To The Red River Gorge"
Stood In Line On The Nada Tunnel Road In Powell
County, Kentucky, For Its Cool Mountain Spring Water
Sue Graybeal - 2008
the residents in and near Powell County, Kentucky, can tell you
about the mountain spring located on Nada Tunnel Road.
in Powell County, Kentucky, serves as the "Gateway to Red
River Gorge." This tunnel is 900 feet long and was opened
in 1912 for rail cars to carry the timber out of the gorge and
transport it to Clay City and points beyond.
(Photo courtesy of Billie Sue Graybeal.)
anyone you talk to who has visited the Red River Gorge knows
about the spring. Motorcycle riders and bicyclists stop by from
time to time as they enter the gorge for a wonderful trip across
the rugged mountain terrain. The mountain spring, located just
a short distance from the entrance to Nada Tunnel, is a source
of water for many of the families in the area. It is also a "must-stop"
on Highway 77 (Nada Tunnel Road) for all of the gorge visitors
who return each time they visit to sample a drink of the cool,
clear, mountain water.
Nada Tunnel Road turns off Route 11 between Stanton and Slade
in Powell County. Because of its unique nature, Nada Tunnel is
on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1910 two teams
of workers began chipping away on each side of the mountain and
worked their way to the middle to create a way through for the
logging that had begun in the gorge in the early 1900s. There
was no modern equipment to assist the workers, except for steam-powered
jackhammers and carbide lamps. Most of the work was done by hand
with picks and shovels after dynamite was placed to dislodge
some of the mountain's thick rocks. The one-lane, 900-foot-long
tunnel was opened in 1912 for rail cars to carry the timber out
of the gorge and transport it to Clay City and points beyond.
The tunnel measures 13x12x900, and the one-lane road today serves
as the "Gateway to Red River Gorge." The Red River
Gorge area is famous all over the world for its beautiful flora
and fauna, rock formations, and the over 100 stone arches found
there. Climbers flock to the gorge to try their luck on the rock
formations throughout the gorge.
Keener collects water at the Nada Spring in Powell County, Kentucky.
Folks from neighboring communities, counties, and even states
wait their turn to fill plastic bottles and coolers. (Photo courtesy
of Billie Sue Graybeal.)
Currently, there are about 50 families living along the Nada
Tunnel Road. The community originally served as home to the loggers.
On most days, those planning to camp in the gorge can purchase
firewood from folks along the road, and visitors can almost always
count on a wave from someone living along the road.
About 14 miles from the road entrance and closer yet to the tunnel
entrance, there is a wide spot at the right side of the road.
There are usually cars parked on each side of the road. Folks
from neighboring communities, counties, and even states wait
their turn to fill plastic bottles, coolers, and the like. Some
take a lot, some only a bottle, and some only a drink. Everyone
is patient, and the chances are good of meeting someone from
another state who is just passing through and heard about the
Nada Spring. I have personally met folks from Ohio and Louisiana
at the spring. They all want a taste of the 50-degree mountain
water. It's always about 50 degrees, even on the hottest day.
One lady told me that she brought her granddaughter to get a
drink, just like she had done many years ago with her own parents.
I have seen a few pensive youngsters hesitate before drinking
from their Nascar cups filled with water from the mountain spring.
People from all walks of life converge at the Nada Spring.
One older gentleman told me that he had been coming to get water
from the spring as long as he could remember, about 75 years.
He said that his grandmother had done so before him. He was from
a neighboring county and had driven over with a few containers
to fill. "Folks from the University came down a few years
ago to test the water," he said. He didn't know the results.
The spring bubbles out of the mountain into a natural table about
three feet wide. Some wise and helpful person has placed about
20 feet of two-inch pipe on the edge of the table and built a
brace to hold the pipe in place just above a small creek running
along the roadway. Last year the braces were replaced with treated
lumber. Most days the cool mountain water rushes out of the pipe
at the rate of about four gallons per minute. There is little,
if any, sediment in the bottom of the containers used to catch
the water. During the drought in the summer of 2007, the thick
gush of water was reduced to only a trickle, and the output was
about one gallon per minute. The locals all advise everyone not
to drink the water when the water table is low unless it is boiled.
The mountain spring has been replenished with recent rains. It
runs endlessly to provide water for the folks that need or want
it. Not only does the water cool thirsts, it seems to renew spirits
on each visit. Standing to wait a turn to fill a container, I
can't help but think of why this water is here for us. Maybe
it was here many years ago when dynamite blasted the mountain.
Maybe it cooled a heated brow from a day of treacherous, back-breaking
work so long ago on the tunnel nearby. I am even reminded of
a slower way of life when perhaps a tired rider dismounted so
that he and his horse could get a drink from this very spring.
When you visit the beautiful Red River Gorge, be sure to stop
and smell the flowers, visit the arches, hike the trails, and
be sure to stop by for a taste from the special mountain spring
at Nada, Kentucky. This is God's water, at least that is what
I wrote on the gallon container I brought home.
Sue Graybeal, 2327 Grant Avenue, St. Albans, WV 25177, shares
this article with our readers.
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