Things To Do
Wondering what there is to do in Ballard County, Kentucky? The list is long. Take a look at our video below and see all that Ballard County has to offer.
Fort Jefferson Historic Site & Memorial Cross
The highest point along the river was Fort Jefferson hill and in 1989, the 38-acre property came up for auction. The Wickliffe City Council purchased the tract and leases two acres for use as a site for the memorial cross. In 1990, a committee selected the name Fort Jefferson Cross at the Confluence because of the location above the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and the idea of “flowing together” of the citizens of the tri-states who would be asked to financially support the construction. The term “Memorial” was added when it was decided that the project would be used to honor the memory of loved ones.
Representatives of the 51 churches in Ballard County were invited to serve on a countywide committee to oversee funding of the cross with 23 churches accepting a role. A fund raising goal of $150,000 was set. By 1992 with less than $22,000 raised it was decided to selling of granite bricks to be placed around the base of the cross. People could purchase bricks to honor loved ones or to have their family names inscribed on the bricks.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held on May 22, 1994 with coverage from both TV and newspapers. By the time the cross was completed in 1999 the total cost had exceeded $300,000. The Cross site is used for many purposes. There have been weddings, memorial services, candle light services on September 11, and the annual Easter sunrise service. It is a popular site to visit for residents and people passing through on Highway 51. The bluff offers a very good view of the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers and is a Lewis and Clark Expedition historic site.
Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site
Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site is the archaeological site of a prehistoric Native American village of the Mississippian mound builders. Located on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi river, the village was occupied from about 1100 AD to 1350 AD. The Mississippians built a complex settlement with permanent houses and earthen mounds situated around a central plaza. They farmed the river bottoms and participated in a vast trade network. They also buried their dead here with dignity and respect. After the 1300s the Mississippians at Wickliffe Mounds abandoned the village.
Early settlers to the region probably knew about the mounds at this site, but made little mention of it. The first formal notice occurred in 1888 when surveyor Robert Loughridge mapped the mounds for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Colonel Fain W. King, a Paducah lumber magnate and relic collector, purchased the site and began excavating the mounds and developing a tourist attraction. King, later joined by his wife, Blanche Busey King, opened the site to public visitation from the beginning of his work, calling the site at first the “King Mounds” and eventually naming it the “Ancient Buried City.” King directed excavations from 1932 until 1939. Some of their excavations followed proper archaeological techniques, but their field notes and other records have disappeared. In 1946, the Kings retired and donated the site to Western Baptist Hospital in Paducah. The Western Baptist Hospital owned the Ancient Buried City from 1946 to 1983.
In recognition of the scientific importance and the educational potential of the mounds, Baptist Health donated the site to Murray State University in 1983. Murray State University reorganized the site, calling it the Wickliffe Mounds Research Center and set out to accurately understand, interpret and preserve the site with archaeologists and museum personnel in charge. Beginning in 1984, Murray State University conducted small scale excavations and archaeological laboratory research at Wickliffe Mounds. In 2004, Murray State University transferred the Wickliffe Mounds archaeological site and its collections to the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Commerce Cabinet. Designated as the Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site, the mounds are operated by the Kentucky Department of Parks. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a designated Kentucky Archaeological Landmark, and is a common ground for Native American Indian cultures, past and present.
The site features a museum consisting of 3 excavated mounds with archaeological features, Mississippian burial practices, displays of artifacts from the site and a mural of a Mississippian village. The Ceremonial Mound is intact and can be accessed for a beautiful bird’s eye view of the park. A Hands-On Activity Touch Table rounds out the museum tour where visitors can use prehistoric tools and learn about Mississippian artifacts, technology and their environment. Wickliffe Mounds is also one of the certified interpretive centers along the Great River Road in all 10 of the Mississippi River states that have been selected to showcase and connect the historic stories of the Mississippi River.
The Barlow House Museum
Rustic turn-of-the century elegance awaits you at the Barlow House. Richly appointed with original furnishings, the 11 room house was built by local patriarch Clifton Jesse Barlow. His son Vivian J. Barlow, taught piano for 30 years at the prestigious Choate Boys Academy in Connecticut. From friendships made there, Viv spent 50 summers traveling the world with the American aristocracy, gradually assembling a unique collection of 20th century artifacts, memorabilia and art. Quilts made by Carrie Barlow and many needleworks done by her son Vivian Barlow. Museum Hours Monday 1-4pm, Friday 1-4pm and 2nd & 4th Sundays 1-4pm. Closed major holidays. Rent the Barlow House for Private Gatherings starting at just $75.
West Kentucky Veteran & Patriot Museum
635 Phillips Drive, Wickliffe, KY 42087 | Museum Curator: Sandy Hart, 270/335-3128 – KVPM is dedicated to men and women everywhere in honor of those who served in wars in defense of liberty and our country – the United States of America. Focusing on war, giving visitors a chance to explore and discover artifacts, photography, art and narratives. One such piece is a painting of the “Cool Fool”, an airplane manned by the Tuskegee Airman who ushered Ballard County native Dan Price to safety. Engraves bricks may be purchased for $50.00 to adorn the front walk leaving your name or inscribing in memory or honor of another, or use it as an opportunity to leave a personalized message and to show support for any organization.
Kentucky Great River Road
Kentucky Great River Road National Scenic Byway joins nine Mississippi River states in a single continuous route with common strategies of marketing and enhancing the corridor’s intrinsic resources and coordinating visitors experiences. The Kentucky experience includes counties of Ballard, Carlisle, Hickman, and Fulton, marking the entire-western border of the Mississippi River at the confluence of the Ohio River across from Illinois to the Tennessee state line for approximately 60 miles though Kentucky. Visit our website at www.KYGRRO.org.
Ballard County, Kentucky has an abundance of outdoor sporting activities for people of all ages. We have all heard “Location, Location, Location” in relation to real estate or a business’s site. Ballard County is a prime location for outdoor activities. Ballard County is within a 6-hour drive for 60% of the total population of the United States who are looking for an outdoor challenge and other recreational pursuits. They are willing to spend their hard earned money on a vacation that they can remember for a lifetime and share with family and friends. They are looking for an adventure that they can return to year after year because (1) they can’t do everything in one visit and (2) they are warmly welcomed and treated like family.
Ballard County is home to over 30,000 acres of land for outdoor enthusiasts. Located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, Ballard County is home to some of the nations premier waterfowl hunting. Public hunting options include the Ballard Wildlife Management Area (8,015 acres) and Boatwright Wildlife Management Area (8,389 acres). There are also numerous private hunting retreats in Ballard County for both private and guided hunting and fishing.