My Bernheim Story: Claude Stephens

By Jenny Zeller

Charles, Barbara and Claude Stephens. Photo by Ed Stephens.

Bernheim – A Lifetime Adventure

In one way or another I’ve been connected to Bernheim my ENTIRE life. There are photographs of my mother, Barbara Stephens, at Bernheim when she was pregnant with me. My first real memories are of family trips to Bernheim as a kid. We would travel from Louisville in an old Chevy station wagon with parts of two or three families stuffed in. It was back when the back seat in station wagons folded up to face the rear of the car. We would sing stupid songs as we traveled south on the Kentucky Turnpike before it was I-65.  There wasn’t an exit at Bernheim where one is now so we would get off at the toll booth at Shepherdsville and take county roads. We knew when we went under the train tracks on the west side of Shepherdsville near the Salt River we were getting close. Often a first stop would be the Visitor Center which is now the Education Center. We would listen to bird calls on little cone shaped speakers you would hold up to your ear. There was a bee hive in the Visitor Center and a board with about 30 different sections of wood. That’s where I first learned to discern the colors and ring patterns of different tree species, a talent I have maintained. Then the kids would roll down the front hill while the adults took the many steps from the parking area to the building.  Those steps are no longer there but I can still picture them in my mind.  Then it was off to one of the trails. Our favorites were always the ones that had some sort of access to the creeks where we would muck about stacking stones, damming up rivulets or looking for crinoid fossils.  We would take fossils home and sometimes string them up to make totem necklaces of sorts.

Feeding the ducks. Lake Nevin, 1960’s. Claude Stephens with Greg and LeAnn Copenhefer.

Now I collect a paycheck for coming to Bernheim. I feel very fortunate to have had a lifelong relationship with this amazing place.  I am certain that these many acres have helped shape me as a person. They still are.



In honor of Bernheim’s 90th anniversary in 2019, we are making a conscious effort to collect stories and memories of Bernheim. In addition to your stories, both old and new, we are seeking any photographs, video footage and historical information you may have about Bernheim from the past 90 years.  Please let us know if you or someone you know has a great Bernheim story to share by contacting us at

Please note: Any information provided to grants Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest the permission to reuse this information in print and/or digital formats, as well as other public display for the promotion of its 90th anniversary in 2019 and beyond, to further the efforts of our mission in connecting people with nature.

Our Newsletter

Sign up for the Bernheim Buzz

Get the "buzz" of Bernheim activity weekly in your inbox by signing up below.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.