PLACES TO GO ON LAND HOME PLACES TO GO ON WATER
2008 Kentucky River Kayak Trek
Sorry about the somewhat nondescript name above for the end of this trip. You see, I started out wanting to get to the Jessamine Creek closer to mile 127, but I ran out of time. I woke up a bit later than usual and wasn’t able to get everything in. I’ll pay for this the next time I come out though, because I’ll have to make up a lot of ground.
There are only
3 public access points in this pool: one at mile 135 (
The put in at
the first left after crossing this bridge (if you come from the north as I did),
you’ll wind down to the river on the original roadbed to Nicholasville and
The ramp I would use today was the one for the Otter Outpost, and while they might draw quite a crowd on the weekends, there wasn’t a soul around when I was there. There are quite a few dwellings in the vicinity though along with a campground, and there are actually 2 different ramps you can choose from here. A friend of mine and I came down and used one of them when we came last fall. I decided to try the other one this time.
Both ramps will cost you $5, and every paddler I’ve talked to believes this to be a bit high, but people do have to make a living and this is a fantastically historic place as well as being near the heart of the palisades. So too, this would be a wonderful pool to see in the fall – in fact, some parts of it look like fall right now! Mile 131 to 130 especially! If you’re a lover of the fall season, as I am, you can get a head start on it by coming out here.
I paddled up to lock and dam 8 where I ended the last time, and here I have to mention yet another awesome resource which I only just discovered. If you’re interested in the lock and dams, another great website to visit is www.nandwphoto.com. They’ve got a ton of pictures of these dams as well as a lot of information on the river itself. In fact, I was informed by the owner of the site that this particular lock was the last to be made of all stone by Italian stonemasons.
location of dam 8 from this side looks almost exactly like that of dam 12 in
another beach here (partially visible to the right in the picture below) on the
downriver lock side which could rival the size of the one back at dam 10 in
Lock and dam 14
Lock and dam
Lock and dam 12 Irvine/Ravenna beach and campground
Lock and dam
Lock and dam 10 Already a Boonesborough/Winchester beach and campground
Lock and dam
Lock and dam 8 Nicholasville beach and campground
Lock and dam 7 Haven’t seen it yet, but probably a perfect High Bridge/Wilmore beach and
Lock and dam 6 Harrodsburg beach and campground?
Lock and dam 5 Versailles/Lawrenceburg beach and campground?
Lock and dam
Lock and dam
Lock and dam
Lock and dam
The entire middle of the state could have a ready source of water fun! I look at it this way: the more awareness that can be brought to the river, the more likely this will become. More awareness would first engender an aversion on the part of people to pollute this river. People would simply be more reluctant to do so if they knew that more eyes were on them. At the same time the communities, to include both government and private enterprise, could get more involved in coming up with better environmental alternatives so that certain kinds of pollution need no longer be an easy option. Government could provide the incentives and private enterprise could provide the solutions.
The environment would then be given a fair opportunity to cleanse itself naturally, and the cleaner water which would result would enable people to swim in it again without fear of bacteria. This could, in turn, drive revenue back into the 3 groups which made it happen in the first place: communities, government, and private enterprise! Oh, how I’d love to see this happen!!!! Am I a hopeless dreamer? Maybe, but it sure is sweet to think about!
Enough of my musings! There was a warehouse in the early 1800’s immediately down from dam 8 which was called the Liberty Warehouse, and it served the tobacco farmers between the warehouses at Quantico Landing and Hickman Creek. The first marker you’ll notice is here, and it corresponds to the Jessamine County Boating Guide I keep mentioning… Wait a minute! This was very strange…
The booklet on the history of the river was supposed to cover dams 6 through 9, yet I hadn’t seen any of these markers in the last pool... Odd… They must have been vandalized or stolen. Anyway, the markers that do remain now are orange with numbers on them and I would see several on the trip today. It appears that all of the ones in this pool are intact so far… (I’d find a possible reason for the missing markers on a later trip.)
I noticed here too, the remains of “someone’s” lunch - that someone being an animal of some kind! There were a lot of large shells lying on the dead trees in the water with the mussels eaten from them. I wondered what kind of animal did this? Whatever kind, it must have been pretty strong to pry open the shells. I’ve heard that shellfish can exert an absolutely amazing amount of pressure in keeping their shells closed to predators.
After the beach
at the dam on the right side, the bank turns rocky at the start of a curve left
in the river while it’s forested on the right bank. In fact, there really
isn’t much farmland in this stretch - at least not that’s visible. One
side is rocky with or without a palisade and the other is forested, either with
hills or with a landing atop the bank. The exceptions to this are the dam
The bend left here that extends for the first mile and a half is called the Round Bottom Bend, and on the left bank is the Round Bottom Bar. I met a nice fisherman here on my way up. I never know how to greet these boaters except with but a wave, yet there was no such ambiguity in this encounter. The man actually shut off his motor to talk to me! We shared a moment of mutual respect for the river before he started to drift too close to the bar and had to restart his boat.
