The Clifty Wilderness

Of all the places here, in and around the Red River Gorge, my favourite spot would have to be the Clifty Wilderness. At close to 13,000 acres, Clifty borders the adjacent Red River Gorge Geological Area, with its own share of natural arches as well as rugged terrain. My previous post depicted some parts of the Wilderness area, but in this article I want to portray as best I can the abundance of natural beauty that makes this place so special to me.


A giant Eastern White Pine, Pinus strobus.

“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which (1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable; (2) has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation; (3) has at least five thousand acres of land or is of sufficient size as to make practicable its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition; and (4) may also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value.” – Section 2 C of the Wilderness Act of 1964.

Five designated trails traverse different parts of the Clifty Wilderness, as well as the Sheltowee Trace, a national scenic trail. Some sections are more challenging than others, but the solitude and immersion in Nature is well worth it. Swift Camp Creek is an undeniable favourite, with its waters meandering through the valleys thick with rhododendrons, Eastern Hemlock,  magnificent Eastern White Pines.





The confluence of Gladie Creek and Salt Fork, close to the junction of the Sheltowee and Lost Branch Trail.



Near the junction of Wildcat and Swift Camp Creek. The overcast and misty skies created an almost ethereal atmosphere in the groves of towering Eastern White Pine and hemlocks.



More information about the Clifty Wilderness can be found at Maps of the Red River Gorge and the Clifty are available at the Gladie Visitor Center.


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