History, Culture & the Outdoors

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Featured Review
Red River Gorge Geological Area
an impressive sandstone arche at the Sky Bridge Recreation Area 8.00 Kentucky ratingStar
Red River Gorge Geological Area guyonthego

Established in 1976, the Red River Gorge Geological Area is a 29,000 acre district in the Daniel Boone National Forest and is best known for over 100 natural stone arches. There are a variety of recreational options here including: a nature museum, scenic drives, hiking trails, rock climbing and whitewater rafting. The gorge is most popular in fall to see the leaves change colors and also can get busy on holiday weekends in summer and during spring break.

The rock formations formed 300 million years ago when sediments collected in an ancient sea and formed sandstone rock. After the sea receded and geologic uplift elevated and fractured the rocks, erosion formed the natural arches and jagged cliffs. A dam was proposed for the Red River in the 1960s. It was opposed though by conservationists, and the issue was not resolved until 1993, when the river received federal protection.

The first visit took place in winter and a second in summer. Winter worked better for privacy though roads may close due to ice and snow. The Gladie Environmental Center was visited in summer and is worth checking out to learn more about the area’s natural history. There is an old barn and a restored pioneer house at the center. The house is rarely open due to staffing limits, but the barn was reasonably interesting. The best place to see arches is at the Sky Bridge Recreation Area, which is a paved road with a number of overlooks. An easy ¾ mile trail offers additional views. A longer and more secluded 3 mile trail is at the Gray’s Arch. This trail was overgrown in places but was still worthwhile to experience the gorge environment. It included a touching private memorial to a man who fell from the arch and died. Further south was an easy one mile trail at the Hidden Arch. It was similar to the other trails but would make sense if you want to see natural arches in that part of the forest. With a variety of stone formations and recreational activities, Red River Gorge made for an enjoyable excursion on both visits. Most people will enjoy it for the arches and views, and a visit is recommended.
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July 2017
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