Natural Bridge State Resort Park
Natural Bridge State Resort Park is a Kentucky state park located in Powell and Wolfe Counties along the Middle Fork of the Red River, adjacent to the Red River Gorge Geologic Area and surrounded by the Daniel Boone National Forest. Its namesake natural bridge is the centerpiece of the park. The natural sandstone arch spans 78 ft (24 m) and is 65 ft (20 m) high. The natural process of weathering formed the arch over millions of years. The park is approximately 2,300 acres (9 km2) of which approximately 1,200 acres (5 km2) is dedicated by the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission as a nature preserve. In 1981 this land was dedicated into the nature preserves system to protect the ecological communities and rare species habitat. The first federally endangered Virginia big eared bats, Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus, recorded in Kentucky were found at Natural Bridge State Resort Park in the 1950's.
The park was founded as a private tourist attraction in 1896 by the Lexington and Eastern Railroad. It became one of Kentucky's original four state parks when that system was established in 1925. There are over 20 miles (32 km) of trails over uneven terrain from moderate to strenuous difficulty, including trails to White's Branch Arch, Henson's Cave Arch, and other scenic areas. Some of the most famous sites are the arch itself then Lovers Leap, and also Fat Man Squeeze The park's 0.5-mile (0.8 km) "Original Trail" to the natural bridge dates from the 1890s. Other trails include the 7.5-mile (12.1 km) Sand Gap Trail and the 0.75-mile (1.21 km) Balanced Rock Trail. Five miles (8 km) of the 270-mile (435 km) Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail run through the park, including the Whittleton Trail which connects the park to the Red River Gorge Geologic Area. Please note that activities such as hiking off-trails, disturbing wildlife, or collecting plants are not legal in any Kentucky State Park. In addition, pets are not allowed at Natural Bridge State Park. To get down to the bottom of the arch you can go through Fat Man Squeeze, a narrow passage in the rock formation.
Natural Bridge has several unique sandstone rock formations, including the original Balanced Rock. This is a huge block of sandstone balanced on the edge of a cliff near the Natural Bridge. The trail to this formation is now off limits to tourists. An even more spectacular formation, also called the "Balanced Rock", is located on Trail #2, not far above Hemlock Lodge. 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 mid-section 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.