Natural Bridge State Nature Preserve
Dedicated Dec. 16, 1981, Natural Bridge State Park Nature Preserve today consists of approximately 1,188 acres and is located in Powell County. The preserve lies within the boundaries of Natural Bridge State Resort Park. This area was dedicated into the nature preserves system to protect a significant geological system and rare species habitat.
The rare Virginia big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus), a federally endangered species, occurs at this preserve. The Hood Branch watershed supports one of the most diverse macroinvertebrate communities in the Kentucky River system, indicating excellent water quality. Fortunately, the entire watershed lies within the preserve and state park boundaries, which provides protection for this diverse aquatic community.
- Features - Natural bridge, rare species, scenic views
- Hiking - 13 miles of trail over uneven terrain, moderate to strenuous
- Facilities - state resort park
- Parking - abundant
- Hazards - cliffs, venomous snakes (rare)
Powell County. From the junction of the Mountain Parkway and KY 11 at Slade, follow KY 11 south for two miles to the Natural Bridge State Resort Park entrance.
State nature preserves located within Kentucky state parks are special places with different management priorities. While the parks are there primarily for public recreation, the acreage that has been dedicated as a nature preserve is set aside for the rare, threatened or endangered species and communities that occur there. KSNPC is focused on management for these species and communities while providing opportunities for scientific research and nonconsumptive recreation. For information concerning use of state park facilities, programs, recreation opportunities and lodging visit the Natural Bridge State Resort Park Web site.
Natural Bridge State Park - Heritage Lands
The Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund has added 471 acres to the park since 2001.
This is one of Kentucky’s premier state resort parks and was one of the four original parks dedicated in 1926. The entire park encompasses more than 2,250 acres and the centerpiece is Natural Bridge, a 78 foot span reaching 65 feet in height. The Original Trail to the arch dates back to the 1890’s when it was a private tourist attraction owned by the Lexington and Eastern Railroad. The additions purchased by KHLCF connects the park to the Daniel Boone National Forest and has four primary plant communities including dry, xeric ridgetop forests, mesic cove hardwood forests, streamhead wetlands and extensive cliffline habitat. More than 118 species of plants are found here. A small amount of the forest is considered old growth and most of the site was harvested in 1943 so that the remaining forests are approaching old growth criteria. State special concern species found include the sharp-shinned hawk and spinulose wood fern. In addition, three sedges and fairy wand, very uncommon plants are found in the wet areas. Ocoone bells, a spectacular wildflower and a species of special concern with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, occur on the site but they are believed to have been planted by a previous landowner and persist today. The mesic forests near Townsend’s branch and the narrows are typical cove hardwood species and include eastern hemlock, white pine, sweet birch, tulip tree, northern red oak, sugar maple, basswood, walnut, yellow buckeye, American beech, and white ash. The dry upland forests are also typical of this region and are dominated by chestnut, scarlet, black and white oaks with pitch, short-leaf and Virginia pines dominating the overstory. Other canopy species include black gum, sassafras, red maple, sourwood, and pignut and mockernut hickories. The understory is dominated by various vacciniums, mountain laurel, downy serviceberry, and maple-leaf viburnum. White’s Branch Arch is found on this site as is the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail. The wetland areas are dominated by royal and cinammon ferns with various sedges, bulrush, mannagrass, silky willow, flat-topped aster, New Jersey tea, white turtlehead, and Canada lily.