A common assumption when camping in the Daniel Boone Forest is that it is legal to build a fire and camp under an arch. This is a big NO. In the National Forest it is illegal to camp within 100 feet of a cliff line, where most arches are found. Besides the legal complications of camping under an arch, the damage to the rock itself is catastrophic. There are over 30 arches in the Daniel Boone National Forest that are being exposed to fire and camping every season because of their easy access. It is important to understand how fire damages arches. Most arches in Kentucky are made of sandstone. Unlike harder stone, sandstone erodes much quicker than most other rock because it is composed of compressed sand. When exposed to fire the sandstone blackens, becomes brittle, and breaks off, accelerating the eventual collapse of the arch. What can we do to help deter this activity? I have read where folks have run across people camping and burning a fire under an arch. 95% of the time these folks have no clue what they are doing is illegal. Even if you are irate, kindly mention that it is illegal to camp under the arch. Explain what they are doing to the arch. If they get belligerent, move on. In most cases you will come across the remnants of the fire event long after the folks have left. Often there is a fire ring. What most of us do is take the rocks of the firepit and disperse them over the hill (there’s almost always a hill next to an arch). If there is wood piled under the arch, disperse it away from the arch as well. As mentioned in the Apex Arch post last week, trail cameras are not an option. The Forest Service has limited funds and can not afford it, and for a private citizen to put up a trail cam is illegal without permission. Unfortunately our only option, for right now, is to disperse the remains and make it more difficult to camp and build fires under arches.
Below are several examples of firepits and fire damage to arches.
A fire ring under Buffalo Arch:
A fire pit under Daylight Twin East Arch:
A fire pit under Friendship Arch:
Fire scarring on the arch at Hole in the Rock Arch:
Fire scarring and damage to Hollow Rock Arch KY 50:
Fire scarring to the underside of Lost Arch:
A fire pit under a private property arch:
The remains of a fire in an alcove under Princess Arch:
© Wayne Suké
The remains of a fire pit under Schoolhouse Arch:
Fire scarring on the underside of Skeleton Cave East Arch:
The remains from a fire under Whistling Arch: