentucky River Palisades region. Several rare plants are located on the limestone cliffs including starry cleft phlox (Phlox bifida var. stellaria) and Eggleston's violet (Viola septemloba var. egglestonii). 

The Garrard County part of the preserve is open to the public, sunrise to sunset year-round. Due to fragile habitats and its inaccessibility, the Jessamine County tract is closed to the public.

  • Features - 220-foot limestone palisade walls, rare plants, Kentucky River.
  • Access - Foot trail through the forest and to the river, two-mile loop; moderately difficult, with hills and steps.
  • Facilities - None
  • Parking - eight cars
  • Hazards - Extremely high cliffs.
  • Activities - Hiking, nature study, birding, etc.
  • Directions - From Nicholasville, follow Rt. 27 south for approximately nine miles. After crossing the Kentucky River into Garrard County, continue for an additional 1 1/4 miles. Turn right on Rt. 1845 and follow for one mile. Take the next right. Follow this road (straight, do not bear left) for approximately 3/4 mile. Park in the gravel parking lot at the end of the road.
Pilot Knob was highlighted in the Summer 2014 edition of Land, Air & Water magazine.