Elkhorn City, Kentucky
“Gateway To The Breaks”
It seemed only fitting to explore the small town of Elkhorn City after leaving Breaks Interstate Park ( see previous blogs for those pictures). By saying “small town”, I'm not exaggerating. According to the United States Census Bureau, Elkhorn City has an area of 2 square miles. Though small, it is a charming, culturally rich, historical place. Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky, in Pike County, the city has a population of about 1,000 people.
I'd been through Elkhorn City many times before, heading home from visiting family. I always thought it seemed like such a charming place and now I'm convinced.
Entering Elkhorn City- The name came from an elk horn being found on the bank of the nearby creek. (Rennick, Robert M. 1987 Kentucky Place Names University Press of Kentucky)
My first stop was the red caboose. It serves at the information center for Elkhorn City.
Close by is the railroad museum. Established in 1990, it houses over 1,000 pieces of railroad memorabilia. I didn't get to go to the museum but the link can be found here
Now… Some fun stuff! Life size elk statues! These caught my attention immediately and I knew I had to see these. They reminded me of the decorated horses we see in Lexington. According to information on elkhorncityky.info, the idea came about this year. They will be placed at different locations in town. Each will be unique, individually painted and sponsored. There will be a total of 9 when completed. At the time, there are three. So let's take a look!
Elk # 1 The “Old Fashioned Elk”
Sponsor: Laythe Sykes
Decorator: Artist Willa May
Displayed: June 7, 2015
Location: Corner of Patty Loveless Drive and Russell Street in the lot of former Rusty Fork Restaurant.
While photographing this one, I stepped aside to allow an elderly lady pass by on the walkway. She stopped to talk. She told me that Willa May painted this one and wanted to know if I knew her. I apologized that I did not because I was not from there. She asked me about where I was from, who my family was, and if I liked the new pots of flowers in front of the gazebo at the welcome center. I assured her they were beautiful and she seemed happy that I had noticed them. It reminded me of where I grew up in Virginia. First name basis, everyone talked to everyone else. It was really nice to see that here.
Elk #2 The “Crazy Eyes Elk”
Sponsor: Mountain Aggregate
Decorator: Marcia Casey
Displayed: August 9, 2015
Location: Near red caboose and gazebo
Elk #3 The “Evanescence Elk”
Sponsor:Denver and Bonnie Bailey
Decorator: Tiffany Bailey
Display: August 31, 2015
Location: Bailey Funeral Home lot
Dedicated to the oldest existing business in Elkhorn City, the Bailey Funeral Home. Est. 1968
Symbolism of the artwork on this elk is explained here.
When the other six elk are on display, I will be stopping to see them for sure. These were a nice surprise.
The first elk sits in the lot of former Rusty Fork Restaurant, pictured below.
On the side of this building and close to this building were some old advertisements I noticed.
From here I walked to the historical marker about Daniel Boone, who visited Elkhorn City on a hunting expedition.
Across the street is a tiled mural created by schoolchildren depicting scenes from this area and culture.
The Elkhorn City Riverwalk
Artwork by East Ridge High School Art Dept.
The Riverwalk is a relatively new addition to the city. The Russell Fork of The Big Sandy River runs through the center of the city and the Riverwalk is a great addition to town. There is a bird habitat/viewing area near the welcome center. A Japanese artist used stones from the quarry to create 5 benches along the Riverwalk. I walked along and noticed there were engravings in the stones, each referring to the waters of the river.
“Before kayaks, we rode the river with tubes. Before that, it was railroad ties.”
“When the old regular baptists came down, …baptize…in the river…can't we don't have on swim trunks.” (couldn't read the entire engraving)
“They threw me in the river and said sink or swim. That's how most around here learned.
” The flood of 63 took the house. The next day we found mother's cedar chest down the road.”
“I lost one of the biggest smallmouth bass I ever saw by that bridge. It was pure heartbreak.”
I wish I'd had more time to explore the Riverwalk. The butterfly habitat was a nice touch! Notably, Elkhorn City was named a ” trail town” in 2015. Many of the trails weave from Elkhorn City into The Breaks.
There's so much more to note about this city. Whitewater rafting, fishing, hiking, and mountain biking are activities people enjoy. I hope you get the chance to visit this town. It is a small city that's big on charm. Thanks for coming along!
“The rivers make the mountains. The mountains make the people”- mural quote from underneath Cantrell Bridge in Elkhorn City