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Back to McConnell Springs

    The city of Lexington Kentucky had its humble beginnings at a place referred to as McConnell Springs. It is thought that the first pioneers in the area made the discover of the endless water supply that boiled up from the earth at this location. Out on the vast flat savanna of the Inner Bluegrass region, surface streams are small and most dry completely up during times of dry weather. The Springs actually are places that a tributary of the north fork of the Elkhorn Creek rise to the surface from no doubt underground caverns that the stream has carved its way through the limestone rock.
     This fresh water always in abundant
supply would have been a welcome place for the native people as well as the first pioneers to spend time hunting the vast savanna. The entire region around the Lexington area was a great flat plain now called geologically the  Inner Bluegrass. The uplift of the earth in ancient times forced all the rocks, hills and mountains to erode faster and disappear from the scene. By the time humans had reached the area had been reduced to the relative level area it is today. Additionally, the savanna would have the appearance of a great prairie with giant burr oaks scatted throughout the landscape. This being the idea habitat for bison to feed during the winter months, no doubt brought the hunters into the region. Today's horse farms simply replaced the savanna grasses with bluegrass and other crops. McConnell Springs  was another great feature to be added to the wonders of Kentucky in those days.
    The springs takes its name from  William McConnell  who was considered among the first of the pioneers to establish a camp at the springs in 1775. From this modest beginning ultimately sprang up the amazing city of Lexington, Kentucky which of course was named after the famous Massachusetts town in honor of the revolutionary war.
    Today the Spring and surrounding watershed is a park and is protected from further encroachment and pollution that occurred over the decades as the city's growing demands placed on the surrounding environments. The park is located just off Old Frankfort Pike inside the New Circle Road toward town.  There is a modern visitor center on site with trails that meander around the springs. This is a great outdoor nature area and each year hundreds of school kids make the short field trip to the site.
    McConnell Springs plays an important role in the book Swift as it was a location of one of the clues to the  lost treasure. In fact, it probably was the clue which provided the link to the location of the "mine." Though the tale has our heroes discovering a secret passage among other things in fact, there is no hidden cave. There are caves in the area and the stream disappears into a cave but the location and type of cave in the book are fictitious. It works well in the overall geography of the area from Pilot Knob to the Falls of the Ohio (Louisville.)

    Here is a short excerpt from Swift as our explorers make an important discovery.

