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 vicinity. 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 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 7/25/17