03.13.16: Rock bridge

Looking through Shangra La Arch, a natural bridge in Carter Caves State Park, Olive Hill, Ky.


Technical information

July 9, 2006,
9:49 a.m.

38°22’22” N,
83°6'56" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 20D

Canon EF-S 10-22 f/3.5-4.5 (11mm)


1/4th second


Carter Caves State Park near Olive Hill, Ky., is known, of course, for its caves. Guided tours are available for several of the caves.

But Carter Caves State Park also has a number of natural bridges along the more than 30 miles of trails in the park. Smokey Bridge is the largest, but another one — Carter Caves Natural Bridge — serves as an actual bridge for a road above it. 

The caves and natural bridges in Carter Caves State Park were formed by centuries of erosion. Flowing water eroded limestone, creating the geologic features in the park.

I have photos of several of the natural bridges at Carter Caves. This is a photo of Shangra La Arch, a natural bridge on the Carter Caves Cross Country (or 4Cs) trail. The trail goes through the arch.

Unlike natural bridges I’ve seen in other locations, which tend to be narrow arches, many of the natural bridges at Carter Caves are more like long tunnels or long caves with large rear entrances.

Smokey Bridge definitely fits that description. It’s the largest natural bridge in Kentucky — 90 feet high, 120 feet wide and 220 feet long. You could fit multiple Shangra La Arches inside Smokey Bridge, with plenty of room to spare. Some sources list the name as Smoky Bridge instead of Smokey Bridge. It’s spelled both ways on the Carter Caves web site, but the sign near the bridge says “Smokey Bridge” so that’s how I’ll identify it. 

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.