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The Salt River is a long river in Kentucky that drains 2,920 square miles. It begins near Danville, Kentuckymarker, rising from the north slope of Persimmon Knob south of KY 300 between Alum Springs and Wilsonville, and ends at the Ohio River near West Point, Kentuckymarker. Taylorsville Lakemarker is formed from the Salt River and Guist Creek Lakemarker is also in its drainage basin via Breshears Creek and Guist Creek.

Annual flooding swells the normally quiet waters to a rapidly flooding torrent. (See the Ohio River flood of 1937 at Louisvillemarker, for an example.) The Taylorsville Dammarker, built in the early 1970s has tamed the worst of the floods and changed the nature of the river downstream. Some flooding still occurs, especially near the Brashears Creek juncture at Taylorsville, Kentuckymarker, but it is primarily back flow from the Ohio. The river receives the most rain in the month of June and the least in October.

Wild life

The Salt River is a part of a Nature Conservancy because of several rare creatures and plants. The flood waters created rich bottom lands and support a variety of wetland habitats. Turtles, fish, waterfowl abound, deer, river otters and beaver are some of the typical animals living in the area. However some not so common animals live in the area like the Indiana bat, Gray bat, Fanshell, and Knob Creek Crawfish.

In addition to the animals, there are several unique plants that live in the area. Plants such as the Silky aster which are native to the area and are very rare. Other rare plants in this area include the Crawe's sedge, Slipper Orchid, Glade cress, Prairie dropseed, and Eggleston's violet.


The River has drainage area and is the fifth largest watershed in the state. The terrain around the river is deeply ridged until it nears its outlet at the Ohio, near West Point, KY. The river itself is roughly 480-500 feet above sea level. The shallow river valley is 490-530 feet above sea level, but there are usually steep hillsides that climb quickly to elevations at 650-750 feet, a common ground level in the central Kentucky area. This creates areas of flat topped ridges separated by narrow valleys or "hollows", often washed out by small creeks or streams draining into the river. Flash floods are common in these narrow valleys, and they complicate travel between ridges, often requiring a circuitous path. It was not uncommon for folks in the valley and folks on the ridge-tops to see each other infrequently.

The Salt River in Bullitt Countymarker contains class I rapids and is . On cool mornings, fog fills the valley floor, stabilizing and cooling the temperature, while on the ridge, it may be hot and dry. Tobacco, corn and soybeans do well in the lower fields, even while droughts parched the drier, hotter ridges.


The river received its name from the Bullitt's Lick facility that was founded in 1779 by Henry Crist. The river has been used for navigation and sustenance since humans occupied the area. Old Indian artifacts are found along the length of the river valley by farmers and new construction work in the area. Log cabins and settlements grew on the banks, using it as a source of water, power and transportation. The river bank flats and water made travel over through the ridged terrain easier.

During the American Civil War, an earth walled fort was established on a tall hill overlooking the Ohio, near the Salt River. It guarded passage through Louisville and south on the road along the Ohio river, which became known as Dixie Highway. It also protected against Southern forces attacking from the Ohio river and up the Salt River. Fort Duffieldmarker, may be the best-preserved earthen Civil War Fort in America and illustrates how important river access via the Salt River and the Ohio was to early travelers.

In 1983 a dam was built just east of Taylorsville which in turn created the Taylorsville Lakemarker.


During early settlements, high water was used to ship timber and local product down stream to the Ohio river. In quieter waters, small boats came upstream, helping settlers move goods to remote farms. It also flooded towns like Taylorsvillemarker, Shepherdsvillemarker and to a lesser extent, southern Louisvillemarker and West Pointmarker, changing their architecture and growth pattern.

A number of mills used to dot the length of the Salt River, using the water to grind feed and flour, saw lumber and more. These include those of Bullitt's Lick and Mann's Lick.

The Salt River was a primary water source for a number of towns and farms. Taylorsville, Mount Washingtonmarker and Shepherdsville all used to draw water from the river until water lines from Louisville were extended out.

External links


  1. - Kentucky - Salt River/Rolling Fork Conservancy
  2. Kleber, John E. The Encyclopedia of Louisville (University Press of Kentucky) page 784
  3. Groundwater Resources in Kentucky - Salt River
  4. River - Kentucky Whitewater Salt River

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