Copperas Falls, Red River Gorge, Kentucky.

Best Resources for a Waterfall Hunter in Kentucky

I'm sure by now it's no surprise that I'm addicted to visiting the many waterfalls that can be found across Kentucky. One of the most common questions I get asked when I share an image of a waterfall is how you can get to the particular falls. Like many landscape photographers these days, I rarely give out specific information about where a photo was taken. This is to help protect these areas from abuse and overcrowding.

Pine Island Double Falls, Kentucky.
I cannot over state how many times I've been asked how to get to Pine Island Double Falls!

What I'll do instead, however, is share some of the great resources that are available to the would-be waterfall hunter in Kentucky. So, without further ado, here's my list of the best resources available to waterfall hunter in Kentucky!

The Kentucky Waterfall Database

The waterfall map on the Kentucky Waterfall Database Website.

No list of Kentucky waterfall resources would be complete without mentioning the Kentucky Waterfall Database. This is THE database for waterfalls in Kentucky and is an invaluable resource to waterfallers in the Bluegrass state. At the time of writing this, the database contains 707 waterfalls, with 616 of those being present on the wonderful waterfall map.

This website isn't going to hold your hand and give you turn by turn directions to a waterfall, which is part of the reason I love it. This helps to ensure that the people visiting these falls are at the necessary skill level to reach them safely and responsibly (for example, many of these waterfalls are located off-trail). What you do get is all of the information you could possible need to be able to locate them.

The KWAL Facebook Group

What on Earth is KWAL you ask? Well, it stands for Kentucky Waterfalls, Arches and Landscapes and it's by far one of my favorite groups on Facebook! The name is pretty self explanatory on this one. The group is a great place to see some of the amazing natural beauty that Kentucky has to offer and to get inspiration for your next excursion. Myself and most other Kentucky based landscape photographers frequent the group.

Pooch's Turtle Falls, Red River Gorge, Kentucky.
Pooch's Turtle Falls, located in the Red River Gorge, is a great example of a waterfall that thousands of people walk by (or rather, over) every year without necessarily even realizing it.

USGS Topo Maps Downloader

An absolutely essential tool for any backcountry traveler, especially those who may be wandering off-trail in search of waterfalls, is a good set of topographic maps for the area. Luckily for us in the United States, we can freely download the defacto standard topo maps from the United States Geological Survey. They provide a handy map tool that lets you browse to the areas you want to download so that you can easily find the quads you need and download them.

Topographic Map Skills Rusty?

Luckily I've written a free guide to help you with just that!

CalTopo

CalTopo Slope Angle Shading Layer

Paper maps are great (and essential for safe backcountry travel), but what about digital mapping tools? Well, for that it's hard to beat CalTopo (though I have been recently warming up to the planning tools built into Gaia GPS, but that's a different topic). CalTopo is a fantastic tool that lets you view, build, and customize your own topographic maps. There are seriously way too many things you can do with the software to list them out here. If you need a good introduction perhaps I could recommend checking out the blog post I wrote on the subject.

LIDAR Mapping

I was hesitant to mention this one since I don't intend to get too much into LIDAR in this post. It's not because LIDAR isn't useful (quite the opposite, actually). It's just that it's a topic that is far too large to dive into in this post. If there is interest, however, I could workup a dedicated post on the subject.

Resolution Falls, Red River Gorge, Kentucky.
Resolution Falls, located in the Red River Gorge, is an example of a waterfall I located using LIDAR.

So, what is LIDAR mapping? Well, it's a method of mapping terrain by bouncing lasers off the ground. This is useful because it allows us to build extremely detailed elevation maps for an area. The maps produced are so detailed that you can often make out trails and old logging roads in the terrain! As such, it's a great tool for not only planning routes to a waterfall but for finding new waterfalls. It really is a fantastic tool!

I think an example speaks for itself as to how powerful LIDAR mapping can be.

As a bonus that you may not realize, the Kentucky Waterfall Map, mentioned earlier in this post, has its own LIDAR layer ;)

Google Maps Aerial View

So you've found a waterfall, prepared your maps, and found the best route down to it. Now, where are you going to park? What does the general area actually look like? These are many other questions are easily answered using the aerial view in Google Maps. To be honest, I don't think this resource needs much more of an introduction, but I figured it's worth pointing out. On a related note, Google Earth is another fantastic tool!

