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   Perhaps no other rock formation in the gorge is as well known as the Half Moon Rock. It has been climbed, repelled, photographed and admired from every conceivable way possible. It is also mentioned in several versions of the Swift journal. The mention is casual to be sure and there are numerous rocks outcrops that could be claimed to be the Half Moon. The one I am familiar with is in the heart of the Red River Gorge.
   The Half-moon rock is located on a ridge parallel to the Chimney Rock ridge spur with a small box canyon between the two massive rock outcrops. They are located at the mouth of Chimney Top creek where it flows into the Red River. This creek is one of the major streams in the heart of the gorge and is full of rock formations.
    The Half-moon rock is mentioned in some of the more prominent Swift journals and some of the oldest versions as well.  While a number on cliff formations can have the shape as described as a half rounded object, this particular one in the Red River Gorge certainly fits the bill.

    Interestingly, a lot of other Swift landmarks are in the general area and certainly a lot of formations that could easily be interpreted as the specific ones that Swift supposedly recalled when recording his journal for the purposes of returning to his hidden mine workings. There is the adjacent Chimney Rock, perhaps the most notable formation in the Red River Gorge. In the distance is the Cloud Splitter. Nearby is the Indian Stairway, Haystack Rock and a host of others that could be the very ones Swift describes.

    There is even a small arch at the Half-Moon which once again fits the descriptors in the Swift legend.
All these beautiful and amazing rock formations have for decades fueled the search for clues to solve the mysterious legend. This is one reason why the Red River Gorge area has been a prime target search area of the the years.

     Though there is no official trail to the Half-Moon rock, thousands hike there every year and scale the backbone of the cliff and the only way to the summit without proper climbing gear. It is a dangerous climb up a bare rock face with nothing to hold to, so extreme care is required to make the summit. In the course of the trip one has to negotiate across the small arch mentioned before and appropriately named the Half-Moon Arch.

The view of the back side of Chimney Rock across the canyon from the Half-Moon
    The Half-Moon rock has always been a favorite of mine and I only return there recently this spring. I must admit the climb seemed more difficult than it did more than 40 years ago. During my visit this trip a local search and rescue group were conducting training exercises at the Half-Moon rock.  They said that they will make several rescues each year in the Red River Gorge. So, be careful if you decide to make the trip. But once you are on top of that mighty rock, the view is breath taking.


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