      Another beautiful weekend rolled around and the three took off to McConnell Springs for a second visit. They watched for Roger to make sure they had not been followed. This time they walked past the visitor’s center on down the trail to the Blue Hole, the first encounter of the water coming up from the ground. None of the three seemed sure why they had come back, other than Will felt like they had left too soon before and never really gotten to check the whole area out. The air was cooler now and the weeds had stopped growing from the frosts that came early to the region.
      “Okay, the rock ledges down the creek? We need to check all down the creek, even up on the banks above the rock outcrops. There could be sink holes up there,” Will explained.
      “What are we looking for Will?” Jennifer questioned.
      “Any cave opening, anything remotely like a cave opening.”
      “We didn’t see any cave openings before.”
      “We didn’t search very good either. Remember Ray up and wanted to leave,” Will noted. Ray made no comment but shifted his eyes away and down to indicate to his buddies his shame for what he had done.
      “I think I remember a small cave entrance now that I think about it,” Jennifer said.
      “You do?”
      “Yep. When I was taking pictures down at the boils, you pass by, I believe, a cave entrance. Some place I sure don’t want to go in though,” Jennifer answered.
      “Let’s go,” Ray said.
      In a couple of minutes the three stood in front of the dark entrance just off the trail just as Jennifer described. The small opening was notched out of the limestone rock, hardly even noticeable. No stream ran into the small break in the rock, though the entrance remained wet from dripping water from the land above.
      “So now what?” Jennifer asked.
      “Well, we need to check and see if this leads to a cave,” Will said. It was a long shot, for sure, but the three had all along, banked on the long shots.
      “No way boys am I going in a small, cramped space like this. What makes you think anything worth finding is in such a place anyway?”
      “No, I’m not going. I’ll wait here. What if something happens? Someone needs to stay out here.”
      “Not a bad idea," Will agreed.           “I don’t know if anything is in there or that the funny marking on the map represents these springs. But we've got to eliminate this location in order to continue with our map solution," Will explained. Will believed he had the three streams figured out and it seemed to him the eye shaped marking would be the source of the treasure or map resolution. The eye shape on the map could represent the springs, just like Will believed the large turkey track represented the three streams.
      “I don’t know about this, Will. We don’t have the right equipment or know how to go exploring caves,” said Ray
      “No Ray, it's my idea. I’ll go. Give me the light.”
      Ray handed Will the light they had brought with them. Will knew this would be muddy and possibly dangerous. He also knew this was the longest shot he had taken in a great while. They had come this far because of the incredible luck they had experienced. After inching his way forward to the point he was squeezing between the rock walls he thought he had made a bad judgment. When darkness prevailed over the light from outside, he switched on his flashlight. Ahead, Will could see that the break continued on and actually got a bit wider. He moved forward until he could see that the limestone walls on each side came together. He noticed a small opening to his right, very small but dark. Will leaned over and pointed his light into the small hole and could see that it opened up into another cavern area. Without hesitation, Will slid head-first into the small dark opening. He heard water dripping back in the darkness and could see that the narrow passageway went at least another 30 feet ahead but did not appear to get any larger. Will inched his way along in a duck walk through the passage so narrow it rubbed both his sides.
      “You okay in there?” Jennifer yelled back into the darkness. There was no answer because Will was already out of hearing range. “Do you think he is alright?” Jennifer worriedly asked Ray.
      “Sure, he’s fine. He’s out of hearing range and that means this is a cave that goes back a ways. This is good.”
       Reaching the end of the thirty foot crawl, the passage sharply turned right nearly 90 degrees and descended a few feet. Squeezing through the turn was tricky but making that maneuver put Will in a larger area, perhaps a small room. The chamber was large enough for Will to stand up. This is promising, he thought. Ray and Jennifer sat by the entrance of the cave. They no longer could hear Will or see his light.
      “What if something happens to him, Ray? What if he gets stuck or lost?”
      “Nothing is going to happen to him, Jennifer. Will can handle himself all right.” Ray wouldn’t admit it but he was already getting a little uncomfortable himself, though he did not want Jennifer to realize his concern. Just as Ray began to form contingent plans in his mind such as going in the cave himself or calling for help, Will suddenly appeared at the entrance.
      “You had us worried.”
      “Worried?” Will questioned, confused. In his mind he was not gone all that long, but to the two waiting it seemed like hours.
      “You’re not going to believe it,” Will exclaimed so excitedly that he could hardly catch his breath.
      “Believe what, Will? What did you find?”
      “You guys need to come look for yourself. I’m not going to tell you until you see for yourself. Unbelievable.”
      “No way am I going in there. No way,” Jennifer flatly stated.
      “You can do this. The first part is a little snug but the passageway turns and opens up into a small room. The ground is only wet right here at the entrance. The cave gets dry a bit further and you can stand up. A room is back there as well as a clue, I think. I believe this is what we need,” Will told the other two.
      “This is our only light,” Ray said.
      “This is no problem, really. Follow me and we can crawl
to the right spot. Come on.”
       “No, I’m not going. I’ll wait here. What if something happens? Someone needs to stay out here.”
      “Not a bad idea," Will agreed. He led the way as he and Ray crawled through the tiny passage way and reached the small room. Standing up in the room, shining the light around Will held the light on one spot on the wall overhead.
      “What is that?” Ray asked as he grabbed the flashlight out of Will's hand.
      “What does it look like Ray? Remind you of anything?”


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