Chimney Top Rock x 3D
The first time I can remember ever going to the gorge, was when I was older, after coming back from hiking a good chunk of the Appalachian Trail. My youngest brother and I visited the gorge and decided we would spend an evening there in the summer of 2011. We looked online and decided to hike the loop out to Double Arch and back along Auxier Ridge to the car and camp somewhere along the way.
By lunch we were at Double Arch and we were at the car by the late afternoon, having hiked all day with all our camping gear and way too much water. We walked across the top of Star Gap Arch, having no idea how to get to the under side, we ate at Double Arch and sat down and enjoyed Auxier Ridge. It was hot, so we left to drive back to Northern Kentucky and enjoy a shower and air conditioning.
I was then hooked and have no idea how many endless trips I have made to the gorge in the last 6 years. On my second trip to the gorge, I checked out Chimney Top Rock and enjoyed the gorgeous view from above. I have checked out the view in the snow, rain and the perfect autumn. What has amazed me is the need to explore beyond the stone and wood beam barrier that surrounds the overlook. The rock outcrop slopes and drops dramatically on the exterior side of the barrier, yet endless have sought to adventure over and down. More often than naught, it ends up in a long trip to the floor below.
I scanned news articles from around the state as well as Ohio, to see how the deaths stack up at Chimney Top. The Forest Service reported that between 1960 and 2005, there were 73 reported deaths in Red River Gorge. 19 of those were via falls from Chimney Top Rock. Over the next 11 years, news outlets report another 4 or 5 from atop the rock, including 3 in 2016 alone. In those 8 years, 12 died in the gorge that were reported in the local news, as well as an additional 2 bodies decayed to just bones were found in the gorge.
With that information that brings 23 or 24 deaths from atop Chimney Top Rock since 1960 with 85 reported deaths. That is 27.5% of all deaths reported in the gorge are via a fall from this rock. So what makes it so dangerous?
There are hefty barriers set in place to stop one from wanting to venture out beyond the safety. Yet the lure exists. There are signs that eclaim “Dangerous Cliffs” as well as several monuments to those that have perished at the rock over the years. Yet the lure exists.
My other brother, whom has never visited the gorge, asked me why so many people have died here and thought a 3D model would be a great way to experience the danger in the safety of virtual reality (VR). I was recently at the gorge hiking to some off trail arches with a friend and I made it a point to swing by the rock and complete some photogrammetry to be able to later create a 3D model of it. 228 pictures later and a lot of processing time, I created this model of Chimney Top Rock.
It is not worth the risk and the view is no better. Even if you were able to jump down, swallow your pride and call Wolfe County Search and Rescue and take the punishment instead of risking your life.