E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park is a state park located in Lincoln County, Kentucky near the city of Danville. The park was named after author Mark Twain’s fictional character Tom Sawyer who lived and worked on a farm with his friend Huckleberry Finn. It is situated on Big Sandy Creek which joins the Ohio River just west of the park.
There are also cabins and motel rooms available for overnight guests. Campsites range from modern with all amenities, rustic with semi-modern amenities or primitive tent sites. Backcountry campsites can only be accessed by trail and do not offer water or electricity. Overnight accommodations include standard cabins, bunkhouse cabins, yurts, lodges and private homes.
The park features two eighteen hole golf courses, the Championship and Executive nine holes. Score cards, tee times and other information can be found online at the park’s website. The park’s Championship nine hole course measures 5,864 yards from the back tees; the Executive nine hole course measures 4,872 yards. Both courses were designed by Earl Stone, Sr., and Russ Tryon, and construction started in 1961. They opened in 1964.
Other popular sports offered at the park include basketball, volleyball, tennis, soccer, softball and swimming. Cross country skiing and snowmobiling are also very common winter activities. E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park has several trails open year round for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Seasonal horse rental stables are also available. The park hosts an equestrian festival, Pony Express Roundup, during May. The festival includes reenactments of the famous transcontinental ride along with races and demonstrations of Western arts and crafts.
Every Labor Day weekend, there is also a rodeo. Rodeo events include bull riding, cowboy rope tricks, bareback bronc riding, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding and barrel racing. Roping competitions are held annually. At least three roping teams travel to the rodeo from Kentucky. Ropers practice their craft throughout the year. E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park provides many different opportunities for visitors to learn about history through exhibits, programs, books and audio tours. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum houses memorabilia and artifacts related to Abraham Lincoln and is open seven days per week.
Visitors can tour the facility and view some of the rare items housed inside. Programs offered include guided walking tours, hay rides, holiday events and historical reenactments by costumed docents. E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park has four picnic shelters equipped with grills, tables and playground equipment. Two group picnic areas have covered pavilions. Picnic areas without shelter accommodate up to 100 people. Group camping accommodates 200 people in 40 tent/RV sites and 10 cabin sites. Half of the campsites are available on a first come first served basis while the remainder must be reserved.
Advance campsite reservations can be booked through the park reservation system. Tent and RV sites are accessible via a road adjacent to the main park entrance. Primitive camping is allowed in specific parts of the park in specified locations. Access to these sites requires a hike of over 3 miles (4.8km). 16 of the 20 primitive campsites are available on a first come first serve basis. The remaining four require advance campsite reservations which can be made through the park reservation system. Eighteen walk-in cabins are available for lodging. Each cabin sleeps six people and has electric heat, lights, and outlets. No drinking water is provided but tap water is readily available nearby. Cabins are available mid-April through October 1.
Reservations are required and can be booked through the park reservation system. Non-electric cabins may be rented if no electrical source is available. Boat dock Facilities include access to showers, restrooms, vending machines and phones. Parking fees are in effect from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. Daily parking is $7.00 per vehicle. Annual passes can be purchased at the park office. Shady Lane Lake is a manmade lake covering 2,400 acres (970ha), set amidst rolling hills and dotted with numerous springs and streams. The dam which creates it is 181 feet (55m) high and 2,750 feet (840m) long.
Construction started in 1959 and finished in 1961. Its purpose is to provide irrigation for crops and livestock, to enhance recreation, and to protect against fire hazards. The lake extends into parts of Pulaski, Marion, and Lincoln counties. Fishing opportunities abound in both fresh and saltwater environments. Numerous charter boats are based at the park offering trips on the lake. Gasoline powered personal watercraft are prohibited on the lake. Electric powered personal watercraft must display a current registration from any state or a launch permit from the Kentucky Department of Parks.
Canoes, kayaks, rowboats, paddleboats, and pedal boats are available to rent. Bait & tackle rentals are also available. Shady Lane Pond is another pond located entirely within the park. It is much smaller than Shady Lane Lake, with a maximum depth of only 35 feet (11m). Fish most commonly caught at Shady Lane Pond include crappies, largemouth bass, bluegill, catfish, northern pike, bullhead, sucker and walleye. Shady Lane Spring Waterway is yet another spring fed stream within the park. It flows for approximately 300 yards (270m) before joining Shady Lane Lake. The waterway averages around 15 feet (5m) deep and runs nearly the entire length of the river channel, flowing past the north end of Shady Lane Lake down to the confluence with the Ohio River. Along its route, the waterway passes under Interstate 76 and by Old Fort Harrod State Park.
The land for the park was donated by Commonwealth Edison in 1955. Development began soon afterwards when the company constructed an electric power plant and a campground between 1957 and 1960. A second generation plant was built from 1969 to 1979. In 1995, Kentucky native Bill Clinton hosted a White House ceremony at which he presented former President George Bush with a marker recognizing the site as part of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Trail.
Later that year, Kentucky became one of eleven states to participate in the first ever United States Black History Month Observance. During this observance, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday was designated “Black Abe Lincoln Day.” To honor this day each February, the park holds its annual Lincoln Birthday Parade. This event has been held every year since 1958 except 1989 and 1990. On Presidents’ Day weekend (February 18-19, 2016) more than 30,000 people came out to the park to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic speech “I Have a Dream” which was delivered here 50 years earlier in 1963. More recently, the park has played host to the 2017 Lincoln Heritage Festival.
E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park offers many different opportunities for outdoors enthusiasts including:
- mountain biking
- whitewater rafting
- public golf course
Commonly seen wildlife species include:
- cottontail deer
Among those fish caught are:
- Rainbow trout
- brown trout
- hybrid striped bass