By Jeremy Patton
Rock Creek Natural Bridge is located in Daniel Boone National Forest, Laurel County, Kentucky.
I have spent the last few weeks exploring Rock Creek Research Natural Area (RNA) and finally found one of its star attractions.
A few acquaintances kindly trusted me with coordinates. They were inaccurate, but placed me in the vincinity. I found the arch through a process of elimination; I believed that it spanned a ravine, so I investigated every ravine within a one-mile segment of the creek, which took three attempts. To be fair, I made the first two attempts late in the evening after a long day of hiking. On the third attempt, I started fresh and early and located it within 30 minutes.
I did not consider the failed attempts a waste of time. They helped me get more familiar with the area and also uncover a few gems:
I gasped when Rock Creek Bridge came into view, the final stronghold of a former sandstone cliff. It had been sculpted by water and wind like abstract art. I wondered how long it took to form and what made it so resilient.
It was easy to get to, if you are accustomed to off-trail hiking, but difficult to spot. It was not a landmark that most people would stumble upon. I found no trash or graffiti, thanks to its seclusion. I regret that I will not reveal its location because natural arches are frequent targets of vandalism.
A surprise awaited a short walk downstream: Rock Creek Arch #2. It was not nearly as impressive as its larger companion, but was an example of early-stage of arch formation.
Rock Creek RNA is rugged and isolated, especially in the gorge. Please do not venture there unless you are an experienced hiker and in good shape.
Added 4/2/17 – Updated 5/23/17