Through the Cumberland Gap and near Daniel Boone’s legendary Wilderness Road is Boone’s Ridge, a family-friendly tourism destination. Boone’s Ridge will offer diverse attractions and activities that deliver something for everyone. Located in the region Boone made famous nearly 250 years ago, Boone’s Ridge will once again draw travelers to these magnificent wild lands—only this time instead of unexplored terrain, delighted visitors will find a collection of safe, comfortable, fun amenities nestled in Kentucky’s Cumberland Mountains in the midst of abundant wildlife and beautiful landscapes.
Boone’s Ridge is owned and will be operated by the Appalachian Wildlife Foundation (AWF), a 501 (c) (3), non-profit organization. Revenue from Boone’s Ridge will fund the mission of AWF.
Boone’s Ridge will transform the economic landscape of Eastern Kentucky by launching a tourism industry that will bring new energy and opportunities in the economic, educational and environmental landscape of the region. It is set to open in summer 2024.
Tucked away in Kentucky’s Cumberland Mountains, Boone’s Ridge will host over 1,000,000 visitors a year from across North America. Here, in addition to the many amenities, attractions, and dining options, the wildlife is abundant. Visitors will enjoy sightings of wild, free-ranging elk, over 260 species of birds, and other wildlife thriving in their natural habitat.
Elk are a tourism super-magnet, attracting crowds wherever viewing opportunities exist, and Kentucky is home to the largest wild elk population east of the Rocky Mountains.
Boone’s Ridge is home to over 260 species of birds, and is already listed as a “bird watching hotspot” by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the leading resource and community of birders. The site will be a favored destination amongst the over 60 million self-described “birders” in the US, as well as casual enthusiasts.
Black bears are regarded as the most popular wildlife species among tourists in the United States and are plentiful at Boone’s Ridge.
White-tailed deer can be seen in great numbers at Boone’s Ridge.
A robust population of Bobcats is present at Boone’s Ridge where they thrive in the backdrop of the Cumberland Mountains.
The 81,000 square foot visitor center will include a restaurant, theater, gift shop, and a museum exhibit hall. In the exhibits, visitors will see displays that tell a story of Daniel Boone and the Long Hunters, geologic history, wildlife exploitation and restoration in the Appalachians and North America. One section of displays will be dedicated to birds, bird watching, bird conservation, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. All of this will be presented in a manner that is interesting and fun.
The zoo will feature North American wildlife species including raptors in a zoo design compatible with the magnificent setting.
The children's zoo offers an up-close family-friendly animal experience.
This paved walking trail is 1.5 to 2.5 miles in length and is wheelchair and baby stroller accessible. The trail allows visitors to view wildlife, enjoy the views, artwork and exhibits along the trail.
Structures to allow close observation and photography of birds as they visit an array of bird feeders.
An enclosed butterfly garden to provide up close encounters with butterflies.
A Culture and Arts Trading Post built to resemble an Appalachian frontier fort.
A tram system to comfortably move visitors over a 3 ¼ mile trail across Boone’s Ridge.
An under-roof, open-air restaurant nestled on a wooded Boone’s Ridge hillside.
A ten-acre bison range with viewing stands and close-up viewing opportunities.
A 75 foot high observation tower with three tiers of observation platforms.
A 60-mile network of hiking trails.
Boone’s Ridge is an investment in the economic development and recovery of a region with a well-documented and pervasive legacy of poverty and poor educational outcomes. Boone’s Ridge will bring opportunity for economic and educational development to this area of Eastern Kentucky.
Boone’s Ridge is owned by the Appalachian Wildlife Foundation, a 501(c)(3), non-profit organization. All of the profits from Boone’s Ridge will stay in the region to support our charitable mission of achieving Economic, Educational, and Environmental improvement in the region.
The economy of Eastern Kentucky has long been centered on the extraction and export of natural resources. In this economic model, most of the money made leaves the region.
As a national tourism destination attracting 1,000,000 tourists annually, 96% of Boone’s Ridge visitors will be from outside of the region. Those non-resident tourists will travel to the region and spend money here, pumping over $202 million into the local economy every year.
With over 1,000,000 tourists visiting Boone’s Ridge each year, local citizens and entrepreneurs will have opportunities to create new businesses.
Boone’s Ridge will implement a far-reaching and robust effort with local school systems to support and enhance existing education programs. Additionally, Boone’s Ridge will directly reach over 100,000 students annually through on-site and remote learning programs, scholarships and education grants.
Working with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University, Boone’s Ridge will support local K-12 programs in STEM education efforts.
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