Jenny Wiley State Resort Park is a state park located in Powell and Wolfe Counties, Kentucky. The park consists of 1,068 acres (430ha) situated around the May Lodge Lake on Big Sandy Fork of the Cumberland River. It was named for local resident Jenny Wiley, who sold it to the Commonwealth of Kentucky for $1 an acre (0.40 ha). Other facilities include tennis courts, swimming pool, conference center, cottages, lodges, and campsites. There are also horse trails, hiking paths, and mountain biking routes. Visitors can access Interstate 75 via the park’s exit ramp.
Jenny Wiley State Resort Park receives more than one million visitors annually. Jenny Wiley State Resort Park Golf Course is designed by Alfred Tull, Sr. and Bill Harries, the original nine holes were carved out of the forested hills surrounding May Lodge Lake. Upon completion of hole #12, which measures 586 yards (567 m), the original course was replaced by the Championship eighteen hole course. Hole #13, known as the “Green Mile,” stretches 708 yards (640 m), making it one of the longest holes in the PGA Tour. The signature hole #14, the “Hole of Death”, is a downhill 186 yard (175 m) par 3 with the green perched high above the canyon bottom.
The park’s campground features 188 sites equipped with electricity, tent pads, and water; modern bathhouses with hot showers; and a sanitary dump station. Campers may use the playground and volleyball court during warm weather months. Two boat launches provide access to May Lodge Lake for small boats. Canoes, kayaks, rowboats, and paddleboats are available to rent. Picnic tables and pavilions are scattered throughout the park, along with over 150 charcoal grills and 100 picnic shelters.
The Jenny Wiley Amphitheater holds outdoor dramas seasonally, as well as live music, fairs, and festivals. Located inside the park, the Jenny Wiley Museum features exhibits about the history of the park, area geology, natural habitat and plant life, Native Americans, pioneer life, and regional arts and crafts. Entrance fees are waived for those under age 13 accompanied by an adult.
In 1950, the resort became the official summer home of the governor of Kentucky, Bert T. Combs, and his wife Mary Jane. Known as “Ma Joad” among friends, Mrs. Combs hosted numerous receptions for celebrities such as Lucille Ball, Jack Paar, Desi Arnaz, Milton Berle, Joan Fontaine, Gary Cooper, Paulette Goddard, James Cagney, Pat O’Brien, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower, all while continuing to manage the household staff of 15. After leaving office, Governor Combs returned to Jenny Wiley State Resort Park until his death in 1959. Following the election of Richard Nixon as president in 1968, interest in developing a recreational facility at the site grew significantly.
A master plan for a 500-acre (200ha) development was completed in 1971 with construction beginning two years later. Opened to the public in 1976, Jenny Wiley State Resort Park has been financially successful beyond expectations. Development costs have exceeded $100 million, much of that money going toward building roads, parking areas, water systems, and other amenities. An 18-hole golf course, originally designed by Alfred Tull, Jr., opened in 1980.
Its popularity stems from its status as the only state park within an hour’s drive of Louisville that offers a variety of activities including:
- mountain biking