Updated: Feb 3
Cumberland Falls State Park in Corbin, KY is one of only a few places in the world that produces a "Moonbow". The Potential Dates for each month in 2021 are:
- Jan 28 7:30-9:30 PM
- Feb 27 7:30-9:30 PM
- Mar 28 9:30-11:30 PM
- Apr 27 9:30-11:30 PM
- May 26 10:00 PM-Midnight
- Jun 24 10:30 PM-00:30 AM (30 Minutes Past Midnight)
- Jul 24 10:30 PM-00:30 AM (30 Minutes Past Midnight
- Aug 22 10:30 PM-00:30 AM (30 Minutes Past Midnight
- Sep 21 9:30-11:30 PM
- Oct 20 9:00-11:00 PM
- Nov 19 7:00-9:00 PM
- Dec 19 7:00-9:00 PM
The potential for this event is when there is a full moon, and the most optimal times are the day of the full moon, about 2 hours after sunset ( I have listed above for reference). If the weather is not cooperating on the day of the full moon, there are alternative days that you can plan for, which are one to two days before and after the full moon. Again the closer to the full moon day the better chance you have of seeing it. Weather and cloudiness are important variables in being able to see the moonbow so keep that and the alternate days in mind when planning your visit.
How To Photograph The Moonbow With A Phone
It is now possible to capture a moonbow photo with a phone. To do this, the phone's camera must have Night Mode capability and that can be found on an iPhone 11. Night mode is an automatic setting which takes advantage of the new wide-angle camera that's in the iPhone 11 models. It's equipped with a larger sensor that is able to let in more light, allowing for brighter photos when the light is low.
The Night mode (Turns off the Flash) icon at the top of the display turns yellow when the feature is active. Depending on how dark the scene is, your iPhone might take a Night mode photo quickly, or it might extend the shutter time for several seconds. A number appears next to the Night mode icon to indicate how long the shot will take. This one was adjusted to 10 seconds, which can be done by tapping the yellow Night mode icon. You will get a dial on the screen, giving you the option of increasing your exposure. You still may need a tripod.
How To Photograph With a Camera (Not a Phone Camera)
Bring a tripod
Bring a remote shutter release. You may need to do a very long exposure so the best shutter release would be a digital intervalometer.
Set your ISO to 400. If you have a newer camera model with better low-noise at higher ISO settings you can try 800 or 1600, but I wouldn’t recommend beyond that with even the best of cameras.
Start with an exposure of 2 minutes at 400 ISO, 1 minute at 800 ISO, and 30 seconds at 1600 ISO. Most camera models only allow for a 30-second maximum exposure with the built-in settings. This is why you need a digital intervalometer remote shutter release; these allow you to use the “bulb” exposure setting and shoot as long as you like.
About Cumberland Falls State Park
The claim to fame for Cumberland Falls State Park is the "Moonbow", however the other main attraction obviously is the Falls itself. The falls is the largest on the Cumberland River and is a very spectacular site, especially if the the river is up a bit. In addition to the Falls and "Moonbow", there are also some pretty good hiking trails along the river with picnic locations. You can see Cumberland Falls in a couple hours if you don't do any hiking. Best of all admission to the Park and Parking is FREE! While you are in the Corbin, KY area don't forget to check out the original Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). Corbin is the home of Colonel Sanders and the first KFC store.
There is ample parking for class C and B RV's but anything else will have difficulty and the roads to get to the park are curvy and narrow. There are a couple of campgrounds near the park and a KOA about 15 miles near interstate 75 in Corbin, KY. RV parking is also free at Cumberland Falls State Park
Tips for a Great Experience
Arrive early, and if traveling in a smaller RV that you will be driving to the park, grab a convenient RV parking site that is close to the parking lot exit. Once the Moonbow event is over, the crowd will be exiting at the same time so plan with the end in mind. You wont be able to see the Moonbow until about an hour or two after sunset, so come in the mid-afternoon, take some hiking trails and admire the Falls, which is on display 24x7 no matter the weather. If visiting in the winter months, I highly recommend flashlights, gloves, hand warmers and a hoodie.