Floracliff Nature Sanctuary

A nonprofit organization

460 donors

In the late 1950s, Dr. Mary Wharton began purchasing property along the Kentucky River that she would later name Floracliff (“for the flora on the cliffs”). Between 1958 and 1989, she acquired a series of parcels, totaling 287 acres. Her dream for the property was to preserve the natural communities and special geological features unique to the area. Dr. Wharton believed that education and appreciation lead to preservation and recognized the potential for Floracliff to become a center for environmental education and research in the Inner Bluegrass and Kentucky River watershed. In 2017, Floracliff purchased and protected an additional 59 acres along Elk Lick Creek and the Kentucky River, bringing the sanctuary to 346 acres.

Today our work focuses on:

  • sustaining native biodiversity through ongoing stewardship and restoration activities
  • nurturing awareness and appreciation of nature through educational programs, guided hikes, workshops, and volunteer opportunities; Floracliff offers a number of free hikes and programs, including Golden Hour Hikes, City Nature Challenge programs, Art in Nature sessions, and the Bluegrass Biodiversity Seminars.
  • contributing water quality data and biodiversity observations through community science projects; for the past three years, Floracliff has led the organization of the City Nature Challenge for Lexington, joining more than 450 cities around the world for this annual 4-day bioblitz and community science event.
  • facilitating research projects on the plants, animals, ecology, and management of the sanctuary     

All visitation to Floracliff is limited to guided hikes and programs for small groups, providing a unique balance between protection of the sanctuary and promotion of the region’s biodiversity and natural history. This work would not be possible without our donors, volunteers, and partners.

What we protect:

Floracliff is a 346-acre nature sanctuary located in the Kentucky River Palisades region in southern Fayette County. The sanctuary is comprised of steep slopes, mixed hardwood forests, Kentucky River bottomlands, swiftly running tributary streams and limestone palisades. Of geological significance is a 61-foot tufa deposit known as Elk Lick Falls. Elk Lick Creek, a tributary of the Kentucky River, flows through the middle of the sanctuary. Rich in aquatic life, the stream is home to many different kinds of animals such salamanders, frogs, turtles, river otters, fish, and aquatic insects. Along the ravines of Elk Lick Creek are perhaps some of the richest sites in Central Kentucky for wildflowers. Trout lily, twinleaf, shooting star, celandine poppy, and Virginia bluebells are just a handful of species that are a common sight in early spring. On southwest-facing slopes, chinquapin oaks dating to the 1600s remain, making them some of the oldest documented trees in Kentucky. 

Learn more: floracliff.org

Organization Data


Organization name

Floracliff Nature Sanctuary

Tax id (EIN)



Education Environment Animals


P. O. Box 21723