Manchester & Clay County Parks
Within the City Limits of Manchester, KY is a unique park system that, when connected by a riverside walking trail of serene beauty, offers the visitor a chance to soak up some of the early history not only of Manchester and Clay County, but southeast Kentucky as well.
The key to the historic park system is the River Walk Trail that begins on the north end of town at Rawlings/ Stinson Park, and ends at the south end at the Goose Creek Salt Works Pioneer Village. This unique trail is anchored at the north by the famous Red Bird Petgroglyph, the large rock of national reknown that contains ancient inscriptions by either European explorers, or Indians, or both. The trail itself follows the route of the Warrior's Path, one of the most historically significant trails in American History. Created by buffalo searching for salt deposits, the route was used for countless years by Indians traveling between the Smoky Mountains in the south and the wilderness north of the Ohio River. The trail was used by long hunters and explorers, including Dr. Thomas Walker who followed it in this section of Goose Creek in 1750, and by Daniel Boone 19 years later in 1769.
Begin your riverside journey at the north end of Rawlings/Stinson Park, home to the world famous Red Bird River Shelter Petroglyphs. A park sign marks the trail. Enjoy a scenic walk along Goose Creek on the River Walk Trail. The views of the river and woods are breathtaking. Pass by the Manchester Goose Creek Swinging Bridge, or enjoy an exciting diversion by crossing this fascinating relic of Appalachian heritage. Lovingly restored, this footbridge leads to the historic village of Downtown Manchester featuring Heritage Pavilion with interpretive signs of the county’s history.
Just past the swinging bridge lies Riverside Park overlooking Goose Creek. Goose Creek itself was one of the most important waterways in early Kentucky history. The state legislature recognized its importance as a way to transport extremely valuable salt from the salt works early on and passed several acts to help improve it for navigation for salt barges. The walker will have to use his imagination to visualize 60-foot barges loaded with salt barrels floating down the river during "salt tides" -- so called spring and winter floods.
Finally, at the south end of the trail is the recreation of the Goose Creek Salt Works, which was located at this spot beginning in the mid 1790s when it was known as the Langford Works. The small community here was designated by the State Legislature to serve as the county seat when the county was created in April 1807. The first court met in the cabin of Robert Baker, most likely very similar to the Cotton Cabin seen here now, which according to several sources was built before the county was formed. It was moved here from its original location on the "Cotton Bend" downstream, where salt barge maker Jesse Cotton lived in it with his wife Jane.
The north end of the historic River Walk Trail walking path, anchored by the nationally known Red Bird Petroglyph rock with ancient inscriptions. Features include a crumb rubber walking track that circles the park, a large covered stage for outdoor concerts, a playground, a wedding gazebo, Clay County Veterans Memorial, large shelter houses with grills, a concrete boat ramp on Goose Creek, and a shaded walking trail along beautiful and historic Goose Creek that connects Rawlings/Stinson Park to the Goose Creek Swinging Bridge, Riverside Park and Goose Creek Salt Works.
River Walk Trail
This beautiful trail along the river follows the route of the famous Warrior's Path, the ancient trail made by buffalo then by Indians for countless years before being used by explorers such as Dr. Thomas Walker, who passed by here in 1750, and Daniel Boone, who also came this way on his first extended hunting trip to Kentucky in 1769. River Walk Trail starts in Rawlings/Stinson Park, passes by the Goose Creek Swinging Bridge connecting to Historic Downtown Manchester, then leads to Riverside Park, followed by Goose Creek Salt Works.
Goose Creek Swinging Bridge
Manchester's Goose Creek Swinging Bridge was originally constructed to replace the old wagon bridge that was washed away in the Flood of 1947. This unique icon of cultural heritage literally connects the area's history...the Warrior's Path on Goose Creek to the Heritage Pavilion on Manchester on the Square. Walking the Goose Creek Swinging Bridge takes you back in time. The Goose Creek Swinging Bridge, recently restored, connects Clay County with the historical narratives of the whole state of Kentucky.
On the banks of Goose Creek, the water course by which early salt makers shipped their product to the Bluegrass in the late 1790s up until the Civil War...when winter and spring floods made it possible to navigate their 60-foot salt barges. This park features a pavilion, scenic views and River Walk Trail...connecting it to Goose Creek Salt Works to the south, and Goose Creek Swinging Bridge and Rawlings/Stinson Park to the north.
Goose Creek Salt Works
The most historic spot in the county. It was here in the mid-1790s that the Langford Salt Works was established and later, in 1807, when it was being called the Goose Creek Salt Works. This is where the first county government was formed in a cabin most likely like the Cotton Cabin, which was moved to this site. The Cotton Cabin is one of the oldest log structures in Kentucky.
