McConnell Springs is a 26-acre natural pocket within an industrial area. Also an important historic site, McConnell Springs was settled in 1775 by William McConnell and is heralded as the site where Lexington was named. Over one and one-half miles of trails wander around the sinking springs, vegetation, stone fences, and vestiges of historical buildings. McConnell Springs boasts more than 130 species of plants, over 120 species of birds and numerous other species of urban wildlife that reside at or visit the park. The mission of the park is to protect the unique geological, natural and historic features of McConnell Springs and to provide natural, cultural and historical education opportunities for the residents of Fayette County through quality environmental education and interpretation.
Monthly Park Programs: This year visitors to McConnell Springs can enjoy new programs each month. Programs will cover a wide variety of topics and will assist visitors in learning more about the natural and cultural history of the area. 2014 Calendar of Events or pick up a calendar in the Education Center located at the park. General tours are also available.
Programs for Schools, Scouts, Clubs and other Special Groups: McConnell Springs also offers programming for school groups, scouts, clubs, and other special groups. More information. You can also call the park for more information or to schedule a program (859) 225-4073.
If you are interested in volunteering your time and energy, the McConnell Springs Weekend Workout may be just for you! The Weekend Workout is the fourth Saturday of every month. Meet in the Education Center at 10 am and volunteer as long as your schedule permits. You will be helping with garden upkeep, weed pulling, trash pick up and much more. Please bring work gloves and wear shoes that can get muddy.
The Blue Hole
The Blue Hole is the first of two major springs at McConnell Springs. The waters originate from a wide area of SW Lexington, flowing underground through the limestone bedrock. Prismatic effects due to its unusual depth of 15 feet cause the blue color that is this water’s namesake. This open body of water was caused by a discharge of water from a fissure in the bedrock that had sufficient force to blow away the overlying soil and sediment. It now maintains a conical basin filled by the springs below.
The boils are so named because after a heavy rain the water rushes up from underground so that it looks like the spring is boiling. The pressure is great enough that the fountain-like columns may reach two feet tall. The boils are cold, rather than hot as their name would seem, and average a temperature of 55 degrees F. The boils and the blue hole are both artesian springs. “Artesian” means a well or spring that forces water to the surface because of pressures below the surface.
The Final Sink
When the waters reach the final sink, they disappear into a cave-like formation, and proceed underground for a third of a mile before surfacing again at Preston’s Cave, and eventually reaching Elkhorn Creek. An exposed window like the Final Sink is characteristic of the Karst topography that underlies much of this area. Sinkholes are also a common feature of Karst systems, formed when surface soil is carried away from below as cracks in the limestone bedrock enlarge. A major evolution of the Final Sink took place just after the property was acquired. Part of the soil bank at the back right of the main sinking point, collapsed and formed a deep, vertically-walled shaft. This new sink began to enlarge rapidly and threatened some of the trees overlooking the sink. Measures were taken to stop or slow the erosion, but the natural processes of the springs will eventually win out.
The Farm Site
The history of McConnell Springs closely parallels the history of Lexington. Since William McConnell set up camp here in 1775, McConnell Springs has seen a variety of farming and other activities. A gunpowder mill here supplied powder for the war of 1812. After the mill closed, the land changed hands five times, coming to the Cahill family. The stone foundation at the Farm Site once supported a large dairy barn, constructed by the Cahills during the 1920’s. The stone fences were built to partition the land for agricultural purposes into lots suitable for pasturing livestock and raising crops. The Cahills probably took advantage of these fences to contain their trotting horses and their herd of milk cows. In 1958, the land was sold to Central Rock company, who tore down the buildings and started mining rock and gravel. The Friends of McConnell Springs bought the land in 1994, since when the park has been established and conserved as a natural area.
The Bur Oak
The large Bur Oak tree is estimated to be at least 250 years old. This tree was able to grow so large because the Bluegrass region was predominately an Oak Savannah system, open fields of grasses with a few interspersed trees, so competition for light and other resources was low. Animals such as the elk, bison, wolves, cougar and beaver were common when Kentucky was settled. Since human intervention in 1775, however, the flora and fauna of the site has been greatly modified. Heavily shaded areas now limit the possibilities for oak seedlings to germinate, and exotic and invasive plant species have spread throughout the site. The springs still attract raccoons, opossums, squirrels and groundhogs, and birdwatchers will find this a good site to view their feathered friends.
Directions to McConnell Springs
416 Rebmann Lane
Lexington, KY 40504
McConnell Springs is located off Old Frankfort Pike, between Forbes Road and New Circle Road. Look for McConnell Springs Drive into Cahill industrial park across from the Fire Training Center and follow the signs back to the park.
Via Main Street (downtown Lexington)
- North on Main Street
- Left on Forbes Road
- Right onto Old Frankfort Pike
- Take the first Left onto McConnell Springs Road and follow the signs.
Via New Circle Road:
- New Circle to Old Frankfort Pike (1681) –exit #6, head towards Lexington (south)
- Go 0.7 miles and turn right onto McConnell Springs Road and follow the signs.
The following guidelines and regulations have been set up for public and personal safety, as well as the protection of the natural and historical features of the park.
- For your own safety and to protect the beauty of the park, stay on the trail.
- Avoid unknown vegetation.
- Trash and litter not only detract from the natural beauty of the park, it can represent a health hazard. Please carry out your trash.
The following are PROHIBITED at McConnell Springs:
- Alcoholic beverages
- Pets – leashed or unleashed
- Concealed Weapons (in Education Center Building)
- Rock or Tree Climbing
- Collection, destruction, or defacement of any living or non-living thing in the park
For further information regarding tours, events and information, please call McConnell Springs, (859) 225-4073. Questions or Comments about Natural Areas? Click here to send email.