Fall Colors and the Niagara of the South

A hint of autumn color
A hint of autumn color

After a couple of days of steady rains, cabin fever has set in.  Yesterday I stepped outside to see a strange golden orb in the sky, not without a little cloud cover mind you, but yet I saw it.  “Let’s go”, I shouted, “before the day escapes us!”  It was time to see some fall color and I feared with all the rain I had missed the trees announcing the change of seasons in their own unique fashion.  Until I could get outside and see for myself, there was no convincing this gal that they hadn’t already peaked.  Silly me!

The truth is, central Kentucky’s trees are only at about 20% peak color well into mid-October, emerging slower than past years.  Maples, poplars, hickories, black walnuts, beeches, sweet gums and sassafras trees are holding fast to their verdant greens of summer, just beginning to turn their trademark autumn golds and reds.  It is as if they know what is to come, a quick peak that will be over within a blink of an eye, then late autumn’s chill and ensuing winds will strip them bare, a stark reminder that winter is not far behind.

A little slice of Lake Cumberland
A little slice of Lake Cumberland

We headed to Lake Cumberland, a popular vacation destination for those interested in hiking, boating, fishing, or just chillin’ on a deck of one of the various lodges overlooking the lake, with refreshment in hand.  With over 1200 miles of shoreline, this reservoir covers 65,500 acres and this time of year has a sublimely tranquil feel.

As of September 2011 the lake is about 50 feet below its normal levels due to a crack in the Wolf Creek Dam.  Engineers are keeping a close eye on this situation, as water seepage has begun to erode the limestone under the dam, causing some concern for a breach and subsequent flooding.  From my reading, no good solutions have yet been devised for sealing the crack.  One would never suspect anything was amiss, looking out over these placid waters.

Natural Arch
Natural Arch

We ventured further east into the Daniel Boone National Forest to check out Natural Arch.  Having our hearts firmly entrenched in the west, where hiking into the wilderness will reward you with many red rock arches, we ratcheted down our expectations a bit.  Yes, this sandstone arch, spanning 78 feet across and reaching 65 feet into the sky, is not as stately as those found in Arizona or Utah, but enveloped by the rich, warm hues of autumn, it was quite lovely.

Cumberland Falls through the mist
Cumberland Falls through the mist

Our last stop of the day was Cumberland Falls, known by some as the “Niagara of the South”.  This waterfall forms a 125-foot wide curtain of water that plunges 7 stories into a boulder-strewn gorge.  It is reputed to be the largest waterfall east of the Mississippi and south of Niagara Falls.  Having seen Niagara Falls, I have to say that this waterfall (imho) cannot hold a candle to the real deal, but it does have one unique quality found nowhere else in the Western Hemisphere.  On a clear night during a full moon, or a few days before or after the full moon, the mist of Cumberland Falls creates the magic of the moonbow, a spectacular nighttime rainbow.

Double rainbow at the base of the falls
Double rainbow at the base of the falls

The best time to photograph the falls, other than during this phenomenon, is during the morning hours.  Unfortunately, because of our drive and many stops along the way, we did not arrive until late afternoon, but I was able to capture a double rainbow even at this hour.

And wonder of all wonders, the government is open once again so it is on to Mammoth Caves and Abe Lincoln’s birthplace.  Since Kentucky is the horse capital of the world, I am chomping at the bit 😉 to visit some of the thoroughbred horse farms in the area.

Bridge spanning Cumberland River, near the falls
Bridge spanning Cumberland River, near the falls

54 thoughts on “Fall Colors and the Niagara of the South

  • What a great post! I’m so glad you got out to see some of the countryside. The pictures are beautiful, as usual, and the information is great! I hope you are going to go back to Cumberland Falls in a few evenings (full moon time) and take some pix. I can hardly wait for the description and photos of the Mammoth Caves, Abe’s birthplace and your horse farms. Hope you are both well and rested.

    • We will probably not get back out to Cumberland Falls at night. It’s a bit of a drive and the road leading out is narrow and curvy. We are off to the races later this week and to see some horse farms, something I have been very anxious to see.

  • Glad to see you getting out to explore. The falls look gorgeous, especially with the added color. The caves I can do without, being more than a little claustrophobic. 😦

    • I am claustrophobic too but I did fine at Carlsbad and Kartchner. As long as I don’t have to squeeze through any narrow openings, I’m ok.

  • Love this post… “on the road again” … you have so many magnificent places to visit in your country.. and I do love going along with you… I worry though that your Autumn seems to be struggling to get it’s grip, and here by us the Summer or Spring (just seems too late for Spring now) is struggling to come to terms with the fact it should be here… this time last year we had area of the country suffering badly from floods and this year we seem to have a drought with virtually no rain.. when we get a little rain it’s as though winter has returned…

    • We do have some magnificent places to visit, which looks to be true of where you live and so many other places in the world. I too worry about global climate changes and what it means for our future. 😦

  • I am so glad the rain let up…I sure enjoyed your day thru your beautiful pictures. We haven’t really explored Kentucky yet so I am pinning your posts for the future. Can’t wait to see the horses and farms!

