May 22, 2017 – Spending a few days in the Red River Gorge, looking for waterfalls, I found an unlikely one at the Nada Tunnel where the Big Woods, Red River & Lombard Railroad company’s 25-ton and a 35-ton Climax locomotives used to haul logs from the Red River valley through the tunnel to a saw mill 15 miles to the west in Clay City, Ky.
Nada Tunnel is a historic 900-foot tunnel along Kentucky Route 77 in Powell County, Kentucky. The presently paved tunnel has often been described as the “Gateway to Red River Gorge” for the shortcut it provides motorists to the Red River Gorge canyons of the Daniel Boone National Forest.
Built for the Dana Lumber Company between 1910 and 1911, Nada Tunnel was named after Nada, Kentucky, then a logging town about 10 miles past the tunnel’s entrance. Solid limestone was blasted with dynamite and dug out with steam machinery and hand tools, with two teams working from each side of the ridge.
The tunnel’s original dimensions were 12 by 12 feet, but when the first train load of logs became stuck and had to be blasted free, the tunnel’s height was increased to 13 feet. Narrow gauge steam locomotives of the Big Woods, Red River & Lombard Railroad regularly hauled timber extracted from the vast forests of the Red River Valley through the tunnel, to a sawmill 15 miles away in Clay City.
Once the forests had been cleared, the timber companies pulled out of the area. The railroad tracks were removed and a dirt road was laid in the unlit tunnel to accommodate horse and pedestrian traffic. Nada Tunnel has since been paved to carry a single lane of road traffic and is used by many to enter the Red River Gorge area.
A collection of photographs I shot during the Pennyrile Forest’s Spring Photography Weekend in Dawson Springs, Ky.