Boone Salt Springs

Historical Marker #151 in Floyd County notes the discovery of a salt spring by famous explorer Daniel Boone. Boone found the spring during an extended hunting expedition into what would become Kentucky.

Salt was a vital commodity in colonial America. Its ability to preserve food in an era long before refrigeration ensured its high demand. As important as salt was in the colonies, it was even more important on the frontier, where access to meat was more limited. Fortunately, salt deposits were quite common on the Kentucky frontier.

However, finding salt reserves (often in ground surface springs called "licks") and then rendering the mineral into a usable form was as tedious process. In organized operations, when workers located a salt lick, they first drilled through the mud and sand in a nearby creek bed until they struck the salt water. Extracted through pipes, the water was pumped by either man or horse power into large salt kettles. Weighing up to 90 pounds, the kettles were boiled in wood-fired furnaces built on the ground. As the saline water boiled, it evaporated, leaving salt residue behind. This long-drawn-out process often produced 25 to 50 pounds of salt per 1,000 gallons of salt water.

Early Kentucky salt deposits were often found in the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern part of the state. Large operations such as the Goose Creek salt works in Clay County provided nineteenth century Kentuckians with the vital product. The area around Boone's Salt Spring was eventually settled by James Young who opened a salt mining business. The operation finally became known as Middle Creek Salt Works. The salt mined from this location was sold to early pioneer settlers and was later used by both Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War.