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Wildlife Center an Impressive Tribute to Salato

The Dr. James C. Salato Wildlife Education Center in Frankfort was bustling with activity on a recent July Saturday. The helpful staff at the Welcome Desk answered questions and provided assistance to a steady stream of visitors. Officials estimate between 500 and 600 people stop by each Saturday and Sunday during the summer, and even more on weekdays when school is in session and student groups start visiting.

Few Adair Countians have any major public projects named for them, and Dr. James Salato has two. In addition to the Frankfort Wildlife Center, the Adair County Health Department is officially housed in "The James C. Salato, M.D., Medical Building."

Dr. Salato

Dr. Salato had as devoted a following as any physician in Columbia ever had. He was known as the best diagnostician among the doctors, and long-loyal patients of other doctors would go to him when they were stumped. He treated all kinds of ailments and injuries, did surgery, and made house calls. "I knew the county pretty well back then," Mrs. Salato said. "Jimmy would have me go along for company to little communities like Chance, and Breeding and Gradyville, when he went out in the evenings. You soon learn a lot about the county doing that."

Dr. Salato also delivered many babies in Columbia, back in the days when natives of Adair County were born here. Early on, many of the deliveries were in the homes of the mothers, but he later delivered babies at Campbellsville's Rosary Hospital, and still later, at Adair Memorial Hospital. Mrs. Salato won't venture a guess on how many, but the number would easily be several hundred.

He was active in local civic clubs; helped found Columbia's first and only Catholic Church, Good Shepherd; was an sports fan, an avid hunter and fisherman, and was on the State Wildlife Board. He retired from his medical practice in 1984. Dr. Salato died in 1990, and is buried in Columbia's Haven Hill Cemetery.

While almost every Columbian remembers Dr. Salato for what he did for the town, fewer are aware of the work he did for Kentucky. He was a Wildlife Commissioner for an unprecedented 28 years, and is said to have never missed a single commission meeting. He is remembered by people as far away as Ashland and Paducah for his advocacy, and the Wildlife Center in Frankfort was named for him "[to honor] Dr. Salato's lifelong devotion and service to the Department and to the people and resources of Kentucky."

If you decide to visit the Center:

Inside the Salato Center, visitors can view an Eastern Forest diorama, learn about efforts to protect Kentucky's streams, and view acquariums full of native fish, including bass, catfish, and unbelievably large bluegill. In addition, displays show native plant species and their most aggressive transplanted rivals, and tanks hold a number of native reptiles. On the paved trails outside the center, visitors can see bears, birds, and bison in large, natural habitats, or view numerous native gardens.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Game Farm on which the Salato Center is located also includes two lakes for youth fishing, several picnic shelters with outdoor grills, and an accessible pier.

On I64, exit 53B is marked with directions to the center. However, from Columbia it's probably easier to go through Russell Springs and then take 127 North all the way to US 60 just outside Frankfort. Go West on 60 about 1.7 miles and then turn right at the entrance of the KDFWR Game Farm and proceed another 1/2 mile to the Salato Wildlife Center.

Take note that the turn from US60 is slightly hard to spot. A small brown sign marks the turn to the game farm, and it's easy to miss. Should you need to ask directions, remember the experiences of the late Hartzel Hodges of Columbia, who once asked directions to the Salato Center from a native Frankforter. The man looked at him in puzzlement until he added "You know, the Wildlife Center." Then the native said, "Oh, yes! You mean the Suh-lotto Center..."

When to visit:
Admission to the center is free, and while closed on Mondays, they are open almost every other day of the year, including July 4, and Labor Day and Memorial Day.

  • Winter Hours (Oct. 1 - April 30)
  • Tues. - Fri.: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
  • Saturday: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
  • Sunday: 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.

  • Summer Hours (May 1 - Sept. 30)
  • Tues. - Fri.: 9 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
  • Saturday: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
  • Sunday: 1 p.m. - 6 p.m

For more information about the Salato Wildlife Education Center, including a map and directions from major interstates, visit their web page on the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife web site.

To Support the Center:
The Salato Wildlife Education Center is funded by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and boater registrations, and by donations sent to:

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Foundation
#1 Game Farm Rd

This story was posted on 2004-07-26 13:50:33
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Salato Wildlife Education Center

2004-07-26 - Frankfort, KY - Photo Staff. The Salato Wildlife Center, just outside Frankfort, KY, is named for late Columbia physician Dr. James C. Salato.
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Dr. James C. Salato

2004-07-26 - Frankfort, KY - Photo Staff. This photo of the late Dr. James C. Salato graces the lobby of the Salato Wildlife Education Center near Frankfort.
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2004-07-26 - Frankfort, KY - Photo Staff. Trails outside the Salato Wildlife Center take visitors to a number of natural habitat settings, showcasing Kentucky's biodiversity.
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Black Bear

2004-07-26 - Frankfort, KY - Photo Staff. Bear roam in a large outdoor habitat.
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2004-07-26 - Frankfort, KY - Photo Staff. Bison (not Buffalo) roam an outdoor exhibit at the Salato Wildlife Center sponsored by Kentucky's Buffalo Trace Distillery.
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Genuine Wildcat

2004-07-26 - Frankfort, KY - Photo Staff. Bobcats populate another outdoor exhibit at the Salato Wildlife Center. The male of the exhibit is "Blue," the official UK Wildcat.
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Fishing Lake

2004-07-26 - Frankfort, KY - Photo Staff. The 132-acre KDFWR Game Farm also includes shaded picnic areas and two youth fishing lakes.
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