Nada Tunnel: Gateway to The Red River Gorge

Nada Tunnel In The Red River Gorge

The Entrance To Nada Tunnel in Kentucky

The Nada Tunnel, also known as The Gateway to The Red River Gorge is a must-see when taking a vacation in Kentucky.

The kids will love the mystery and the grown-ups will love the history, making it one of the most suitable places to visit for the whole family.

The Nada Tunnel looks like a hole that has been carved into the side of a mountain. It's surrounded by dripping greenery - bushes, trees, and plants - that look like they're going to swallow up the car as you drive closer!

When you drive toward this mystery tunnel, make sure that your lights are on, you're driving slowly, and no cars are coming toward you the other way: there is only room for one car in this tunnel!

Why Is It Called Nada Tunnel?

The Nada Tunnel - pronounced "nay-duh" - was built originally for the Dana Lumber Company in the early 1900s and it was named for Nada, Kentucky, (a now-forgotten logging town 10 miles past the entrance of the tunnel).

The tunnel itself remains a remarkable piece of the history of Kentucky, but it's not just the tunnel: the whole of Red River Gorge is a snapshot into the history of Kentucky.

The Nada Tunnel takes you right back to the early 20th century the moment you look at it, reminding your family what sheer grit and determination can do through labor and construction.

A View Down Nada Tunnel With Lights

How Big is Nada Tunnel?

Looking Down Nada Tunnel

Getting to Red River Gorge through Nada Tunnel is easy, but you have to be careful!

The tunnel was not built like our roads are right now, which is why it can only let one car through at a time.

Stop at the entrance and check for the headlights of vehicles already traveling through the tunnel, and turn on your own lights.

When you drive up to this majestic tunnel, you'll notice other drivers waiting to be let through! The tunnel is 12 feet wide, 13 feet high and 900 feet long. It's not the easiest drive for larger vehicles, and you must be careful as you go through.

A little fun fact for you: the Nada tunnel only used to be 12 feet by 12 feet, but there was once a train load of logs that tried to pass through and got stuck.

These had to be blasted free, which then created an extra foot of height at the top.

Steam locomotives used to haul timber regularly through the tunnel, but it's no longer used for that purpose anymore.

A History Lesson About The Tunnel

 

Way back in 1910, the Nada Tunnel began construction using drills, other tools and - excitingly - dynamite!

The vast face of the limestone rock was blasted through to create the Nada Tunnel, and it was completed just a year later in 1911.

Initially, the Nada Tunnel was for locomotives to transport timber as mentioned earlier, as the logging operations in the Gorge had leftover timber to go to the Dana Lumber Company sawmill in Clay City, which was 15 miles away.

The tunnel is rugged in its nature, unique in its appearance and is still a source of curiosity for visitors.

 

The Opening of Nada tunnel in Red River Gorge

Is Nada Tunnel Haunted?

Mysterious figure standing in woods

During the year-long creation of the Nada Tunnel, one man was killed when he placed a stick of dynamite that had frozen near a fire for it to thaw.

This then exploded, but it's what has led to the rumors of the Nada Tunnel being haunted. Well, one of the stories!

The kids will love the fact that it's got a history with some spooky stories attached, with some saying the man who thawed dynamite (hello?!) haunts the tunnel.

Others suggest that a rock climber fell from the top to his death while climbing the cliff face.

There are stories of a green orb floating at the entrance of Nada Tunnel some nights, with eyewitnesses getting the heebie-jeebies when they see it!

Along with this, some unidentifiable moaning sounds can also be heard - just don't attempt to walk or cycle down this tunnel to listen to the creepy noises.

With no light and no way to see where you're going, the last thing you'd need is a car to hit you, and you join the ghosts of the Nada Tunnel.

Petroglyphs Near Nada Tunnel

Sprinkled around the Nada Tunnel area, you'll get the opportunity to see some cool Petroglyphs.

These are in a shallow cave, and the designs were inscribed on the rear wall, with narrow lines that form a series of V shapes.

Some believe that these are marks of tool sharpening, whereas others see the purposeful pattern that they create.

To see the Petroglyphs, head to Powell County, South-West of the juncture of Schoolhouse Branch and the Red River on the Slade Quadrangle.

Petroglyphs in Powell Kentucky

The Nada Tunnel 8K Foot Race

Two People Running on a Trail

Every year, the residents of Eastern Kentucky hold an 8K Foot Race at the Nada Tunnel.

The community welcomes all the walkers and runners and families to the Red River Gorge area, and the Nada Tunnel 8K Foot Race is a fun event for all the family.

The course is stroller-friendly, so you can even bring the baby along if you want to! There's a picnic area beside the Nada Mission Church, and it's here that you will need to pick up your running packet, and there are signs everywhere and lovely local volunteers who can help!

The most recent race was held on June 8th, 2019. In case you were wondering, it's always recommended to carry water with you wherever you go.

The 8K Foot Race starts at the John Swift Camp Ground, which is located just off Highway 715, with the course going west to Highway 77.

You then cross the Green Bridge, which is over the Red River and continue for two miles to the Nada Tunnel.

When you get through the tunnel, you are then on a downhill slope for two more miles to Nada, where you can celebrate the end of the race.

Directions to the Tunnel

Getting to the Nada Tunnel from Natural Bridge State Resort Park is easy for the whole family. Follow these directions:

2135 Natural Bridge Rd, Slade, KY 40376, USA

  • Head north on Natural Bridge State Park Rd A towards KY-11 S for 46 ft
  • Turn left at the 1st cross street onto KY-11 N and drive 2.1 mi
  • Turn left onto KY-11 N/KY-15 N for 1.5 mi
  • Turn right onto KY-77 N

 

You’ll eventually reach the tunnel. Once you go through it, there are tons of trailheads and beautiful scenery on the other side. Welcome to Red River Gorge!

Things To Do Near Nada Tunnel

After looking around at the petroglyphs, hunting for ghosts, and learning of the history of Nada Tunnel there is still plenty to do.

Red River Gorge is home to all sorts of adventure and fun family activities. From zip lines to underground kayaking this outdoor playground will keep you entertained for days on end.

With so many choices it might be hard to fit it all in one day. However,  Cliffview Resort has the perfect accommodation for the traveling family to stop and get some rest.

With lodging available for individuals and large groups Cliffview Resort is ready to welcome you in after a long day in their backyard.

 

 

Lodge Standard Bedroom - New Frames - Up