  • Kentucky is such a beautiful state. I love the fall colors.

    A waterfall to me is so peaceful. I could sit and listen to the water for hours.

    I think the Natural Arch is still so beautiful. I enjoy thinking about how it was formed and what the first person who saw it must have thought.

    So glad the government got there stuff together so we small folk can enjoy this beautiful land of ours.

    • I agree with all the above Marsha. I am looking forward to seeing Mammoth Cave, although we have already seen Carlsbad and Kartchner, but for me, the true excitement lies in experiencing the horse farms. 🙂 Hope you are getting some cooler weather.

  • It’s great to see photos of one of our old stomping grounds LuAnn. We haven’t been there in a few years. I’m a bit surprised that the foliage isn’t farther along by now. I know these falls pretty well, and I agree with you .. not too sure about the Niagara business. Also, if you’re going north or south on I-65, there’s a scenic two-lane parallel and just to the east of 65 that’s a nice country drive. It’s US31E, which you can pick up in Hodgenville, and the scenic bit goes to Glasgow (my home town), which is about 12 miles from Mammoth Cave. Enjoy the caves. ~James

    • We are also surprised that there is not more color by now, but I think soon as the temps have started to drop. We were on US31E for a bit a few days ago, when we took a drive. There was virtually no color in the hills yet but we plan to go back soon. 🙂

  • Lovely Fall colors, and great captures too! We are also enjoying the fall colors as this is our first time on the East during this time.
    Since KY is definitely on our list, looking forward to know where you stayed and see if the horses are worth a peep along with the cave.

    • We are headed to Lexington for the last week of the races later this week, as Terry has never been. I want to see some of the horse farms. The caves will most likely come a little later.

  • Yes, we do have to lower our expectations when visiting the east after having hiked in the amazing west. But you did manage a wonderful day:) Very nice arch and waterfall. I love that you caught the double rainbow in your photo!

    Our fall colors seem to be falling apart in not a good way. I believe our week of 90 degree temps right after a cool spell followed by heavy rain really hurt our beautiful fall leaves. We have a lot of bare trees already that only had brown leaves. I hope it improves but we only have a week left here in PA.

    Glad the government opened so you can get on with your adventures. Looking forward to cave photos!!

  • Loving that double rainbow pic!! Awesome capture. We missed the Kentucky Horse Park on our way through that state a few years ago and I’ve always regretted it. Looking forward to seeing some of thoughts on the horse areas out there.

    • We are headed to Keeneland on Thursday as that is the last weekend for the races. I have been to many in previous years but Terry hasn’t so he wanted to experience it. We watched a documentary recently on a horse farm that utilizes men in the prison system to care for retired thoroughbreds. It was very interesting the bond developed between horse and man and how it changed both. We are hoping to tour this farm as well.

  • LuAnn, great post! I enjoyed reading about this area, seeing the fall colors and most of all – knowing that you guys are having a great time!

    • We are enjoying our time here. Since our love is in the west, we know that once we get back out there, we will probably keep the RV there for the most part. Thought it was time to explore this part of the country.

  • Isn’t autumn magical!!! Even here in CO the trees are beautiful as they turn from green to gold and orange. We leave this Friday for our journey west.

  • This pleases me, photos, travel and you back to your best. Happy days and nights…time zones and all that. There are lots of hues on the leaves up here. It’s all rather enchanting.

  • Hi LuAnn.. Excellent narrative (of course) and photographs. Does sound simply lovely, The weather is tweaked this year, I agree. Even the animals sense it. Whatever “it” is! The races will be great fun for the two of you. Hard not to think of horses when thinking of Kentucky (actually).I wouldn’t mind being along with your guys (seems like we’ve had this conversation a time or two, (lol), being a nomad has such a nice freeing quality to it, maybe not so much as the weather turns colder though. Take care of you, dearest friend! 🙂

  • Weee! My favorite RVer and friend is back on the road. 😀 Will look forward for the horses, and I haven’t seen much of Kentucky in the blogging world.
    Love the Cumberland Falls.

  • Hi LuAnn, Thank you so much for the tour! So glad to know you are back on the road. Enjoyed reading your travel post and photos 🙂
    This one did not come to my Reader, I almost miss it…

  • Luann, can you believe I have never seen fall colours except in photographs?? I really have to remedy that. Until then, your gorgeous images will have to do. The waterfall shots are amazing!
    It is wonderful to see you and Terry out and about again. Stay well you two 🙂

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