While doing some sight-seeing in southern Kentucky this past August, I decided to pay a visit to Buffalo while I was in the neighborhood.
Of course, anyone with a lick of geographical knowledge knows that Buffalo is in upstate New York, several hundred miles away from southern Kentucky.
Nevertheless, I promise you that I did indeed see Buffalo in southern Kentucky. Or maybe I should say, “buffalo,” as in the four-legged variety.
Upon leaving Hopkinsville, about which I wrote in the last installment, I drove a few miles to the nearby Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, which is located on a peninsula between Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake. The area used to be known as Between the Rivers until the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers were dammed to form the lakes as part of the massive Tennessee Valley Authority power generation project.
I stopped in at the visitor center and toured the small museum which features displays about the history’s area, including the forced removal of the families who had lived there for generations. I then drove north a couple of miles to the Elk and Bison Prairie where a herd of buffalo is maintained in a large fenced-in enclosure.
I drove along the one-way tour road, which is about three miles in length, looking this way and that for any sign of large, hairy four-footed creatures. Nary a one. But then, after rounding a curve, I espied a car stopped up ahead. It reminded of Cades Cove in the Smokies, which has a similar one-way loop road. You always know when a bear has been spotted in Cades Cove when you get caught behind a long line of stopped cars.
I managed to see a buffalo or two near the tree line about 100 yards in the distance. I could see several more through small openings in the thick tree cover. By the time that I grabbed my camera and got out of the car, they had pretty much disappeared into the greenery. It quickly turned into a “Nothing to see here, folks, let’s move along.”
I completed the loop and considered heading on back to the main road, known as the Trace, when I decided to give the one-way loop one more go. I hadn’t gotten far when I spotted the same herd, about 12-15 in total, from a different vantage point. Although they were at least two or three hundred yards away, at least they were in a clearing unobstructed by any vegetation. I spent several minutes standing by the side of the road taking picture after picture with my zoom lens.
A short, older woman drove up and struck up a brief conversation with me. I thought she was a fellow tourist until she told me that she worked there and said that I needed to stay in my car because three of the bulls were in rut and were getting aggressive. She was nice about it, not bossy.
Even though the buffalo are captive, they are still wild animals. I did as she instructed and resumed my photography session through the opened driver’s side window. After I got my fill of buffalo, I again completed the one-way loop and exited the fenced-in compound.
I returned to the main road and decided to drive north the rest of the way through the park. I figured I would have time to check out the Kentucky Dam, which I had visited once before back in 1997 on an earlier Kentucky sight-seeing trip.
It took me a little while but I finally managed to find the visitor center, which is not very-well marked. As I was entering the building I struck up a brief conversation with a fellow who was leaving. Somehow or another I mentioned that I was from Greenville and he told me that he had worked in Greenville for a while. Small world.
I walked inside and briefly perused the few exhibits concerning power generation and then walked out to a viewing platform.
Afterward, I connected with I-24 and headed south back to Oak Grove, where I was planning on spending a second night. After freshening up, I drove a couple of miles to a Baptist church that I had located on the internet. It turns out that the pastor went to school at Tabernacle Baptist Bible College in Greenville and knew some people whom I know. Small world.
I finished off the evening with a couple of eggrolls and some moo goo gai pan at a Chinese buffet nearby.