For many Lexingtonians, October means hiking season. 🥾
And Kentucky’s Red River Gorge is a premiere destination for hikers, stargazers, and those looking for an adventure.
Fun fact: Kentucky’s Red River Gorge is home to the second largest concentration of natural arches in the US, second only to Utah.
But what if we told you that, in the not-so-distant past, the Red River Gorge was almost completely destroyed? Would you believe us?
- Need to know: In 1962, the Red River flooded — causing an event that would come to be known as “The Great Flood of Clay City.”
- The event caused community members + government officials to begin advocating for the construction of a flood control dam.
- Need to know: Congress approved the motion to build a dam + began to provide funding.
- Details: The $12-million dam was supposed to serve three major purposes:
- Flood control
- Water supply
- Effects: If completed, the dam would have created a 2,100-acre lake that submerged two-thirds of The Red River Gorge underwater.
The voices of the Gorge
- Date: Nov. 18, 1967
- Need to know: Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, an adamant conservationist, led a group of hikers + journalists on a two-mile hike through the Clifty Wilderness portion of Red River Gorge — expressing his concern for the dam while hiking.
- Date: 1971
- Need to know: UK hired Wendell Berry, a local farmer + environmentalist, to write a book called “The Unforeseen Wilderness” to advocate for the preservation of the gorge.
- In 1993, the Red River was entered into the National Wild and Scenic River system, preserving its natural beauty in its entirety.
- There is now an established hiking trail that passes right through the heart of the gorge. It’s called the “Douglas Trail” in honor of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas.