Fall Arch Hunting in The Red River Gorge


It's finally time for another adventure! This time around I decided to get out into the Gorge to enjoy some of the fall colors and to hunt for some new to me arches.

Along the way, we take a look at Rockhouse Pillar Arch, Rockhouse Arch, Turtleback Arch, Pooch's Turtle Falls, and a complete moonshine still.

The sunset from Auxier Ridge, Red River Gorge, Kentucky.

A Few Recent Images from Auxier Ridge in the Red River Gorge

Over the past few months I have spent a fair bit of time out on Auxier Ridge in the Red River Gorge portion of Kentucky's Daniel Boone National Forest. Despite the area featuring some of the best views in the entire Bluegrass, I rarely spend this much time out there during the warmer months since it's quite the popular area. This year, however, has been an exception.

Over the course of these quick trips out onto the ridge I've captured a few new images. Let's take a look!

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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 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.

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!

Lower Nada Twin Arch, Red River Gorge, Kentucky.

Lower Nada Twin Arch

Lower Nada Twin Arch, Red River Gorge, Kentucky.

Located on private property just outside the Red River Gorge is a lesser-visited set of Twin Arches: The Nada Twin Arches. This unique geological feature is composed of an upper and lower (pictured here) arch. What really struck me about the lower arch was the brilliance of the reds and oranges in the rock. I was completely awestruck by it!

Note: This arch is on private property owned by Red River Gorge Getaways.

The Milky Way from Chimney Rock, Red River Gorge

The Milky Way as seen from Chimney Rock, Red River Gorge, Kentucky.

This past Thursday I met up with my buddy Josh Lowe and headed out to Chimney Rock in Kentucky's Red River Gorge to shoot the Milky Way. Other than a few clouds along the horizon, conditions turned out pretty great!

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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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My Top 9 Shots of 2018

Well, 2018 is quickly coming to a close. Just as I did last year, I want to take some time to look back at my favorite shots from the year. So, without further ado, let’s jump right in and take a look at the shots!

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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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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!


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Top 10 Shots of 2017

My Top 10 Favorite Images from 2017

2017 is quickly coming to an end. This means that it's time to look back over the past year and pick out my top 10 favorite shots from the last year.
2017 has been a great year full of adventure. I have advanced more in my photography over this last year than I think I have in all the past years that I've been heading out with my camera. To say I'm happy with my progress would be an understatement! I've had the chance to photograph some great places and even made a few awesome new friends along the way.

Enough of that, though. It's time to jump right on into my top 10 favorite images from 2017!

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Sky View Arch, Red River Gorge, Kentucky.

Sky View Arch - A Hidden Gem in Red River Gorge

Skyview Arch, Red River Gorge, Kentucky
Skyview Arch, Red River Gorge, Kentucky

Visitors to Kentucky's Red River Gorge know that, at this point, there are very few truly hidden spots left in the area. There are some, however, and Sky View Arch is one of them.

If I were a betting man I'd say that this arch was formed out of a rock shelter whose roof partially collapsed. I found this arch quite reminiscent of Hopewell Arch, with the exception that this one has very few signs of visitors. There is virtually no worn path out to this spot and no vandalism that I noticed. It's for these reasons that I'll be keeping the location of this one a mystery!

Two Weekends on Ravens Rock

Two Weekends on Ravens Rock in Red River Gorge

My two previous weekends have been spent on top of an amazing rock formation located in Kentucky's Red River Gorge; Ravens Rock. This large rock formation can be seen throughout The Gorge (especially from Auxier Ridge), but people seldom go up there and take advantage of its breathtaking views. This means that Ravens Rock is a great place to find some solitude! I visited Ravens on two separate trips, a quick trip to photograph the sunset, and an overnight where I photographed the sunset, milky way, and the sunrise.

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My First Attempts at Astrophotography

My plans for this past weekend originally included heading out to the Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia for a backpacking trip. Unfortunately, however, events unfolded that led me to cancel this trip. Such is life.
The upside was that I had three days with absolutely nothing planned. Rather than sit around and lament the fact that I couldn't go on my backpacking trip, I decided to throw my camera gear in the car and head down south to The Gorge. This wouldn't be my typical photo session though. This time the goal was to shoot for the stars... literally!

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