Spend a day exploring the road less traveled and take a look at these often overlooked but sacred sites. Gain an understanding of the history and beauty of Livingston County, KY.
Since you will be traveling some on the back roads, it is essential to make sure you are road ready. First, top off your fuel tank, then check your spare, and take along a good map. You may also want to pack water and a few snacks. Now you are ready to explore and enjoy the drive.
This drive starts at Kentucky Dam to Smithland. Exiting the Dam, turn right onto US-62 E/US-641 N (2 mi). Use the left lane to merge onto KY-453 N (5.3 mi). Turn left at the stop sign to stay on KY-453 N to arrive in Smithland.
Then proceed to Carrsville by traveling northwest on Court St toward Wilson Ave. Take a right turn onto US-60 E (8.6 mi). Turn left onto KY-135 N at Burna (8.2 mi). Then Turn right onto KY-133 S/KY-135 N (.1 mi), and then turn left onto KY-135 N into Carrsville.
Next stop is Mantle Rock. Head back out of town on KY-135 S/Vine St (3.3 mi). Then turn right onto KY-133 N (2.3 mi). Turn left onto Mantle Rock Rd You must hike in to see the rock. This trail is a single track around a 2.1-mile loop.
Heading back to Smithland via River Road, turn left onto KY-133 N from Mantle Rock Rd. Then Turn left onto State Hwy 137 (15.3 mi) back to Smithland. This return route follows the shores of the Ohio River.
Total drive time on this backroads tour is 2 hours. Of course, add in time to explore the area and hike the rock to calculate your total trip time.
Kentucky Hydroelectric Project
640 Kentucky Dam Rd. / 37°00′48″N 88°16′08″
Kentucky Dam was a major project initiated during the New Deal of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration. The creation of 5,000 jobs to construct the dam provided immediate economic relief as the area struggled to recover from the Great Depression.
Project construction spanned six years (1938-1944), and Kentucky Dam celebrates 75 years of operation as of September 2019. In 2017, Kentucky Dam was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Beyond the immediate economic relief, the project helped with flood control, improved river navigation, and created Hydroelectricity to electrify the rural Tennessee Valley and beyond.
Visit the Kentucky Dam Visitor Center to learn about the Tennessee Valley Authority System and hydroelectricity.
Smithland is the county seat of Livingston County, Kentucky. Located at the confluence of the Ohio and Cumberland Rivers, The population was 301 at the 2010 census. Many of the scenes from the film “How The West Was Won” (1961) were shot in Smithland. In the film the town is Albany, New York.
Livingston County Courthouse
*NR – 351 Court St., Smithland / 37.139304, -88.40445
Constructed in 1842 after Smithland became the Livingston County seat. *NR When Livingston county was formed it was much larger than its present size and the county seat was Eddyville, now in Lyon County, and a courthouse was built there in 1801. The county seat was moved to Centerville, now in Crittenden county, in 1804 and then to Salem in 1809. Smithland became the seat in 1841 when Crittenden county was formed.
Fort Smithland Site
*NR – 0.3 miles south of Smithland / 37.1292224, -88.400316
An earthen Civil War fortification, Fort Smithland was an important supply depot and staging area for Grant’s campaigns.
The fort consisted of two star-shaped, earthen fortifications built on the hills overlooking the rivers. The small fort, which still remains, housed a 32-pound cannon and is located on Cemetery Hill behind Livingston Central High School.
Fort Smith was garrisoned throughout the war by various regiments, including the 13th US Colored Heavy Artillery. Several of these soldiers were buried on Cemetery Hill adjacent to the fort.
Find more information on Fort Smith at http://www.trailsrus.com/civilwar/region1/fortsmith.html
*NR – Water St., Smithland / 37.143056, -88.405556
Constructed in approximately 1780, on the south bank of the Cumberland and Ohio Rivers confluence, the house was used as an inn for travelers on the River. Built in the Georgian or Federal style, this structure features 16-inch-thick brick walls. The building is currently vacant, and additionally, it is privately owned. Many notable people have been associated with Gower House, among them Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, Clara Barton, and many, many others. Author Ned Buntline, who wrote about Buffalo Bill Cody and other Western stories, lived in the inn in 1845.
Livingston County Historical and Genealogical Society / Log Cabin Museum
State St., Smithland / 37.139475, -88.403315
This single room log cabin built before 1836 now serve as the Livingston County Welcome Center & Museum. Open 1-4pm weekdays. The Cabin is home to the Livingston County Historical and Genealogical Society, the experts in our local history.
Kentucky Historical Markers in Smithland
Livingston County Named for Robert R Livingston, 1798- Located at Smithland, Courthouse lawn, US 60.
Lucy Jefferson Lewis, President Thomas Jefferson’s Sister- Marker is located 3 mi. N. of Smithland, US 60, KY 137, near her home site.
Incorporated in 1860, Carrsville thrived on river trade, as the Ohio and other rivers dominated transport for over a century. In its peak, the Carrsville business district included several hotels, a newspaper, doctors office, drug store, hardware store, grocery, mill, post office, gas power plant, and teachers college.
Railways and Highways replaced river transport, and the 1937 flood ravaged the town of Carrsville. Once a bustling community of 600 -700 people, Carrsville is a close-knit community of 37 people.
Carrsville History Museum
Locust St., Carrsville / 37.3975497, -88.3770421
Located in the historic Methodist Church building, the museum is open on Sundays from 2-4pm. It is a great place to explore the story of Carrsville.
Revolutionary War Hero Edward Lacey grave site
Carrsville Cemetery / 37.39583, -88.37344
Lacey fought in sixteen battles in the Revolutionary war and was then promoted to Brigadier General. He moved to Livingston County in 1799 and was County Judge. His gravesite is at the top of the hill in the older section of the cemetery. When you enter the cemetery, walk up the hill to your left.
Carrsville Historic Marker
Located on the Carrsville Riverfront, this monument pays tribute to the River heritage of the town.
Mantle Rock Preserve / NR – Kentucky Route 133, 1800 Lola Road, Joy / 37.355004, -88.429116
A designated Trail of Tears National Historic Trail Site. Thousands of Cherokee camped here for weeks, during the winter of 1838-39 as they waited for the Ohio River to thaw for crossing. Mantle Rock may be viewed via hiking path.
You may also want to visit Joy Falls, located on the other side of the highway a half mile west of the Mantle Rock Preserve. This secluded site with its serene beauty makes a great picnic stop and photo opportunity.
Do you have a Livingston County, KY historic site you want to add to our list? Share your comments below.
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