City of Manchester Parks & Recreation

Within the City Limits of Manchester, KY is a unique park system that, when connected by a riverside walking trail of serene beauty, offers the visitor a chance to soak up some of the early history not only of Manchester and Clay County, but southeast Kentucky as well.

The key to the historic park system is the River Walk Trail that begins on the north end of town at Rawlings/ Stinson Park, and ends at the south end at the Goose Creek Salt Works Pioneer Village.

This unique trail is anchored at the north by the famous Red Bird Petgroglyph, the large rock of national reknown that contains ancient inscriptions by either European explorers, or Indians, or both.

The trail itself follows the route of the Warrior's Path, one of the most historically significant trails in American History. Created by buffalo searching for salt deposits, the route was used for countless years by Indians traveling between the Smoky Mountains in the south and the wilderness north of the Ohio River. The trail was used by long hunters and explorers, including Dr. Thomas Walker who followed it in this section of Goose Creek in 1750, and by Daniel Boone 19 years later in 1769.

Rawlings/Stinson Park

The north end of the historic River Walk Trail walking path, anchored by the nationally known Red Bird Petroglyph rock with ancient inscriptions. Features include a crumb rubber walking track that circles the park, a large covered stage for outdoor concerts, a playground, a wedding gazebo, Clay County Veterans Memorial, large shelter houses with grills, a concrete boat ramp on Goose Creek, and a shaded walking trail along beautiful and historic Goose Creek that connects Rawlings/Stinson Park to the Goose Creek Swinging Bridge, Riverside Park and Goose Creek Salt Works.

River Walk Trail
This beautiful trail along the river follows the route of the famous Warrior's Path, the ancient trail made by buffalo then by Indians for countless years before being used by explorers such as Dr. Thomas Walker, who passed by here in 1750, and Daniel Boone, who also came this way on his first extended hunting trip to Kentucky in 1769. River Walk Trail starts inRawlings/Stinson Park, passes by the Goose Creek Swinging Bridge connecting to Historic Downtown Manchester, then leads to Riverside Park, followed by Goose Creek Salt Works.

Goose Creek Swinging Bridge

Manchester's Goose Creek Swinging Bridge was originally constructed to replace the old wagon bridge that was washed away in the Flood of 1947. This unique icon of cultural heritage literally connects the area's history...the Warrior's Path on Goose Creek to the Heritage Pavilion on Manchester on the Square. Walking the Goose Creek Swinging Bridge takes you back in time. The Goose Creek Swinging Bridge, recently restored, connects Clay County with the historical narratives of the whole state of Kentucky.

Riverside Park

On the banks of Goose Creek, the water course by which early salt makers shipped their product to the Bluegrass in the late 1790s up until the Civil War...when winter and spring floods made it possible to navigate their 60-foot salt barges. This park features a pavilion, scenic views and River Walk Trail...connecting it to Goose Creek Salt Works to the south, and Goose Creek Swinging Bridge and Rawlings/Stinson Park to the north.

Historic Salt Works

Historic Salt Works in Manchester was established due to the presence of many salt springs. Daniel Boone offered a plan to reroute the Wildnerness Road to pass by the headwaters of Goose Creek. The production of salt led to Manchester becoming a major trade center. During the Civil War and thereafter, the salt works became a point of contention and led to long-term feuds and skirmishes. The Baker-White feud started in the 1820s and continued until 1932. The feud claimed roughly 150 lives; the deadliest such struggle east of the Mississippi.

The City of Manchester and the Clay County Genealogical and Historical Society have teamed up to create one of the most exciting historical sites in eastern Kentucky with the re-creation of the famous Goose Creek Salt Works at the site it occupied in the mid-1790s. It was one of the state's most important industries. This was also the site, in April 1807, where the newly formed Clay County came into existence making the salt works the first county seat. It was the center of government for the huge territory of SE Kentucky that encompassed all the headwaters of the Kentucky River -- North Fork, Middle Fork, and South Fork -- and their tributeries, including adjacent Goose Creek. The site was situated squarely on the famous Warrior's Path, the early Indian trail used by Kentucky's first explorers, including Dr. Thomas Walker who passed by the site in 1750, and Daniel Boone in 1769.

The cabins at Goose Creek Salt Works include Cotton Cabin, one of the oldest log cabins in Kentucky dating from the 1790s, around the time the salt works started producing salt commercially. Interpretive signs lead visitors through the entire history of the site.

