Home / Spotlight / 50 years ago, Red River Gorge roughly became a lake. The story of a travel that saved it.

50 years ago, Red River Gorge roughly became a lake. The story of a travel that saved it.

It is tough to suppose now, though a Red River Gorge, a healthy and archaeological consternation that has turn one of a region’s many renouned hiking and rock-climbing destinations, was roughly flooded for a lake.

Virtually each supervision central was in preference of building a dam on a Red River, and it was good on a proceed to happening. Then a newly shaped Cumberland Chapter of a Sierra Club, operative with internal residents opposite to a dam, got a U.S. Supreme Court probity to intervene.

Justice William O. Douglas didn’t emanate a ruling; he took a travel in a woods.

Fifty years ago Sunday — on Nov. 18, 1967 — a bar flew Douglas, an fervent conservationist, and his mother to Kentucky, where they hiked for 3 hours with several hundred demonstrators.

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The Douglases also were accompanied by several journalists, including a New York Times match and a immature Louisville contributor named Diane Sawyer, who would go on to turn one of a many famous women in radio news.

A identical series of counter-protesters, who wanted a dam to stop flooding in Clay City and other circuitously areas, also incited out. They carried signs reading, “Dam a Gorge” and “Sierra Club Go Home.” Despite initial fears, there was no violence.

Carroll Tichenor and Jim Kowalsky, dual of a chapter’s initial members, came adult with a suspicion of bringing Douglas in to attract courtesy to their cause. They sent him a letter, afterwards a postcard that they knew his staff would see. Douglas supposed a invitation, and a bar lifted income to compensate his airfare.

“We wanted inhabitant attention, and we suspicion that was one proceed of removing it,” Tichenor said. “I’m not certain we could have stopped a dam if he hadn’t come.”

Although it would take a quarter-century to henceforth stop a dam, Douglas’ revisit began changing open opinion, both in Kentucky and nationally.


The Red River Gorge quarrel became an critical feat for conservationists as a nation’s environmental transformation was gaining steam. That transformation would lead to origination of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and purify atmosphere and H2O legislation in a early 1970s that is again underneath conflict by business interests and their domestic allies.

The Sierra Club skeleton another travel Saturday to symbol a anniversary. (More information: Sierraclub.org/Kentucky.) The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources’ 65-year-old radio show, “Kentucky Afield,” has constructed an hourlong documentary.

“Douglas was a showboat,” pronounced Ralph Derickson, a Lexington Herald contributor who lonesome a eventuality and went on to turn a University of Kentucky spokesman.

“He was unequivocally accessible to both those who opposite and those who adored a dam,” pronounced Derickson, who walked beside Douglas many of a way. “You could see how he became a judge. He attempted to get along with both sides.”

Derickson’s front-page story in a Sunday Herald-Leader enclosed colorful quotes from Douglas, who called healthy places like a fill a “spiritual estate of America.” He pounded sovereign dam projects that he pronounced were mostly designed to emanate short-term jobs and make politicians demeanour good.

At a time, sovereign agencies such as a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a Tennessee Valley Authority were building dozens of flood-control dams and distraction lakes around a country, infrequently during a responsibility of singular healthy ecosystems.

The Corps of Engineers, that would have built a Red River dam, was “public rivalry series one,” Douglas said. “How do we keep engineers busy?” he asked. “Obviously by building dams.”

The probity pronounced healthy waterways “are very, unequivocally singular and apropos very, unequivocally extinct.”

Attracting as most courtesy as Douglas on a travel was his wife, Cathy. The Supreme Court probity was afterwards 69; she was 24. She was his fourth wife, and they had met a prior year during Mount St. Helens Lodge in Washington, where he was vacationing and she was operative as a waitress during her college break.

“We were all wakeful of that,” pronounced Maryjean Wall, who photographed a travel for a Herald-Leader and would spent a subsequent 4 decades as a newspaper’s award-winning territory writer. “It wasn’t unequivocally a scandal, though it was uninformed in everyone’s mind.”

The Douglases were married until his genocide in 1980. Cathy Douglas Stone is now a distinguished profession and environmentalist in Boston.

Tichenor’s wife, Doris, who died in 2011, done Douglas and his mother nation ham sandwiches on home-baked bread, that they ate during Sky Bridge. After a hike, a Douglases were guest during a Sierra Club cooking during a aged Phoenix Hotel in Lexington.

“The pressures opposite forest are tremendous,” Douglas told a cooking throng of 246. “We don’t live, my friends, by bread alone; we live by a good devout values. That’s since we consider your quarrel for a small Red River Gorge is mystic of a good quarrel that’s going on all turn a United States.”

Controversy over a Red River Gorge in Daniel Boone National Forest raged prolonged after a Douglases flew behind to Washington that night.

171028FallColoras02 Lauren Webb, 7, from left, Brooke Webb, both of Goshen, Ky., Suzanne Webb, of Louisville, Ky., Morgan Webb 9, and Matt Webb, also of Goshen, along with their dog Daisy, demeanour out over changing leaflet along Sky Bridge Trail in a Red River Gorge Geological Area in Stanton on Oct. 26, 2017.

The Courier-Journal, afterwards owned by Louisville’s Bingham family, opposite a dam editorially for environmental reasons. The Herald-Leader, afterwards owned by Lexington’s Stoll family, upheld a dam, observant it was indispensable for inundate control, mercantile growth and presumably as a source for Lexington’s H2O supply.

The debate became a theme of a famous 1971 book, “The Unforeseen Wilderness,” by Wendell Berry and photographer Ralph Eugene Meatyard.

Public and domestic view gradually built opposite a dam, and a plan was abandoned. “The Army Corps of Engineers called it quits since it only wasn’t value it,” pronounced Derickson, who grew adult in circuitously Powell County and adored a dam’s construction.

The plan was killed for good in 1993, when President Bill Clinton combined a 19.4-mile territory of a Red River to a National Wild and Scenic River system.

Parts of Red River Gorge, including a 13,379-acre Clifty Wilderness Area, were placed on a National Register of Historic Places in 2003 since of Native American artifacts dating behind thousands of years that have been found in stone shelters. The area is home to several singular plant and animal species.

About a half-million visitors a year now come to a gorge, a world-renowned end for stone climbers and a renouned place for hiking.

The Red River still intermittently causes deleterious floods in a region. Former Gov. Bert Combs died in 1991 as a outcome of one such flood.

The dam would have combined a narrow, low lake. Only one arch would have been covered, Tichenor said, though some cliffs and other singular aspects of a fill would have been broken or rendered inaccessible.

“It would’ve only been a opposite universe adult there with a dam,” he said. “It would’ve stopped entrance to a gorge.”

Reporter Bill Estep contributed to this story.

Article source: http://www.kentucky.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/tom-eblen/article185173423.html