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2008 Kentucky River Kayak Trek


Monday, August 12, 2008


Dam 11 to the Red River (Mile 191)



It may sound strange (although I think I’ve mentioned it before), but when I’m visiting points on the river that I’ve not paddled in a while, it’s somewhat similar to visiting an old friend.  I’ve put in from the ramp at the end of KY977 three times now; once on last year’s trek, once this spring and today.  This ramp is right across from where the Red River enters the Kentucky at mile 191.  It’s a well paved ramp, and it looks like there used to be more to it judging from the remnants still visible. 


Also across from this point are a couple boat ramps, a house, a shelter and a few boats at what could be a little marina (I’m prone to calling these “marinaras” now.  I’ve developed my own jargon over the course of time.  I also call cows “moo-cows” - my travels may well have driven me insane!).


Anyway, I put the boat in and headed upriver to dam 11.  As I did so, it became apparent (and I’d forgotten this) that there’s a rocky bank on one or the other side almost the entire way which will take on one or more characteristics:  rocky shoreline, rocky ledge, rocky overhang or rocky cliff.  Thus, this part of the pool will make up for the last 2.  Whereas the pools between dam 14 and 13 and dam 13 and 12 had almost no place to stop, this pool (or at least this half of it) is one almost continuous stop opportunity because even where there aren’t rocks there’s often a sandy beach. 


When I arrived at dam 11 last year, I’d noticed some boaters using a ramp (that I thought might be private) on the lock side almost immediately downriver.  Today I checked this spot out more thoroughly and I can now say that having walked up, it certainly appears to be private.  I didn’t see much up there at all and it looked like it might be someone’s farm, so I beat a hasty retreat back down and headed to the very corner of the lock to check out the portage feasibility…


A little difficult - you’d have to walk up roughly 30-40 feet to the top and this is over vegetation and large slabs of rock and concrete.  Apparently some old ruins were left discarded here.


Having seen this, I crossed the river to the other side and as I did I noticed a very large tree suspended partially over the dam.  I mentioned in Fridays’ journal that this is a great spot because the dam side of the river is especially nice.  It’s a bit trash strewn now, but what an awesome recreation area this could be!  There’s a picturesque rocky ledge as well as a sandy beach with quite a few white shells visible under the water (mussels?). 


When I walked up on the beach to take some pictures I got a chuckle.  There were actually some horses grazing across the way on top of the lock!  There couldn’t have been much grass over there between the concrete, but there they were - at least a half dozen of them!  This was something else that made me want to just throw up my hands and laugh!  What a great sight!  I climbed as far up the rocks above the beach as I could, but was unable to get high enough to get a clear flat shot of the opposite side.



Departing from the lock and dam I launched into today’s first shape – a slide.  I’d be going up the slide in this case from right to left.  The rocky shoreline switches sides from the left to the right bank of the river at the bottom of the slide and it continues this way all the way up (from the dam to mile 199).  Lick Run comes in from the right over a shoal, but it wasn’t really even recognizable as a stream today, it was so shallow.  On the other side of this stream was some of the nicest looking rolling farmland I couldn’t see yet, as it was only partially visible from down on the water.


The only paddle-able stream on this trip would be the Noland Creek which comes in just as you get to the top landing of this slide.  I got in about 50 yards.  There’s a nice house at the mouth of this with an interesting camping and fishing setup down on the bank, and once emerging from the Noland, there’s a string of several rocky shoals on the right through which the Raven Branch (only a couple feet wide today) enters. 


Back to my slide shape - as you go down the ladder the scenery shifts.  The rocky side is on the left with the farmland on the right and a few things interested me in this section.  Some of the rock overhangs look like the planters you’d see on a window ledge.  There’s the rocky ledge with vegetation on top that comes right up to the edge of them, and then cascades off.



Also at a few points you’ll see a kind of alley all the way down the mountain where a little unnamed stream has come down and taken out everything but the rock face, and there was a fallen tree protruding up from the water at one point that a considerate boater had painted it bright orange in order to make it stand out for other boaters.  People on the river almost always seem to be very considerate.



After the slide another shape takes form.  As you turn to the next page in the charts and face it in the direction that you’re going to go you’ll see the silhouette of an ear!  This ear will be in the position of a person lying down on their left side, and the river will follow this outline all the way back to the ramp at the base of the “neck”.  The ear itself covers mile 197 to 192 while the neck comes in from mile 192 to 191.  I came into it from the upper base of the ear. 


The shorelines will alternate scenery again in this area (rocky bank, farmland bank), and between mile 196 and 197 in particular there looked to be some really nice cattle grazing land.  This acreage was complete with shade trees along the shoreline that the cows could cool off under.  It was apparently feeding time for some of them here as they were heading out, mooing all the way.  I heard a donkey braying in the distance too.  Cow Run comes in at the top tip of the ear at mile 196 but was not navigable. 


There’s another house in a clearing on top of a mountain just after this, and at around mile 195 there’s a cabin on a steep and rocky mountain slope.  Every time I come through here I wonder how they were able to construct it.  It must have taken a great deal of time and, quite probably, frustrating work.  Just getting the materials to this spot must have been an effort.  On the other side, around mile 194, there was another wooden structure down by the water which I hadn’t seen before.  It looked like part of another camping/fishing setup and it was quite clever.


I’ll note here that it continues to interest me how perfectly the scenery shifts on the river.  In looking at the map now, it seems that the rocky areas are on the outside of each turn in this stretch, and this was the case as I continued on past Thronburg Bend at mile 193 and Strawberry Bend at mile 192.  I guess this makes sense.  I’m guessing that the path of least resistance for the river would be to simply meander around a rocky area and cut through somewhere easier. 


I also noticed something in this area that I hadn’t noticed before – how the sunlight shimmers across the tree trunks!  It seems, in some places, to shatter and dance all over them while in others it moves in waves as it shimmers - quite an interesting phenomenon (and kind of like what happens when you “see stars” after you’ve overexerted yourself).


“Devil’s Backbone” is the name given to the rocky shoreline from mile 192 to 191 which, on my crazy silhouette, stretches down the back of the neck below the ear.  The Red River then comes in from the right while my ramp was on the left. 


I won’t be able to explore all of the Red, but it’ll probably be the very next trip I make after I finish the Kentucky.  I’ve wanted to explore it for quite a while.  The plan now, though, is to return to this ramp (weather permitting) next time to paddle most if not all of the rest of this pool. 


On a side note, I got a picture of a couple calves checking me out on the way upriver.  I think it’s a good picture although it’s a little blurred.  It reminded me of a good family friend of ours who paints pictures of farm scenes.  I had forgotten this, and when I checked out her website I was quite impressed.  I honestly think anyone would be.  I can now say that Mrs. Leach is not only a great person, but a great artist as well!  You can check out her site for yourself too, if interested, at




KY52 to KY 977 (only 1 way to go) in Waco.  A sign will indicate that the road ends in 10 miles.  Go the entire 10, keeping straight all the way, and you’ll end up at the ramp.  It’s tight, but there’s room for a few cars.