Bert T. Combs City Park & Lake & Governor's RV Park

Located in the center of Clay County, Bert T. Combs City Park offers nonmotorized boating opportunities, while the park offers a large swimming pool, playground, covered picnic pavilions, hot showers and restrooms. This park, one of the best-kept secrets in the Daniel Boone National Forest, is nestled in a beautiful mountain valley at the forks of the head waters of Beech Creek, about three and a half miles northeast of Manchester on Beech Creek Road. Governor’s RV Park & Campground offers mountain scenery and features trails that take those hardy enough to walk or ride horses to the tops of the ridges that define the park. It has 75 campsites, many with electric hook-ups, water and dump station. There is a large community swimming pool and kiddie pool, tennis and basketball courts, and a banquet room complete with kitchen and event facilities. A large shelter house adjacent to the RV park has room for 250-300 people along with grills and electricity. Bert T. Combs Lake is a short walk from the park. Located on a hillside adjacent to the center is the final resting place of former Kentucky Governor Bert T. Combs.

Splash Park

Located on Town Branch Road next to Mountain View Heights, this park features a sprinkler pad for kids with several spraying fountains. A skaters and skateboarders section is adjacent to the splash pad. Change rooms and bathrooms are available. A shelter for adults with picnic tables is on site.

Martin L. King Park

Located in the Pennington Hill section off the four lane near the Eastern Kentucky University Manchester Campus, this park features a play ground and shelter.

Equestrian Trail

Set in the beautiful Appalachian mountains of eastern Kentucky, the Bert T. Combs Equestrian Trail offers the area’s best horseback riding. As you ride along the 3 ½  miles of mapped trails (provided by request), plus unlimited miles of trails in the Daniel Boone National Forest and Beech Creek Wildlife Management Area, you will experience nature at its best. The Equestrian Trail offers breathtaking views, wildlife and several picnic areas with amenities for both you and your horses. There are picnic tables and trash receptacles for you and hitching posts and natural springs to water your horses. Surrounded by the Beech Creek Wildlife Management Area and the Daniel Boone National Forest, the Equestrian Trail provides easy access to the 25 acre Bert T. Combs Lake.

Big Hickory Golf Course

Situated on a rolling knoll made by the Cotton Bend of historic Goose Creek, the course is surrounded by lush, hardwood forest-covered mountains. The course is owned by the City of Manchester and is accessed off Beech Creek Road (on the way to Bert T. Combs Park). Just follow the signs. 
Beautiful Big Hickory Golf Course is a challenging 9-hole layout that offers the best golf value in Kentucky. Its beautiful Bermuda fairways and immaculate undulating bent grass greens provide a golfing experience that is a thrill for all ages and skill levels. It is a 3,000 yard course that plays to a par 36 and includes a variety of holes framed by scenic trees as well as ponds and streams. Its signature hole is the par 4 ninth whose green is fashioned in the shape of the state of Kentucky. Big Hickory Golf Course is located at 521 Big Hickory Rd, Manchester, KY 40962. Call (606) 598-8053 for additional details.

Red Bird Rock

The Red Bird River Shelter Petroglyphs are a series of petroglyphs, or carvings, on a stone in Manchester, Kentucky. The petroglyphs have been interpreted as inscriptions in at least 8 Old World alphabets, all of which were extinct when Columbus arrived in the New World in 1492. The rock was enrolled on the National Register of Historic Places in September 1989. On December 7, 1994, the 50 ton stone stone fell from a sandstone cliff above the Red Bird River and rolled onto Highway 66 at Lower Red Bird. On December 9, 1994, it was transported to its present location, where it is roofed over and fenced. The alphabets apparently inscribed on the stone include 1st century Greek and Hebrew, as well as Old Libyan, Old Arabic and Iberian-Punic which probably dates from the 9th century BC. Ogam, Germanic Runes, and Tiffinag-Numidian inscriptions have also been identified. It has been argued that finding eight different languages inscribed in one place is highly unlikely, and that the claims are fanciful interpretations of the evidence. The inscriptions on the rock have been compared to other Cherokee inscriptions in the area, and it has been suggested that those on the rock have been altered in modern times. The interpretation that the petroglyphs represent Old World inscriptions has been linked to 18th century arguments that the Cherokee Nation had no right to live in Kentucky as an ancient white race settled here before them.

Heritage Pavilion

The Clay County Genealogical and Historical Society's Heritage Pavilion is located on the Square in Manchester. The copper-topped structure serves as a visual symbol of Clay County’s heritage. The pavilion contains three large interpretive signs that recount the county’s history from before its founding, to well into the 20th Century, focusing on early history and places and of some of the most prominent people of historical interest. 

