Kentucky’s Natural Bridges… Plural!

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Natural Bridge of Kentucky
Natural Bridge of Kentucky

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The Commonwealth of Virginia may boast of having a “natural bridge” once owned by Thomas Jefferson, but the Commonwealth of Kentucky can boast of having more than a dozen naturally occurring bridges!

Natural Bridge of Kentucky
The Bluegrass State’s most famous geological arch is found in the Daniel Boone National Forest, east of Lexington.  There, the sandstone “Natural Bridge of Kentucky” rises some 65 ft. over the mountainside, spanning nearly 80 ft. across.

This Kentucky gem became one of the Commonwealth’s four original state parks in 1926.

In addition to the natural bridge, which hikers can actually walk around atop… or for that matter allow their feet to dangle over the edge (which we would strongly discourage!), the Natural Bridge State Resort Park is also home to several other unique sandstone rock formations, including the Balanced Rock (a huge block of sandstone balanced on the edge of a cliff near the Natural Bridge).

In the early days of the Park, it was called the Sphinx because, when viewed from the correct angle, it crudely resembles the Sphinx in Egypt.  Although it is now called the Balanced Rock, it is in fact a pedestal rock – a single piece of stone that has weathered in such a fashion that its midsection is narrower than its cap or its base. This formation is one of the biggest and most perfectly formed examples of a pedestal rock east of the Rocky Mountains

The 2,250 acre park offers more than 20 miles of hiking trails; however, a sky lift provides a convenient access point to the natural bridge for individuals unwilling to spend the entire day hiking.

Creelsboro Natural Bridge

Creeksboro Natural Arch, courtesy Pen Waggener
Creeksboro Natural Arch, courtesy Pen Waggener

Another Kentucky natural arch may be found in Russell County’s Creelsboro Natural Bridge, also known as Rockhouse.

Located approximately 7 miles downstream from Lake Cumberland’s Wolf Creek Dam, the Rockhouse has a span of 104 ft., making it one of the largest natural bridges in the nation.

First discovered in 1770 by a group of hunters, Rockhouse was designated a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. National Park Service in 1987.

Koger Arch

Photo Courtesy, USFS
Photo Courtesy, USFS

Koger Arch, a 54 ft. wide, 18 feet high and 91 feet across arch just south of Whitley City.  This arch is slightly harder to reach than the others, but well worth journey.

Carter Caves State Resort Park
With over 30 miles of hiking trails, Carter Caves State Resort park presents the hiker with seven natural bridges throughout the park. The Cascade Trail is a three-quarter mile trail passing through Box Canyon. The Three Bridges Trail winds three and a quarter miles and includes the park’s largest natural bridge, the Smokey Bridge, which stands an impressive 90 feet (27 m) high and 120 feet (37 m) wide. This trail also passes by Fern Bridge and Raven Bridge as it meanders through the park. The half-mile Natural Bridge Trail passes beneath a third natural bridge, the only one in Kentucky that is paved and supports traffic.

The bottom line is this – Virginia may have a natural bridge, but Kentucky has several natural bridges!

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