Bert T. Combs Park & Lake & Governor's RV Park
Located in the center of Clay County, Bert T. Combs City Park offers nonmotorized boating opportunities, while the park offers a large swimming pool, playground, covered picnic pavilions, hot showers and restrooms. This park, one of the best-kept secrets in the Daniel Boone National Forest, is nestled in a beautiful mountain valley at the forks of the head waters of Beech Creek, about three and a half miles northeast of Manchester on Beech Creek Road. Governor’s RV Park & Campground offers mountain scenery and features trails that take those hardy enough to walk or ride horses to the tops of the ridges that define the park. It has 75 campsites, many with electric hook-ups, water and dump station. There is a large community swimming pool and kiddie pool, tennis and basketball courts, and a banquet room complete with kitchen and event facilities. A large shelter house adjacent to the RV park has room for 250-300 people along with grills and electricity. Bert T. Combs Lake is a short walk from the park. Located on a hillside adjacent to the center is the final resting place of former Kentucky Governor Bert T. Combs.
Big Double Creek
A scenic picnic area is located near Big Double Creek in Daniel Boone National Forest. The picnic area contains two large fields suitable for baseball, volleyball, football, and kickball. There are also in-ground grills, picnic tables and toilet facilities. It is suitable for community picnics, family outings, reunions, weddings, birthdays, and school events.
Martin L. King Park
Located in the Pennington Hill section off the four lane near the Eastern Kentucky University Manchester Campus, this park features a play ground and shelter.
Located on Town Branch Road next to Mountain View Heights, this park features a sprinkler pad for kids with several spraying fountains. A skaters and skateboarders section is adjacent to the splash pad. Change rooms and bathrooms are available. A shelter for adults with picnic tables is on site.
Set in the beautiful Appalachian mountains of eastern Kentucky, the Bert T. Combs Equestrian Trail offers the area’s best horseback riding. As you ride along the 3 ½ miles of mapped trails (provided by request), plus unlimited miles of trails in the Daniel Boone National Forest and Beech Creek Wildlife Management Area, you will experience nature at its best. The Equestrian Trail offers breathtaking views, wildlife and several picnic areas with amenities for both you and your horses. There are picnic tables and trash receptacles for you and hitching posts and natural springs to water your horses. Surrounded by the Beech Creek Wildlife Management Area and the Daniel Boone National Forest, the Equestrian Trail provides easy access to the 25 acre Bert T. Combs Lake.
Cawood Recreation Area
A Daniel Boone National Forest picnic area is by a hemlock shaded creek at an old Civilian Conservation Corps Camp. Cawood Picnic area is also used for weddings, birthdays, church socials, reunions and Boy Scout outings. In-ground and pedestal grills, picnic tables, horse shoe pits and toilet facilities are available. There are no developed trails in the area, but lots of room to explore.
Redbird Wildlife Management Area
The Daniel Boone National Forest Redbird Wildlife Management Area is hilly to steep with gentle slopes in bottomlands and on ridge tops; mostly forested with approximately 100 acres of openings and 25 miles of improved hiking trails. No developed facilities. Mobility impaired access to permit holders on designated area, which is currently the Redbird Crest Trail.
Big Hickory Golf Course
Situated on a rolling knoll made by the Cotton Bend of historic Goose Creek, the course is surrounded by lush, hardwood forest-covered mountains. The course is owned by the City of Manchester and is accessed off Beech Creek Road (on the way to Bert T. Combs Park). Just follow the signs. Beautiful Big Hickory Golf Course is a challenging 9-hole layout that offers the best golf value in Kentucky. Its beautiful Bermuda fairways and immaculate undulating bent grass greens provide a golfing experience that is a thrill for all ages and skill levels. It is a 3,000 yard course that plays to a par 36 and includes a variety of holes framed by scenic trees as well as ponds and streams. Its signature hole is the par 4 ninth whose green is fashioned in the shape of the state of Kentucky. Big Hickory Golf Course is located at 521 Big Hickory Rd, Manchester, KY 40962. Call (606) 598-8053 for additional details.
Located in the tiny village of Oneida in northern Clay County on RT 66, this beautiful community park features a pavilion, large meadow area, walking and jogging path, playgrounds, and a basketball court. James Anderson Burns' Museum & Gift Shop, the Kentucky River and the Oneida Baptist Institute are close by. Explore the scenic back roads in the area featuring historic barns, untamed nature, old swinging bridges, mountains, hollows, streams and forests.