Bee Rock Recreation Area sprawls along the banks of the Rockcastle River, located along a section of waterway designated as a Kentucky Wild and Scenic River, as it features distinctive scenery and wildlife, geological and botanical diversity not seen elsewhere in the state. The area is a haven for outdoors enthusiasts, located only a short distance from Cumberland Falls and Big South Fork National Recreation Area.
At the entrance to the campground on either the eastern or western edge of the river is the Old Sublimity Bridge. Constructed for Kentucky Route 192 as a one-lane truss by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the late 1930s, it was replaced in the 1960s by a modern, pre-stressed concrete span upstream. The bridge has since been restored into a walking bridge.
Because the Rockcastle River lies downstream of the Cumberland River Wolf Creek Dam, water levels can vary greatly, adding to the appeal of the river. While the river may appear to be serene and a pleasure to canoe down, trees and debris lying at the tops of massive boulders tell a vastly different story. During heavy rainstorms or annual water releases, water levels can rise exceptionally quick, flooding the riverbanks and many of the tributaries that feed into the Rockcastle.
Upstream from the campgrounds is The Narrows, named for the narrowing and fast-moving current of the Rockcastle. Reminiscent of the Kentucky River Palisades in terms of topography, with 100-foot limestone cliffs abound, the river features mammoth boulders strewn about, creating sets of rapids that are unmatched in the state. Beginning with the Big Narrows, with rapids rated Class III and IV, and followed up by Beech Narrows, with numerous “Keeper” hydraulics and undercut rocks create a rather thrilling and dangerous situation for rafters.
There are several hiking trails, offering solitude to those who seek it. One loop trail offers a glimpse and a walk-through of three seasonal waterfalls and a hike to the Bee Rock overlook, for a view of the Rockcastle River and its dramatic cliffs and highwalls that is unmatched anywhere else. Bee Rock was named after a well-known folk-tale, that stated that there were once so many honey bees living within a once-hollow Bee Rock, that they would create a canopy over the area and block out the sun. The invasion of the bees became so persistent that local beekeepers dynamited the cliff and destroyed the rock. According to the legend, much honey flowed into the Rockcastle River. Other trails parallel the Rockcastle through Big Narrows and Beech Narrows, with side paths that lead to the river’s edge.