Jenny Wiley State Resort Park in the Midst of Appalachia

Sculpture moose with May Lodge in the background

Sculpture moose with May Lodge in the background

This past March, the night before I planned to stay at Jenny Wiley State Resort Park in Prestonsburg, Kentucky in the heart of the Appalachia, a fire started in May Lodge, the resort’s main building where the dining room, kitchen, lobby and reception are located. It wasn’t a big fire, but it was enough to set off the sprinkler system and do enough damage to cause the resort park’s hotel to temporarily close.

Fortunately, because the lodge has several separate buildings, none of the guest rooms were affected which allowed for the resort to quickly reopen to overnight guests. The dining room and reception area, however, are still off limits while the process of getting rid of the smoke and water damage is underway. Despite not being able to offer guests a dining experience accompanied by the gorgeous view of Dewey Lake and the surrounding hills that the hotel is known for, Jenny Wiley is still a perfect getaway location in southeastern Kentucky. And the hearty breakfast, lunch and dinner the resort is known for in these parts, are still being served.

May Lodge guest rooms are situated in the midst of wooded beauty

May Lodge guest rooms are situated in the midst of wooded beauty

The dining room and kitchen have been temporarily located to the resort’s within walking distance conference center, and the reception area is in Room 101 in one of the hotel’s guest room buildings.  The resort’s signature dishes that have locals stopping by for a hearty meal of down-home cooking are as tasty as ever. I always look forward to the soup beans, cornbread and fried apples that are staples of this part of Kentucky. Despite having to walk a little ways for a meal, the inconvenience is minimal. As much as possible, depending upon the season, dishes are prepared with local ingredients. Kentucky country ham, catfish, pork chops, sirloin steak and fried green tomatoes are other favorites. Homemade biscuits and sausage gravy are my go-to dishes of  the breakfast fare.

A double guest room with a balcony overlooking Dewey Lake

A double guest room with a balcony overlooking Dewey Lake

Guest lodging ranges from the 49 guest room lodge ( two double beds to a queen handicapped accessible room to a deluxe king) to 1 and 2 bedroom cottages with a pull-out sofa in the living room. Lodge rooms combine rustic with comfort and each room offers a balcony with a view.

Although summer might seem like the best time to visit Jenny Wiley when the outdoor pool is open and the summer theater shows at the resort’s amphitheater are going full swing, the winter is the time to experience what makes this state park particularly unique. Elk viewing tours are offered January 21 through March 11.

Between 1997 to 2003, elk were reintroduced into Kentucky. These native animals have multiplied from the 1,513 that were brought into the state to more than 10,000. Jenny Wiley State Park is one area where the elk have thrived. Viewing tours are $30 per person and include continental breakfast. There’s also a package deal that combines lodging with elk viewing. To book a tour, call 606/889-1700 or email trinity.sheperd@ky.gov.

Down by Dewey Lake. Black bears are in these parts, but you probably won't see one.

Down by Dewey Lake. Black bears are in these parts, but you probably won’t see one.

Other Jenny Wiley State Resort Park offerings include: 10 miles of hiking trails and a 3-mile mountain biking loop. There’s also a nature center where you can learn about the local wildlife and about Jenny Wiley, the park’s namesake. Jenny Wiley was a pioneer woman who was taken captive by Indians in 1789. After 11 months of captivity she managed to escape and traveled through the woods of these hills to safety.

The 1,100 acre Dewey Lake offers fishing and boating. Pontoon boat and canoe rentals are from Memorial Day to Labor Day, however, head down to the park’s marina to see the various boats that owners dock here. Some are decked out for the holidays.

Boats decked out for the holidays at the marina

Boats decked out for the holidays at the marina

Although, I didn’t stay overnight on this visit, I have in the past. Here’s where friendly is not just a mood, it’s a lifestyle. Also, the price is right. Rooms right now are $59-$69 for the rack rate. Rates are seasonal. Pets are welcome for an extra $30. No more than two pets per room, and there are guidelines to follow.

You can make reservations at the Kentucky State Park reservation page or call 606/889-1790.

Post and photos courtesy of Jamie Rhein

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