Carter Caves State Park is 30 miles west of Ashland. The park was established on July 31, 1946 when 945 acres were donated to the Commonwealth of Kentucky for the purpose of founding a state park. The park is home to more than 20 caverns. Two of these caves are open to the public for tours. Other attractions include a nine-hole golf course, horseback riding, canoe trips, hiking, a pool, miniature golf, camp ground and picnic areas.
Our grandparents took us to an airstream rally that was held at Carter Caves State Park. We camped out first class in the airstream trailer while our grandparents had a separate retreat in their B-van. The campground has 89 campsites with utilities and a dump station. The campers staying in tents got drenched by the rain while we were cozy in our traveling home. We popped popcorn and each had our own book to read. When it stopped raining, we were ready for our hiking expeditions.
Carter Caves has several natural brides. Smokey bridge is the largest natural bridge in Kentucky. It has become a landmark in the area and is on Kentucky postcards sold at the park. The natural bridge supports a paved highway overhead. It is quite large and we had fun listening to our echoing voices inside. The path leading to the bridge starts by the welcome center. It is less than 1/2 mile long.
As we proceeded closer to the archway, we noticed it became cooler and there was a pleasant breeze. Along the path flows a stream. Moist areas provided sites for butterflies to “puddle” and extract minerals. I saw multiple Tiger Swallowtail butterflies (left) and Red-spotted purple butterflies (right). Both of these butterflies prefer woodland habitats where their food plants grow. If you look closely, you might notice that the Tiger Swallowtail is feeding on a soiled diaper. Its amazing how nature can sometimes benefit from our trash and wasteful behaviors.
Along the Rockhouse trail we crossed more bridges and found a couple natural waterfalls cascading off the side of rocks. The large rock formation is how this trail got its name. Our rubber boots came in handy for hiking the trails.
Above you can see another picture of a natural bridge.
Can you spot the moth in this picture? It took me awhile to find it on the viewfinder that is on my camera. That is camouflage at its best.
I was so very excited to go on my first canoe trip on the Smokey Lake. For years I had wanted to canoe so it was a dream come true. We almost missed out because our first trip was canceled due to a thunderstorm. You can imagine my disappointment, but God was good and provided clear weather the second day long enough for us to canoe. As each canoe slid into the lake, the passengers held their breath. One couple was terrified as the canoe swayed back and forth upon entry into the lake. For a minute we though it might tip over! Getting back out of the canoe was another story.
The Cascade Cave and X-Cave are the two caves open for tours. The X-Cave is the most popular. We purchased a package which included a tour of the X-Cave and Cascade Cave. The X-Cave received its name from the shapes of its passages. The Cascade Cave has a 30 foot high waterfall inside which explains why they named it Cascade Cave.
Elizabeth’s Traveling Tip’s: To go on the canoe and cave tours, you will need to make a reservation at the Welcome Center.