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Cumberland Falls

The only site in the Western Hemisphere with a high chance of witnessing a moonbow

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Last updated: by Olga Valchyshen
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Although this waterfall is quite impressive by day, its main attraction is revealed only at night as it is the only site in Western Hemisphere where moonbows happen regularly. Cumberland Falls is often called the Little Niagara. With a height of 68 ft (21 m) and a width of 125 ft (38 m), Cumberland Falls is the second-largest waterfall east of the Rockies. Located in southeastern Kentucky, the waterfall is set on the Cumberland River, surrounded by Cumberland Falls State Resort Park.

When to observe a moonbow over Cumberland Falls

A moonbow is an unusual natural phenomenon that happens when the light of the moon is reflected off droplets of water. Moonbows are generally harder to see than rainbows. They often appear as faint white arches and could be better seen on camera than by the human eye. It's only possible to see a moonbow near a large waterfall. They are often spotted in Hawaii as well as in Africa. Cumberland Falls is one of the best places to observe this phenomenon since moonbows happen there on a regular basis, with peak conditions during full moon phases. For higher chances to see a moonbow, a number of conditions have to be met. The moon has to be full as it's when it shines the brightest. The weather must be cloudless, and the skies dark and clear. The last couple of hours before the sunrise is the best time to see moonbows.

Things to do at Cumberland Falls

Cumberland Falls Park Resort offers lots of activities in the warmer time of the year. Birdwatchers can encounter many species of wood-warblers and woodpeckers. Carolina chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch, Carolina Wren, and northern cardinal are also seen frequently. If you are an avid angler, you can enjoy fishing at the Cumberland River that boasts bountiful numbers of trophy brown trout and rainbow trout. Bass, catfish, and panfish are abundant in the river. Fishing in the Cumberland River requires a license. Cumberland Falls State Resort Park also offers 17 mi (27 km) of hiking trails. Besides, you can engage in lots of activities in the nearby Daniel Boone National Forest: horseback riding, a swimming pool, and rafting are available from Memorial Day Weekend till Labor Day.

Where to stay at Cumberland Falls

Historic DuPont Lodge located in the middle of the park is the best option. One of the most beautiful state park lodges in the US features a large observation deck over the Cumberland River, stone fireplaces, and a wood-paneled interior. Cumberland Falls State Resort Park also has 50 campsites with electricity and water. Campers can shower, use restrooms at the park. Camping is available from mid-March through October.

Cumberland Falls is a perfect weekend getaway for nature enthusiasts, which is often overlooked because of its remote location. However, it's quite remarkable being the largest waterfall by volume in the Eastern United States after Niagara Falls, and its fascinating moonbows are definitely worth a visit.

Practical info

How long is Cumberland Falls hike?

The trail is about 5 mi(8 km), and it starts from the DuPont Lodge

How much is the admission charge to a Kentucky State Park?

There's no admission fee

What does a moonbow look like?

It looks like a faint arch produced by white light

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