Red River Gorge
The Red River Gorge is close to the small town of Slade Kentucky. It is situated in the Daniel Boone National Forest and nearby is the Natural Bridge State Park.
The Daniel Boone National Forest is a name that immediately conjures up images of the old American Frontier with log cabins set in beautiful dense woods.
That image is very close to the truth.
Incredible scenery and loads of activities mean that there is something here for everyone to enjoy.
There is canoeing, fishing, biking, rock climbing, paintballing, camping and tree canopy zip wires. The Kentucky hiking trails here are among the best in the state.
The Red River Gorge has been designated a Geological Area. This is because the local sandstone rocks have been carved by wind and water over millions of years into the most fantastic shapes. There are over 80 natural stone arches in the gorge area. This is more than any other place apart from the Rocky Mountains.
The Red River Gorge itself is a wild and rugged place and can only be reached either on foot or by canoe or kayak. In 1993 nearly twenty miles of the Red River was awarded the status of a National Wild and Scenic River.
The Red River begins in the western part of Wolfe County, Kentucky and then flows west toward the Kentucky River. The Gorge itself can be split into two different sections.
The upper gorge starts to the north east of the town of Campton and finishes at the county line of Wolfe and Menifee counties.
Considering this is a well populated part of the state, this region of the Red River Gorge is pretty remote.
The lower section begins at the Wolfe - Menifee county line and
goes almost to Indian Creek in Powell County.
The Upper part of the gorge is definitely the most dramatic.
The sandstone cliffs of the gorge rise directly out of the swiftly flowing waters of the Red River, which in some places, is only a few metres wide.
It is because these two sections are so different that The Red River Gorge is such a great place for canoeists of all levels.
The upper gorge gives the experienced canoeist the adrenaline rush they seek, while even the complete novice can safely paddle the lower section.
These same sandstone cliffs make The Red River Gorge area one of the best known rock climbing sites in the world.
"The Red," as it is known, attracts climbers from far and wide. Many of the cliffs lie within the Daniel Boone National Forest area, while others are to be found on two private reserves maintained for rock climbers and nature lovers.
Obviously the best way to enjoy the superb scenery and get close to nature is by hiking and primitive camping. But don`t worry, for much of the region you won`t need to be a skilled backwoodsman like old Daniel Boone.
There are over 60 miles of marked trails. There is also a section of the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail within the gorge area.
This is a 269 mile long path that crosses the whole length of The Daniel Boone National Forest. Hiking in Kentucky, through these wonderful woods, can really bring you close to nature.
Perhaps the most interesting way to enter the Red River Gorge area is along Route KY77 and through the 900 foot long Nada Tunnel. Completed in 1912, the tunnel is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Only 13 feet high and 12 feet wide, it was built to get timber from a logging operation in the gorge, to a huge sawmill in nearby Clay City.
Incredibly, the first load of logs became jammed in the tunnel and had to be blasted free with dynamite!
The Nada Tunnel was originally designed for a narrow gauge railroad, but today it is a one-way section of a two lane road.
Watch out for the headlights of oncoming vehicles!
The Red River itself is prone to flooding. In 1962, after the worst floods for more than 100 years, the U.S. Congress agreed to the call for a dam to be built.
What followed was years of protests by action groups . This finally led to the Red River Gorge receiving protected status under the National Wild and Scenic River System.
And wild and scenic it surely is!
In the middle part of the Gorge you will find the designated Geological Area which is run by the Forest Service. It is around here that you will find many of the unique rock formations that has made the area famous and a major tourist attraction.
Bordering the Red River Gorge geographical area to the west is the Natural Bridge State Park.
The highlight of the park is, of course, the naturally formed stone bridge it is named after. It spans 78 feet and stands 65 feet high and is an unmissable sight. Of all the Kentucky State Parks, the Natural Bridge Kentucky
park has dramatic arches and scenery like no other.
Visitors can catch a chair lift called the "Sky Lift" up to this wonderful sight.
To the west of the gorge area, and visible from the top of another wonderful rock formation called "Sky Bridge," is the "Clifty Wilderness." This is 13,300 acres of Wilderness renowned for its many sandstone cliffs.
All you will need if you go into this area is a sense of adventure, a good map and plenty of back woods skills.
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