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The Red River Gorge Trail Crew is a very active volunteer group working with the Daniel Boone National Forest area of Kentucky.

arrow This project was nominated for a Partnership Award as part of the 2008 National Trails Awards, announced at the 19th National Trails Symposium in Little Rock, Arkansas.


Red River Gorge volunteers provide skilled work for trail projects

The Red River Gorge Trail Crew is a very active Volunteer group that is in its tenth of service. The group was formed thorough the combined efforts of Forest Service employee Charlie Rowe and a few very active individual Volunteers. These Volunteers would come join Mr. Rowe for trail and other projects about once month. They would always try to bring a friend or two on each visit. During the year of 1998 they decided to start an email list of all the people that have joined them on the on the service outings and invite more folks to come together on set dates. The first organized outing was in October of 1998; the crew spent the day working on a trail in the Clifty Wilderness then gathered to dine and camp that night.

photo of men sawing big log

Red River Gorge volunteers at work


More friends and associates learned of the rewarding days on the trails and the relaxing social campfire evenings so the list of interested Volunteers grew. One group member set up a website with a sign-up form. The core members decided the service outing date should always fall on the second Saturday of the month so people could better plan for the up coming events.

Mr. Rowe took over managing the database of interested Volunteers and emailed a Volunteer outing invitation several weeks before each event. Another member started a web based bulletin board for the members to chat and share photos. The membership continued to grow and the monthly outings would average about a dozen people. Core members received Forest Service training and served as squad leaders for the larger groups.

The Red River Gorge area of the Cumberland Ranger District includes Clifty Wilderness and has sixty miles of official trail. About twenty five miles are in the National wilderness that prohibits all but the use of hand tools for maintenance. The group has become very skilled in the use of primitive tools and has provided almost all of the labor intensive trail building and maintenance for this area for the last decade. Due the developed skills and group size the Red River Gorge Trail Crew maintains the non-wilderness trails in the manor and provides for much more natural looking trails.

The RRGTC also does demolition and construction including building bridges and stair structures. The Crew has taken on other projects such as rehabilitating a wildlife viewing building and major cleanups. Due number of people that the RRGTC can provide at each service event the Trail Crew is capable of doing many projects that may otherwise be cost prohibitive.

photo of group on trail

Working on the Buck Trail in Red River Gorge

The Red River Gorge Trail Crew currently has around three hundred members signed on as potential Volunteers. The group meets for twelve regular monthly outings and two or three additional outings each year. Many members of the RRGTC organization volunteer individually on weekdays. In the last several years the typical outing size is around twenty-six persons and the group provides nearly four thousand in the field labor hours to the Forest Service each year.

The unique work of the Red River Gorge Trail Crew has been duly noted by regional media with a newspaper or television crew coming out to report on a RRGTC project about once a year. These feature stories have brought many accolades to the Red River Gorge Trail Crew and helps in recruiting Volunteers. This favorable media also bodes well for the Forest Service in our ability work well with partners in caring for public lands. One of founding members received the American Hiking Society Volunteer of the Year Award for his work with the Red River Gorge Trail Crew.

The Red River Gorge Trail Crew has done many outstanding and enduring projects to improve the National Treasure of the Red River Gorge. This list below only includes a handful of the improvements that our visitors enjoy everyday. It should be noted that maybe more important than a bridge stair structure that one can take a picture of, is the ongoing marking, tread, and vegetation maintenance that keeps the trails open and safe for our visitors.

Some notable Red River Gorge Trail Crew projects include:

photo of group on trail

The Trail Crew joined forces with the Kentucky Horse Council
(Photo by Jim Blackwell)

Built beautiful large stone canoe launch access steps on both wilderness ends of Kentucky’s only National Wild and Scenic River located in the Red River Gorge. The project also included a new access trail the canoe launch parking so users would not have cross a busy highway to access the launch.

Repaired a hazardous Bridge on Whittleton Arch Trail where the abutments had washed out leaving it at a steep angle. The Crew moved the bridge 100 ft. downstream onto a new foundation and built new access trail.

Repaired eighty feet of rail fence along cliff line trail in a popular Forest Service Campground. The crew also blocked off informal trails and installed signs to mitigate a serious safety hazard for campground users.

Removed four abandoned junk vehicles from Creek and river banks to beatify the area

Repaired large side area on a busy riverside trail with gabion rock baskets. There was no opportunity for a reroute on this steep bank-side trail

Removed an old dangerous twenty foot stair set and completely rebuilt it from the ground up with a new landing in a whirlwind well planned one day project. This was on a very busy and steep trail that the users would have resulted to rock climbing had we needed to close this section.

Using a skyline overhead cable lift system, the Crew disassembled and removed a fifty five foot dilapidated cliff side stair set. The crew removed a couple tons of old materials and simultaneously delivered a couple tons of new materials for the rebuild over the cliff line. The Trail Crew devoted many outings to rebuild this large set of stairs on the level five Sky Bridge trail

The Red River Gorge Trail Crew regularly severs as organizers and leaders for other guest groups such Sierra Club Chapters. They parlay the OSHA regulations and maintains a safe span of control for the service outings non regular Volunteers.


See more about the Red River Gorge Trail Crew at:

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