Established in 1926
The sandstone arch that is called Natural Bridge has stood for millenniums. The arch is 78 feet long, 65 feet high, 12 feet thick and 20 feet wide. Some geologists believe that the stunning natural sandstone arch is at least a million years old. There are other natural archways in the area, but none have gained the prominence of Natural Bridge. Since 1889, visitors have made the trip to the eastern Kentucky mountains to see this amazing natural wonder.
Natural Bridge is composed of what is known in geological terms as Pottsville conglomeratic sandstone. Large blocks of stone falling off either side of a narrow sandstone ridge caused the first opening that began the transformation of the sandstone outcropping into an archway. The weathering process, along with the root systems of plants, continued to develop the unique archway that makes up Natural Bridge.
The natural beauty of the area and the great sandstone archway had potential for commercial development. In 1889 the Kentucky Union Railway established a rail line through the town of Slade to connect with some of the Commonwealth’s most extensive timber resources. Railroad executives also sensed the potential for visitors to come to the area to witness the spectacular beauty of the land. The railroad acquired the land around Natural Bridge and began to build trails and campgrounds. The Louisville & Nashville Railroad later acquired the property and in 1926, donated the lands around Natural Bridge to the state park system, becoming one of the four original state parks.
In 1927 Hemlock Lodge was added to the new park, providing comfortable guest accommodations. It burned in the early 1960s. A new lodge, built in 1962, is located on a dramatic ledge overlooking a deep valley. The park has 2,369 acres and is basically surrounded by the Daniel Boone National Forest. There are over 18 miles of hiking trails to Natural Bridge. The park also includes a four-acre pond with one-acre Hoedown Island in the middle of it. The Island is the scene of folk dancing and is a popular part of the park. Also, 54-acre Mill Creek Lake is an excellent place for fishing for bass, bream, catfish, crappie, and rainbow trout. Or, you can bring your canoe and paddle while witnessing the splendid beauty of the rock formations.
The awe-inspiring beauty of Natural Bridge State Resort Park is an inspiration to those who wish to see one of the great natural wonders of Kentucky. The Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission has set aside 1,188 acres within the park as a nature preserve. This not only protects, but also enhances the pristine beauty of this eastern Kentucky marvel.