Skip to main content

Mantle Rock

    Surprising to a lot of folks who have at least a passing interest in natural arch formations around the state is the fact the longest arch span is not in the Red River Gorge.  It's not even in the Daniel Boone National Forest, nor the eastern part of the state for that matter. To find the state record, well, the record east of the Rocky Mountains, you will need to travel to Joy, Kentucky in Livingston County.  This location is out in the western part of the state and near the Ohio River.
Mantle Rock
     Mantle Rock spans a distance of  154 feet        according to  the Natural Arch Society making it the record holder for the longest natural arch span  in the eastern part of the country.  This giant natural rock arch appears to have been formed by fracturing and continued erosion through the joint fracture.  The small creek continues to eroded the base of the arch as it flows unusually parallel to and slightly under the arch.  As the stream reaches the lower part of the arch, it continues to eroded the base, thus, no doubt extending the arch a bit each year.  The beautiful rock formation can be reached by a short hiking trail built and maintained by the Nature Conservancy who also owns the property.

Front view of Mantle Rock
     The area is especially beautiful in the spring time as an abundance of wildflowers are found along the trail and the stream that flows beneath the arch.  The name Mantle Rock has been around for many years probably due to the strange appearance when one first arrives at the arch.  The top of the rock has a smooth flat appearance much like a mantle rock over a stone fireplace.
     Besides being a significant natural rock formation in the state, Mantle Rock has a sad historical background as well.  During the years of 1838 and 1839 the Cherokee people of North Carolina and other surrounding states were rounded up and moved to a new reservation established for them in Oklahoma.  As America expanded to meet the demands of producing goods for around the world, the rich farm land and timberland of the mountains in the south were taken.  The act of moving the native people was ordered by President Andrew Jackson.
Momfeather Erickson, Cherokee elder and founder of the Cultural Center
     The route(s) to move the Cherokee people crossed the extreme western portion of Kentucky and was referred to in later years as the "Trail of Tears."  Today this trail is designated as a national trail.  Many of the Cherokee died along the route through various hardships and illness.  The "Trail of Tears" went north across the Jackson Purchase region of Kentucky in the vicinity of Mantle Rock.  During the particularly harsh winter of 1839 the Ohio River froze, thereby halting the ferry that was the transport to move the natives across the river to continue their westward forced march. Many, perhaps several hundred, took refuge under the Mantle Rock and surrounding area from the harsh winter.  With little food and no medical assistance, many of the people, several hundred in fact, died right here at Mantle Rock. Though the natural rock arch is a wonderful monument to natures handiwork, it is also a sad reminder of how cruel the first Americans were treated in perhaps one of our darkest hours of a constitutional government.
Children singing Cherokee songs at Mantle Rock Cultural Center
     A visit to Mantle Rock is well worth your time and should be seen and appreciated.  But go with respect and reverence to those who perished.  You will be richly rewarded.  Today, Native American descendants of the Cherokee and many other tribes consider this a very sacred place.  There is even a Mantle Rock Native Education and Cultural Center in nearby Marion, Kentucky.  It is open to visitors who are interested in learning more about the native cultural of the region and state.  The center provides learning experiences in a variety of programs and events and is open to everyone.
     Mantle Rock is certainly worth the visit to anyone interested in Kentucky's natural arch wonders or history.  Just knowing the sad story of those poor souls that had to endure the hardship of a Kentucky winter can make your visit one that requires introspect and sorrow.  At the same time the pure enjoyment of the outdoors and this record holding natural formation will lift your spirit and leave you marveling.

   Members of Facebook can visit and are welcome to join our group "Mantle Rock Friends."


  1. Wow. This is a fascinating bit of trivia. I would love to get to the western part of the Commonwealth and explore.

    - The Kaintuckeean

  2. You need to do this. It is well worth your time to visit and would be great to see you post an article on the Kaintuckeean about Mantle Rock.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Broke Leg Falls

For sure one old landmark in eastern Menifee County Kentucky is Broke Leg Falls. The Falls has been a tourist stop along US Hwy 460 since the 1940's and before. It was a place for picnics and adventures into the rough rocky terrain the likes of the Red River Gorge. It's location on once a major highway along with the pristine beauty of the box canyon that the stream formed no doubt contributed to the popularity of the Falls.
    The Falls is about 80 feet in height but much of the year has a small water flow. But over eons of time the Falls and stream have carved out a magnificent canyon retreating nearly to the crest of the ridge.
    Located in Menifee County Kentucky, Broke Leg Falls has been a popular tourist spot for travelers of the US Highway which is located only a few yards from the falls. A popular landmark since the 1940's, the Falls was privately owned. Visitors could pay a dime and get to hike the short distance down into the box canyon to view the Falls…

The High Rock Petroglyph

What do you think the strange symbols carved on this sandstone boulder represent? The High Rock Carving is certainly one of the most mysterious antiquity found in the Red River Gorge country.  We did a previous post  about this strange rock in August, 2012. Discovered underneath a small rock shelter near the High Rock fire tower, the carvings were discovered on one loose boulder in the shelter. In the late 70's the boulder was removed from the rock shelter by the Red River Museum and Historical Society placed at the museum in Clay City, Kentucky. It was felt that vandals and artifact collectors would soon end up destroying the unusual carved stone. In fact some of the surface appears to have been chipped away, perhaps portions already removed by vandals.    The carvings have many varied, curved shapes including concentric circles and shapes that may represent animals. Additionally, there are numerous holes and other features. Some of the rock has been lost likely by the weathering …

Swift Interview

It was a very interesting day April, 26. A production crew from KET (Kentucky Educational Television) taped a segment of yours truly discussing the background and lore around the famous legend of John Swift and his mysterious silver mines and treasure. I met up with the crew at Sky Bridge in the Red River Gorge and after a short hike down beneath the rock arch they video taped me discussing what I have come to know about the search and treasure.
    Basically, the short segment will focus more on the legends background and how long the story has been around rather than giving clues on searching for the supposedly hidden treasure. I hope that viewers will take away the importance of the history of the legend and not the debate whether silver and the mines ever existed. As I note in the interview, the beauty of the whole legend is just how long the search has been going on and how the legend originated at least as early as the first famous pioneers entered the wilderness that was to…