"Save Our Red River": a Historical Analysis of the Methods Used by Environmentalists to Preserve the Red River Gorge in Kentucky

Claire Hilbrecht, Carol Street, Libraries Special Collections Research Center, University of Kentucky, 410 Administration Dr, Lexington, KY 40506

The Red River Gorge is a unique erosional feature of the western edge of the Cumberland Plateau in east-central Kentucky. It contains a great diversity of flora and fauna, as well as numerous geological formations, making it an important site for ecologists, botanists, and geologists. The area also serves as a sanctuary for outdoor recreationalists, and is called home by many local Appalachian families. In 1962, the Army Corps of Engineers attempted to construct a dam that would have transformed the Red River Gorge area into a large lake, effectively destroying the geological and ecological diversity that exists there. In response, environmental working groups including local activists, academics, and legislators, mobilized to halt the construction of this dam. Finally, in 1993, the Red River Gorge was included in the National Wild and Scenic River system, giving it federal protection under the law. The Cathy Wilson Collection on Red River Gorge located at the University of Kentucky Libraries Special Collections Research Center contains primary source correspondence, legislation, and newspaper clippings from 1960 to 1975 regarding this effort to save the Red River Gorge. In analyzing the methods used by these working groups to galvanize support for the protection of the Red River Gorge, one can better understand the cultural shifts that took place throughout this effort. In conducting research on this collection, I hope to develop a comprehensive documentation of this piece of environmental history so that contemporary activists can learn and draw from the successes of those fighting to protect the Red River Gorge, and apply those lessons to future environmental affairs. 

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Claire Hilbrecht

Institution: University of Kentucky

Type: Poster

Subject: History

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 7
Date/Time: Tue 3:30pm-4:30pm
Session Number: 5160