The first sign is a graphic rendering of the county’s “Historical Trails and Places,” and guides the visitor along the famous Warrior’ Path that traversed the county from north to south and was followed by such early explorers as Dr. Thomas Walker and Daniel Boone in the mid to late 1700s, and countless Indians before them. The graphic also maps out some of the earliest roads funded by the state legislature in the early 1800s that were built expressly for getting salt from several Goose Creek works to customers in the Bluegrass and in other states. This sign shows the location of several of the salt works, and contains pertinent information.

The second sign details the significant Civil War activity that took place within the border of the county from 1861 to 1864. The sign takes the visitor from the raid on the Goose Creek salt works by Rebel forces under the command of Gen. Felix Zollicoffer before the first battle of the war in Kentucky, and through the years of skirmishing between the armies around Manchester and on Red Bird, and details the destruction of the five major salt works by Union forces that was carried out in order to keep salt out of Confederate hands. Much of the sign details the activities of Clay County’s famous Colonel (later Brigadier General), T. T. Garrard, in the county.

The third sign gives brief biographies and photos or renderings of some of the most historically prominent Clay County citizens, and shows where they lived and are buried. Included on this sign is the first known settler of the county, John Gilbert, a long hunter who decided to settle on Red Bird at the close of the American Revolution and raised a large family there with his wife, Mollie Bowling. Others detailed on the sign are:
  • Brigadier General Theopolis Toulmin Garrard, one of the county’s leading salt makers, and a hero of the Civil War for his brave leadership at the battles of Perryville (Kentucky) and Vicksburg (Mississippi) and numerous other battles. Garrard, who was prominent in local political affairs, continued to wield influence locally and statewide until his death.
  • Laura White, who was home schooled at her home at Goose Rock and went on to attain prominence far beyond the borders of Clay County by her pioneering educational activities, which included stints at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Sorbonne in Paris, France. Ms. White, after traveling widely in Europe, came back to Clay County to successfully transition her father’s salt business to the emerging timber business toward the end of the 1800s.
  • Governor Bert T. Combs, widely considered Kentucky’s most progressive governor and a champion of school integration and of education in general. He was born and raised on Beech Creek, schooled at Oneida Baptist Institute, and is buried at the Beech Creek Cemetery, scene of the largest state funeral in Kentucky history upon his death.
  • General Hugh White, patriarch of the powerful White Family of salt makers, who, with the purchase of the old Collins Salt Works in 1804, was more instrumental than any other with putting the county on the map and establishing what was for a while Kentucky’s most important industry.
  • David Yancy Lyttle, the famous Manchester lawyer who is credited with being “The Father of Kentucky Education” for his efforts after the Civil War in providing free education to Kentucky’s school children.
  • Colonel Daniel Garrard, father of General T. T., son of Kentucky’s second governor, James. He was instrumental (along with General Hugh White) in establishing the salt industry that became famous nation wide. Colonel Garrard distinguished himself by leading a significant number of Clay County men to the northwest territories (near Fort Detroit and into Canada) during the War of 1812.
  • Martha Hogg, a business woman who donated much of the land where Oneida Baptist Institute and the town of Oneida were built. Mrs. Hogg, who with her husband C. L. Coldiron, owned what became the legendary Webb Hotel in Manchester, went on after Coldiron’s death to become one of the county’s leading business people despite laws that curtailed such activity by women.
  • Nancy Potter was, like Martha Hogg, was at a disadvantage in business because of her sex. Upon the death of her husband, Robert, she was able to have the courts declare her a “femme sole”, which allowed her to take over the family business that she parlayed into a significant real estate and financial empire in the late 1800s.
  • Elijah Griffin, one of the county’s relative few free black men in the time of slavery, and who had to be issued a permit even to travel about in 1827, went on to achieve remarkable success in the white business world of Clay County in the early part of the Nineteenth Century.
  • Colonel Reuben May, salt maker, postmaster at Mount Welcome (Goose Rock), and an officer in the Eighth Kentucky Infantry in the Civil War. He went on the lead the Seventh Kentucky at Vicksburg after his friend, Colonel T. T. Garrard, was promoted to Brigadier General.
  • John White, son of Hugh, was one of the early Manchester lawyers who went on to represent Madison County in the state legislature, then on the U. S. Congress where he served as Speaker of the House of Representatives, perhaps the highest office ever attained by a Clay Countian.