McConnell Springs

Useful Information

Location: Lexington. Old Frankfort Pike west of downtown Lexington. Turn off into McConnell Springs, turn left into Cahill Drive, then right into Rebman Ln, at the end.
Open: All year daily 9-17.
Closed Thanksgiving, 24-DEC, 25-DEC, 26-DEC.
Fee: free.
Classification: KarstKarst Spring KarstCollapsed Cave
Light: n/a
Dimension: AR=6.5 ha, T=13 °C (water).
Guided tours:
Address: McConnell Springs, 416 Rebmann Lane, Kexington, KY 40504, Tel: +1-859-225-4073.
Friends of McConnell Springs, Post Office Box 12196, Lexington, Kentucky 40581. E-mail: contact
Parks & Recreation, 469 Parkway Drive, Lexington, Kentucky 40504, Tel: +1-859-288-2900, Fax: +1-859-254-0142. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1775 the naming of the city of Lexington took place at the site.


Despite the historic name McConnell Springs, this place is not simply a spring but a location of various karst features including sinks, dolines, and springs. It is a karst valley, probably a collapsed cave, which is about 10 m deeper than the surrounding landscape. There is a series of three springs and swallow holes, the water of the cave river reappears three times until it finally disappears.

This place is eclosed by a road and industrial development. It was almost forgotten in the mid 20th century and in a pretty bad shape, but has recently been restored by the work of a non-profit organization. However, the public interest, the donations and the volunteer work is definitely primarily a result of the historic importance of the place, not of the karst geologic importance.

In the 1770s Kentucky started to attract frontiersmen. In 1774 Virginia Governor Lord Dunmore created a peace with the local native Indians after the so-called Dunmore's War. Among the first was in 1775 the party of William McConnell and some fellows from Pennsylvania. When they heard about the Revolutionary War, they named the place in honor of the city of Lexington, Massachusetts, where the war had started. So this is actually the place where the city of Lexington, Kentucky, received its name.

So this place was always a central part of the town. The water was used for a mill, a distillery, a gunpowder factory, and a dairy farm. But when the city grew it was almost forgotten and surrounded by the growing industrial plants. Probably the only reason why it was never used for development was the difficulty to build on the slopes of the valley. The costs were simply too high. The karst features were not destroyed, but unfortunately they did not remain untouched. Cleanups of the site in the late 1970s sponsored by the Lexington Environmental Commission resulted in hundreds of large truck loads of trash which were removed. More than 400 tires were found at the bottom of the springs and removed. And the volunteers learned about the beauty of the place and returned regularly, the interest of the people in the place increased. Finally the Friends of McConnell Springs were founded, a group dedicated to the protection of the site.

Today an educational center exists on a piece of buildable land adjacent to the karst area. A boardwalk was built along the river and allows visitors to see the springs and swallow holes with minimal damage to the environment. The springs have become a recreational and environmental education park in the middle of an industrial area. It is a historical site of interest and also a natural park.

The first spring of the cave river is the Blue Hole, named after its deep blue colour. The water is some three meters deep, and the limestone rich water filters the sunlight and gets the typical blue colour. The deep conical basin of the spring is a result of the force of the water, which discharges from a fissure in the bedrock with some force, blowing away the overlying sediments. The Boil is the second big spring of the park, named after a typical effect after heavy rains. The yield of the springs grows rapidly and the enormous amount of water emerging from the cave below has a high pressure and causes fountain-like columns up to half a metre tall, which look like the water was boiling. This is called an artesian spring, as the pressure in the groundwater body is high and forces the water out. The Final Sink is nothing less than this. It is simply the place were the water finally leaves the surface inside the park to flow underground. The next 500 m of the water-filled cave are still unexplored, but the water then reappears in Preston's Cave. It finally flows into Elkhorn Creek.