Nickle & Dime Falls, Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky.
Nickle & Dime Falls, located in the Beaver Creek Wilderness of the Daniel Boone National Forest, is a great example of a waterfall that doesn't have an obvious parking location.

Explore DBNF

Explore DBNF is a website I created to help people get out and explore the Daniel Boone National Forest. At the time of this writing it doesn't have a huge amount of content, but I am working on expanding it and have some plans for it over the course of 2020 (assuming Covid-19 doesn't continue to throw a wrench in them!).

The Community

You may recall that at the beginning of this post I mentioned that myself and many other photographers don't just give out the locations of natural formations anymore. This isn't to say that we won't share with anyone and want to just selfishly keep these wonders to ourselves (well, at least we're not all like that). It's just that we aren't going to give out the information to any old person who we don't have confidence we can't trust to treat the place with respect.

Funston Arch Complex, Private Property, Kentucky.
The Funston Arch Complex, located on private property, is a great example of why the community is so protective of locations. We can no longer visit this wonder because of one irresponsible member of the community.

In other words, I'm saying that you can't approach a photographer who you don't know and haven't had any interactions with and just expect that they're going to hand you all of the information that you're looking for. Like so many other communities, the Kentucky landscape communities are far more open to sharing information with you when you've built up a reputation with them.

By far the best way to learn the locations of stuff is to get involved in the communities and start making friends! Not only are you going to learn some new stuff, but you'll meet some great people in the process!

That's All Folks

That's it (for now)! Hopefully these resources will help answer the relentless question of "How do I find waterfalls in Kentucky" or "Pretty picture, where is this located?".

What about other resources? Is there one you absolutely love that I didn't mention here? I would love to hear about them in the comments below!


Resolution Falls, Red River Gorge, Kentucky.

Discovering Two New Waterfalls in The Red River Gorge

I've been meaning to write about this trip I took on New Years Day for awhile now. Nearly three months into the year isn't too late, is it?

Anyway, I got 2019 started off right by going to check out two spots in Kentucky's Red River Gorge that looked curious on LiDAR. In fact, they looked an awful lot like waterfalls!

The result was two newly documented waterfalls. It doesn't appear that anyone has been to them in quite some time, so it's likely that we are the first people to photograph them (at least with a digital camera)!

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Add a Custom Map Source To Gaia GPS [IOS]

Adding a Custom Map To The IOS Version of Gaia GPS

I am a huge fan of Gaia GPS. I use it for everything from GPS navigation, to logging my hikes, cataloging the various points of interest I come across on my adventures, and plenty of other things in between. It’s a truly wonderful piece of software, where most things are extremely well thought out and easy to use.

That is, except for adding a custom map source in the IOS version of Gaia.

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Topographic Map Basics

The Basics of Reading a Topographic Map

In this tutorial, I will be teaching you the basics of how to read and understand a topographic map. This is a skill that is critically important for anyone who plans on venturing out into the backcountry. Not only is it important that you always carry a paper, hard-copy map of where you will be going, it’s also important that you know how to read it!

This article will teach you the basics, but reading and understanding topographic maps is a skill. Like any skill, it takes practice to fully master it. Simply reading a guide or watching a video will not be enough to fully understand it, so, make sure you practice!

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Heat Exhaustion and How To Prevent It

The Dangers of Heat Exhaustion and How to Avoid It

We've finally gotten back to that time of year where we can ditch our heavy winter coats and everything starts to turn green again. The official start of summer is quickly approaching us. Despite it still technically being spring, however, the temperatures sure make it feel like summer!

In fact, here in Kentucky, it has been hot to the point of being potentially dangerous. That's why I want to take some time to discuss heat exhaustion. This is one of the biggest threats to hikers this time of year, so it's important to know what it is, how to recognize it and what steps to take to treat it and even avoid it altogether. 

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The Eleventh Essential.

The Eleventh Essential and Why We Need It

I apologize for the lax in updates over the past couple of weeks. I've been super busy getting caught up on all of my Serial Photog related work after my week-long trip to Florida and Tennessee. That's not what this post is about though.

What I want to discuss here is a cause called The 11th Essential. The premise of this initiative is really quite simple. We've all heard of the 10 essentials. The idea here is to add a trash bag as an eleventh essential.

Not convinced? Then I encourage you to take a moment to read the basis of this argument.

