Menu Close

Exploring Blue Heron: A Journey into Kentucky’s Abandoned Coal Mining Town

The abandoned coal mining town of Blue Heron, also known as Mine 18, is a fascinating piece of Kentucky’s history. Located within the wilds of Big South Fork, Blue Heron was once a thriving community that played a significant role in the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company’s operations.​

Originally established in 1937, the Blue Heron mines operated until 1962 when profitability declined.​ Today, the remnants of this ghost town serve as an interpretive history area within the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, offering visitors a glimpse into the past.​

When exploring Blue Heron, visitors can witness the ghost reconstruction of the town’s complex, known as Mine 18.​ Walking through these metal shells of buildings, which were recreated to closely resemble the original structures, transports you back in time. Each building is themed around a different aspect of life in the community, such as the school, church, or daily household life.​

One of the most fascinating aspects of Blue Heron is the opportunity to listen to interviews with former residents, thanks to the Barthell Coal Company Oral History Project.​ These first-hand accounts provide invaluable insights into what life was like in this secluded coal mining community.

A visit to Blue Heron wouldn’t be complete without exploring the surrounding area. The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area offers a 6.​4-mile Blue Heron Loop Hike٫ which takes you through the scenic wilderness.​ As you hike٫ you’ll stumble upon the developed area of the ghost town٫ providing a unique juxtaposition of nature and history.

For history enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike, Blue Heron offers a captivating experience.​ Stepping into this ghost town allows you to immerse yourself in the stories, struggles, and triumphs of the people who once called it home.​ Whether you’re intrigued by coal mining history or simply enjoy exploring forgotten places, a visit to Blue Heron is sure to leave a lasting impression.​