By Jeremy Patton
Bald Rock Cemetery Falls is located in Daniel Boone National Forest, Laurel County, Kentucky.
I so-named it because it is the closest major waterfall to the cemetery.
From Bee Rock Recreation Area, drive east on KY-192 for approximately 2.5 miles. Turn right onto Bald Rock Cemetery Road, also known as FR 4144 (gravel). Continue for about half a mile then park on the roadside near Bald Rock Cemetery.
A gated road resides across from the cemetery; follow it northwest on foot. After about 0.25 miles, you will see private property on your left. It appears to be a hunting lodge. From there, leave the road and continue hiking off-trail to the north. You will soon find an unnamed tributary of the Rockcastle River.
You should hear Bald Rock Cemetery Falls #1, if it is flowing. If you do not hear it, hike east upstream. Bushwhacking is required to reach it, so a summer visit would likely be a miserable experience. When I discovered the waterfall on 2/4/16, the weather was cool and the forest was free of parasites.
Bald Rock Cemetery Falls #1 is a beauty, about 30 feet high with a large rock shelter. I found a second, smaller waterfall not far downstream: Bald Rock Cemetery Falls #2. For reasons I cannot recall, I did not follow the water much further. There may be additional waterfalls before the tributary empties into the Rockcastle. I plan to find out this autumn.
If you rejoin the road near the hunting lodge, it parallels the tributary as it carves a deep gorge to the river. This may make exploration a challenge. I plan to pass through the gorge, if possible.
Be sure to examine the cliffs in the area, particularly those that line the road. They are adorned with many interesting geologic formations.
My friend Gabriel and I visited the Bald Rock area on 2/18/18. Our timing was great because rain had recently prompted flood advisories in Laurel County.
I first led him to No Business Tributary Falls. It was shooting outward from its crest. We followed the water a short distance downstream and found several other waterfalls gushing from bluffs that would normally be dry.
On our way back uphill, we encountered an unleashed dog. He was not particularly happy to see us, but did not get aggressive. I love animals, but if you walk your dog in such places, keep him on a leash. I was nearly mauled in McCreary County a few years ago due to a dog owner’s negligence.
We returned to the cemetery then followed an unmarked trail to Bald Rock Overlook. The Rockcastle River gleamed on an unusually warm February afternoon. Inspired, Gabriel regretted that he had not brought his drawing materials. He could have probably drawn undisturbed because this overlook receives few visitors.
We returned to the cemetery, joined a gated road then veered off-trail into a rhododendron jungle, which made my city-slicking friend nervous. I got a big laugh out of that. We followed our ears to Bald Rock Cemetery Falls. It was flowing stronger that I had ever seen it. I carefully crossed the creek near the plunge pool and sat beneath the rock shelter. That was where, to my elation, I discovered a small natural arch. I call it Bald Rock Cemetery Falls Arch.
Before driving home, we stopped at the cemetery and walked among the old stones; many were worn and illegible. Others had been replaced by unworked sand stones from a nearby creek. I wondered how long it would be until the features of the forest that I loved, the cliffs, rock shelters and natural arches, would be reshaped by time? How long until they would be unrecognizable, like the old stones?
The new side of the cemetery was more modern. It was decorated with plastic flowers; names of the deceased were etched clearly on shiny monuments. Their descendants did not give quite the same attention to the old side, likely because its names and memories had faded.
Gabriel knelt before an old stone and squinted. “I can barely make this one out. “Tandy Bolton, born February 16, 1862, died February 23, 1893.” That’s today. Today’s Tandy’s birthday.”
He stared at it for quite a while, then gazed into the forest.
“Happy birthday Tandy.”
Added 8/17/16 – Updated 3/4/18