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My Top 5 Favorite Natural Arches in Kentucky

5 of My Favorite Natural Arches in Kentucky

Kentucky is just packed full of natural arches. In fact, it's ranked either second or third in the United States for most number of natural arches. We are behind only Utah and possibly Arizona. East of the Mississippi, however, we are ranked number one! 

That means that there are hundreds (if not thousands) of natural arches to be seen in the state! Many of these are off designated trails and seldom visited. It's up to the intrepid explorer to put in the time, energy and research to find these hidden treasures. In this spirit of exploration, I'm not going to spoil the locations of these arches here. I'll leave that up to you ;) 

So, without further ado, here are my five favorite natural arches in Kentucky that I've found so far!

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Copperas Falls, Red River Gorge, Kentucky

My Minor Waterfall Obsession

If you look at my Instagram feed, Facebook Page or anywhere else that I tend to post my photos, you'll know that here lately I've had a small obsession with waterfalls. There's just something about a cascade of water that is awe-inspiring and that leaves me no choice but to photograph it. Oh, and my home state of Kentucky just so happens to be full of wonderful waterfalls! I figured I'd take some time to show off some of my more recent waterfall shots, and maybe tell some of the stories behind them.

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3 Reasons to Adventure in Winter.

3 Reasons Why I Love Winter Adventures

Tell most people that you are planning on embarking on a wintertime adventure and you're likely to get the same response: "There's something wrong with you". Most people just don't get it. I, myself, understand it. In fact, I actually love adventuring during the winter and you should too.
Not convinced? Well, here are my top 3 reasons why I love adventuring in winter.

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Copperas Falls Frozen.

Hiking to a Completely Frozen Copperas Falls in Red River Gorge

We've been in the midst of a deep freeze here in the Bluegrass state, and that has meant that the waterfalls across Kentucky have been freezing. Copperas Falls in the Red River Gorge portion of the Daniel Boone National Forest was certainly no exception! For weeks I had been seeing hints online that the falls off Copperas Creek had frozen to the point of being a solid pillar of ice. Some were even suggesting that it's the most the falls have frozen in several years. This was just too good of an opportunity to pass up! I messaged @Brian2774 on Instagram and we made plans to head out to the falls shortly after daybreak on Saturday morning.

This was sure to be an epic trip!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ScWqFUPUOE4

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McCammon Falls Frozen

A Frozen McCammon Falls - Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky

The temperatures have been downright cold here lately in Kentucky! To most people, this would mean that it's time to stay inside under a blanket drinking a hot cup of coffee. Not for me, however! I decided to venture out and see some of the many waterfalls The Bluegrass has to offer.
Throughout the day I hit up several waterfalls. Before heading home I decided to stop and check out McCammon Falls. Much to my delight, the falls had a decent amount of ice on them and I was able to capture this image that I'm moderately happy with.

Although it may not be a portfolio worthy shot, I'm still happy with it, which is a good thing considering what I went through to get it! The process of getting to the base of these falls requires climbing down into a fairly steep gorge. The climb down went fine, but on the way out I managed to slip and bang my knee up pretty good. Nothing all that serious, but enough for it to be sore the next day!


Hollow Rock Arch

Hollow Rock Arch - Daniel Boone National Forest

This past Saturday I went arch hunting in the southern portion of the Daniel Boone National Forest with a fellow photographer, Mike Cochis. All in all, we visited 7 arches. Amongst these arches was Hollow Rock Arch.
Neither of us had been to this arch previously and Mike had it on good authority that his coordinates to the arch were incorrect but in the right general ballpark. We set out looking for the arch. It didn't take long until we found it.

Simply looking at pictures online (and seeing the arch from a distance), we didn't think it was going to be very impressive. After crossing to the other side, however, we discovered that we were wrong in that regard.

Unfortunately, Hollow Rock Arch is in an area plagued with vandalism. It's for this reason that I will not be sharing the exact location of this arch.


Snowy Cades Cove

Making the Best of a Failed Photo Shoot - Smoky Mountains, December 2017

I'd been obsessively checking the weather reports for weeks in advance. It looked like I was finally going to have a weather window to get the sunrise shot I'd been envisioning. The plan was relatively straight-forward. I'd drive down to the Great Smoky Mountains on Friday and get on the trail up to the summit of Mt. Leconte no later than 3 a.m. on Saturday. Then I'd simply wait around and photograph the sunrise from Myrtle Point. How hard could it be?

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