After being absent from the Kentucky landscape for 150 years, elk were returned to the commonwealth in 1997 – representing what has become one of Kentucky’s greatest wildlife management success stories. The state is now home to around 10,000 of these massive animals.
Those who enjoy viewing wildlife in a natural habitat can now book elk-viewing tours through two Kentucky state parks: Jenny Wiley State Resort Park in Prestonsburg and Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park in Buckhorn.
The largest elk herds are located on privately owned lands near the parks that are normally closed to the public. The tours are one of the few opportunities for the public to see the greatest number of elk.
Jenny Wiley State Resort Park, Prestonsburg
Fall 2016 dates: Oct. 15, 16, 29; Nov. 5, 26; Dec. 3.
Winter 2017 dates: Jan. 21; Feb. 4, 18, 25; March 4, 11.
$30 per adult and $15 per child (age 12 and under). The fee includes transportation to the viewing sites and a continental breakfast. The park also offers packages for $160 for two people and includes lodging and breakfast. Special group and business tours are also available. Tours fill up quickly; registration is suggested.
Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park, Buckhorn
Fall 2016 dates: Oct. 29; Nov. 5, 19
Winter 2017 dates: March 4, 11, 18, 25
$120 per couple ($90 per single). The fee includes one night’s lodging, continental breakfast and transportation to and from the elk preserve the following morning. Guests may also stay the night before or after for an extra $50. A tour without lodging can also be arranged. Participants must register by calling (800) 325-0058. Participation in the natural history program the evening prior to the trip at 7 p.m. is strongly recommended. Tour participants are encouraged to bring binoculars, camera, water and snacks. The tour van leaves the park between 5:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. depending on the date, and usually returns to the park around 10:30 a.m. to noon.