Future of the Red: Management in the Red River Gorge

The Daniel Boone National Forest has begun a public planning process that will help shape the future of the Red River Gorge. The 42,000 acres of the Gorge have seen significant increases in visitation since the collaborative 2008 Limits of Acceptable Change (LAC) process established thresholds for change and determined management actions for the area. In order to balance these increases in visitor use with the protection of all that makes the Red so great, the Daniel Boone National Forest has embarked on a two-pronged planning process.

Comprehensive River Management Plan

Image of Red RiverOne aspect of this process will be to comply with congressional direction to establish a “Comprehensive River Management Plan” (CRMP) for the Red Wild and Scenic River.

The 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (WRSA) recognized that certain rivers across the country possess outstandingly remarkable values such as scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural and other values. These values, as well as water quality and free-flowing condition, must be preserved. The WSRA also decrees that designated rivers and their immediate environments must be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.

Map of the Recreational Section of the Wild and Scenic Red RiverMap of the Wild Section of the Wild and Scenic Red River.

A 19.4-mile segment of the Red River was designated a Wild and Scenic River in 1993. This section, which flows from HWY 746 bridge in Wolfe County to Schoolhouse Branch in Powell County, is further divided into a wild section and recreational section. The 9.1-mile wild section, which is also recognized as a Kentucky Wild River, starts outside of the Forest at the HWY 746 bridge in Wolfe County and cuts through the narrow, hemlock-covered ravines of the Clifty Wilderness before transitioning into the Recreational section at Swift Creek Camp. The 10.3-mile recreational section flows below the County Line Bridge at Osborne Bend, down through the scenic Hwy 715 corridor, past the Gladie Visitor Center and up to Schoolhouse Branch in Powell County.

The Red River and surrounding lands offer recreational opportunities and access to outstanding resources for a variety of public lands users. The CRMP will address the current status of these resources, outline goals and desired conditions, determine user capacities, and create a monitoring strategy and plan forward. The main objective for this prong of the planning process is to create a CRMP that will preserve and protect the outstandingly remarkable values of the Red River for future generations.

Resources: Red River Boundary Map, Red River River Values Report

Building Upon the Limits of Acceptable Change

Graphic showing 9 steps of LAC processThe CRMP planning process will run concurrently with planning for additional management actions triggered by reaching the thresholds for change established by the LAC. Currently, the LAC document guides management in the entire Red River Gorge by describing an acceptable future condition for the Gorge and then creating a series of management actions to guide the area towards that future. Thresholds for change were established in order to gauge managers’ success at guiding the Gorge to this future condition. When these thresholds were surpassed, as has happened recently, it triggers further analysis and a return to collaborative problem-solving.

The main objective when preparing these additional management actions will be on improving safety for Red River Gorge visitors. Other objectives of this process enhancing the visitor experience, increasing public access, building resilient and low-maintenance facilities and infrastructure, and strengthening and growing partnerships.

Resources: Map of the Red River Gorge Geological Area, Draft Proposed Actions for the Red River Gorge

Planning Ahead

The CRMP process and the analysis for additional management actions triggered by reaching LAC thresholds have significant overlap so the Forest will be working through them together. This will allow the Forest to comprehensively discuss various actions that can be implemented across the 42,000 acres of the Gorge currently under Forest Service management. 

In the coming months, we will need your help identifying key areas of concern and areas of opportunity for the Red River Gorge area. You feedback will help guide our team as we work to design proposed actions for the Red River Gorge and the CRMP for the Red River. In Spring 2021, we will share these proposed management actions, a draft CRMP, and an environmental analysis. The plan and analysis will be finalized by Summer 2021 and final decisions will come by the end of 2021.

Watch Recording of November 10th Red River Gorge Collaborative Meeting

The Daniel Boone National Forest, Cumberland Ranger District Ranger District, hosted a virtual public meeting to discuss future management actions in the Red River Gorge on Tuesday, November 10, 2020, from 5:00-6:30 pm EST.

Comment on Draft Management Plans

Give us your thoughts on draft proposed actions for management of the Red River Gorge and the Comprehensive River Management Plan of the Wild and Scenic Red River.

Comment on the Draft Red River Gorge Proposed Actions

Comment on the Red Wild and Scenic River Planning Process


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