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Red River Gorge Past Years


View in 1948 from end of Sky Bridge ridge looking down on Red River  bridge under construction
    Back in the days after WW II my dad landed a job with the US Forest Service after his discharge from his service in the Army. He went to work in the Red River Gorge, though in those days the federal owned and managed land was called the Cumberland National Forest and the Gorge was simply referred to as the Red River country. The day I was born, dad was working on the concrete bridge at the mouth of Swift Creek. The bridge is still standing there today and as it turns out that bridge and I are about the same age it would seem. Anyway, dad went on to be the chief fire control officer in the Red River district and spent his entire working career devoted to caring for and managing the beautiful gorge area.
    As dad spent many hours marking timber for harvest in those days he would discover new arches and more often than not would name them. Clarence Henson named many, many of the arches in the Red River Gorge area. There were no trails in those days and really few visitor hikers beyond the Natural Bridge area.  Actually, the first and only automobile road was only constructed through the gorge in the late thirties. The region was remote wilderness unlike any other.
Lady Rock is located on Whites Branch and is a little known oddity
        Dad also made a lot of photographs nearly all color slide transparencies of many of the unusual rock formations and arches of the area. Over the past few years since my father's passing mom has been passing along some of dad's slides to me.  Recently, I have finally got around to going through some of his slides and have basically discovered a great archive of historical photos from the forties and fifties reflecting on the Red River Gorge country.

Star Gap Arch
     Through time some of the photographs have faded, collected dust or some are just plane rejects due to over exposure or some other cause. 

The original "balanced rock" or Teetering Rock at Natural Bridge State Park 

    Another amazing thing that dad managed to do was photograph some of the arches and rock formations in the area. I recall on some evenings he would take his collection of slides and go to the state park lodge and present a slide presentation of some of these unusual, wild and remote places to the park guests. He would usually, during the summer months, present these programs on the big porch that wrapped around the original Hemlock Lodge, which is gone now destroyed by fire in 1969. As a little boy, I would often accompany dad to these programs and can still see them going on today.  With that background in mind, I would like to share a few of dad's photographs.  Keep in mind these photos were made as color transparencies in the late 1940's up through the 50's.  Also, I have had to convert to digital and some of the dust and scratches are passed along. But this rare glimpse into what the gorge appeared like just a few decades ago is quite remarkable.
The "Narrows" or Whites Branch arch is the only arch that had a road and  auto traffic. Now closed to  vehicles

Splash dam on Swift Creek a short distance below Rock Bridge in RRG

Original Hemlock Lodge at Natural Bridge State Park in mid 50's. Originally built by L &N  railroad in 1927, burned in 1969

Waitress crew at old Hemlock Lodge mid 50's
Powder Mill Arch, late 60's. Largest limestone arch in RRG. Clarence Henson and Dr. Carl Clark in  photo

Sky Bridge from the road when it was still visible

    As I go through the hundreds of slides in my dad's collection I may from time to time post some that have relevance to the site and the Swift legend. The photographs provide us with a snap shot of the Red River Gorge country from an early time  and reveal just how much things have changed in our lifetime.




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