Sheltowee Trace: Dog Slaughter Creek to Star Creek Falls

By Jeremy Patton

Star Creek Falls is located in Daniel Boone National Forest, Whitley County, Kentucky.

Star Creek Falls 12/24/16

The shortest way to reach Star Creek Falls on foot is to access Sheltowee Trace via Dog Slaughter Trail #414.

From Corbin, drive west on KY-90 then turn right onto Forest Road 195, which is about 4.5. miles east of Cumberland Falls. Drive about 3.5 miles to the second trailhead on your left. The hike from there to Sheltowee Trace is 1.5 miles.

This segment of Sheltowee Trace, also known as the Moonbow Trail, parallels the Cumberland River. If you hike upriver for about 2.5 miles, you will arrive at Cumberland Falls. Hiking downriver for approximately 2 miles will lead you to Star Creek Falls.

The last time that I hiked the Moonbow Trail was in 1996 with my high school friend, Duke Cornett. Due to our inexperience, we missed several key attractions. On 12/24/16, I revisted the two-mile segment between Dog Slaughter Creek and Star Creek Falls.

The mouth of Dog Slaughter Creek on 12/24/16

It had rained all night, so the waterfalls were flowing. I spotted several from the Trace, but time was limited. I saved them for another day, hoping to find Star Creek Falls before dark.

The Cumberland River roared along the way and I paused several times to admire its angry rapids. I also discovered two unqiue rock formations worthy of note:

Godzilla Rock might be the largest river-side rock that I have ever seen. The size of a mansion, it boasts an enormous body and elongated neck that stretches out over the trail. It resembles a giant lizard towering overhead, hence the name. I am a Gozilla fan, so this find is particularly satisfying.

Godzilla Rock 12/24/16

Star Creek Arch is formed by a huge boulder wedged precariously between two natural, stone abutments. It is a false arch, but very intriging, so I will classify it as an arch for the hell of it. It has likely stood for centuries, perhaps thousands of years, but my pulse spiked when I ran underneath it. I wish that I could go back in time and observe its formation from a safe distance, which must have been a violent event.

Star Creek Arch 12/24/16

At about two miles, Star Creek Shelter stood near the trail. Little more than a box with a roof, it underwhelmed me much as it had 20 years ago. Of course, it was not designed to be a luxery hotel and has provided shelter for countless weary travelers. It was similar in construction to the shelter located near Bark Camp Creek, about two miles further downriver.

Star Creek Shelter

Star Creek Falls roared nearby. I searched for the spot where the creek crossed the trail on its run to the river. I followed the creek uphill and emerged beneath a wide, multi-tiered waterfall about 50-60 feet high. It was larger and far more magificient than I expected. Duke and I must have missed it because it had dried up during the hot summer.

12/24/16

I have not heard from Duke since we graduated from high school. I hope that he will contact me some day; I would enjoy returning to this beautiful place and showing him all that we missed.

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Raccoon Run-In

Duke and I completed the nearly 11-mile Moonbow Trail during mid-summer. We were young and dumb and had not considered the misery of the sweltering, Kentucky humidity.

Darkness brought some relief. We built a fire then bedded down next to the river, laying on the open ground in our sleeping bags. After much stirring, I stared up at the stars that twinkled through the forest canopy, then finally nodded off.

I was roused later by some rustling that was very close. Still laying on my back, I bent my neck backwards to find the source of the disturbance. A furry, masked bandit crouched less than 10 feet behind me, his narrow eyes gleaming.

I bolted to my feet and tried to shoo the raccoon away, but he refused to budge. By this time, Duke had awoken and watched as I stepped to the river with my pistol and fired a round into the water.

The coon vanished, while every croaking creature in the forest went silent. About 10 minutes later, a single chirp dared echo across the river, emboldening a renewed chorus.

At sun-up, Duke and I found plastic bags and food near our campsite that boaters had tossed into the bushes. They had no doubt been the source of the wiley trash-panda’s resolve, but even he respected the might of the hand-cannon.

Added 12/25/16 – Updated 1/16/17