Pollen grains and spores, plant macrofossils, and sponge spicules from a 7.2-m sediment core from Jackson Pond dating back to 20,000 yr B.P. are the basis for new interpretations of vegetational, limnological, and climatic changes in central Kentucky. During the full-glacial interval (20,400 to 16,800 yr B.P.) upland vegetation was closed spruce forest with jack pine as a subdominant. Aquatic macrophyte and sponge assemblages indicate that the site was a relatively deep, open pond with low organic productivity. During late-glacial time (16,800 to 11,300 yr B.P.) spruce populations continued to dominate while jack pine declined and sedge increased as the vegetation became a more open, taiga-like boreal woodland. Between 11,300 and 10,000 yr B.P., abundances of spruce and oak pollen oscillated reciprocally, possibly reflecting the Younger Dryas oscillation as boreal taxa underwent a series of declines and increases at the southern limit of their ranges before becoming extirpated and replaced by deciduous forest. In the early Holocene (10,000 to 7300 yr B.P.) a mesic deciduous woodland developed; it was replaced by xeric oak-hickory forest during the middle Holocene between 7300 and 3900 yr B.P. Grass increased after 3900 yr B.P., indicating that the presettlement vegetation mosaic of mixed deciduous forest and prairie (the “Kentucky Barrens”) became established in central Kentucky after the Hypsithermal interval. Sponge spicules increased in number during the Holocene, reflecting reduced water depths in the pond. Sediment infilling, as well as climatic warming and the expansion of fringing shrub thickets, increased nutrient and habitat availability for freshwater sponges.