When you get to mile 138.5 you’ll be entering what’s known as the Devils Elbow. The shape of this area looks more like a tooth (molar) to me, but this was, nevertheless, a tooth which chewed up a lot of log rafts in the old days. To understand this, you have to understand how things used to be on the river before the dams were built.
From the 3 forks all the way down the river people would construct rafts which they would then stock with all kinds of wares – anything which might sell downriver, be that in Frankfort or in New Orleans! These boats or rafts could weigh in the tons, and all the men who were to be in each crew would wait until the early spring rains came to provide enough water for their rafts to float downstream…
Well just as
soon as the river was high enough to lift the rafts from the shoreline, off they
went – and these guys would be away from their wives and families for months if
they were going all the way to
Now with the high water the river could be pretty rapid. Picture this along with a ton of these rafts crowding the river. The men were cold, wet and fatigued - maneuvering these boats would take a lot of strength and tenacity even in the best of times, yet the curves in the Devils Elbow at mile 138 and 137 presented a challenge to even the most expert navigators. If they didn’t negotiate the bends just right, they’d get the boat stuck on one of the bars…
Imagine having to unload a ton of freight in order to float your raft off the bar, and then reload it again, while at the same time keeping it from floating downriver while you load it! (Quickly too man! You don’t want the others to gain an advantage further down south!) You’re now even colder, wetter and even more tired than you were previously (you’re probably in a vicious mood by now too), and you could be doing all this only to get stuck again at the next curve! It would be enough to drive a man insane. Thus, the name Devil’s Elbow! Rafts and cargo both intact and in pieces must have really piled up here making for quite a chaotic scene indeed!
Ugh! I think its best that I get back to the present now! It was a LOT more tranquil here today (as you can see from the picture above), and even the creeks who's bars used to cause all the problems looked pretty innocent! Dry Run (heard that name before!) comes in - dry - at the mile 138 curve, and Canoe Creek comes in just after over a large rocky shoal. This shoal was, in fact, almost an island which I came very close to paddling around today. Canoe Creek Bar (the sandy kind!) is across the way.
At the mile 137 curve the rocky bank will switch to the left, and on the right at this point is where the navigation charts indicate Firstvineyard used to be. I suppose it could have been here, too, but the boating guide had this location as being in the last pool. Maybe I’ll be able to reconcile the two versions sometime... [I've actually been able to get some clarification on this since I wrote this journal. According to George Dean of Jessamine County, this spot was actually above dam 8 on a hillside near the Sugar Creek Ferry landing across the river from an early Garrard County shipping warehouse and settlement (Quantico). Thank you Mr. Dean.]
On my way up to the dam I had noticed quite a bit of wildlife in this area. I was just able to spot a turtle (which looked to be of the box variety) emerging from the depths at the middle of the river to stick its’ nose above the water. It darted back down as soon as it noticed me (maybe the bubbles I see coming to the surface all the time are from turtles at the bottom of the river?).
I also stopped to take a little movie of the gar with my camera. They were “fishing” for minnows. I hadn’t noticed any of them in the last pool, but the minnows in this pool were now visible in giant waves, and the gar seemed to split them up and go after them individually. You could hear the gentle “sklorp” and “plop” sounds as they popped up just over the water to snatch the little minnows which swam near the surface.
At mile 136 a
palisade will come in briefly on the right side just before Little Hickman Creek
enters at the curve left (lots of fairly sharp curves here, but they’ll lengthen
shortly). There’s another large shoal here with a gravel road coming down
onto it, and there’s another SWEET looking cabin just up the bank. This
cabin then ushers in a series of dwellings on this side, and on the opposite
side is the road which I wound down on to reach the put in at
By the time you
reach Hickman Creek at mile 135.5, there are dwellings on both sides of the
river, and you’ll see the US27 Bridge in the distance along with the palisade
that was cut through to accommodate it. As mentioned before, this general
area was the site of the
Creek is pretty nice, and it reminded me a lot of the
The area just
downriver from Hickman Creek on the right is called Boone’s Knoll.
The first steamboat to travel from
To look at it
now, you can’t imagine all this, but
So, too, does the steel truss bridge which still spans the river here. Its roadbed is still intact too, but it’s blocked off. I’m going to look into approaching this area from the other side of the river sometime to get that perspective as well.
Immediately down from these bridges there’s an old intake for a former distillery on the right (I noticed the warehouses for this on the drive back – they’re still standing out here), and a large RV park/campground is on the left. It’s in looking downriver from this spot that you’ll see the palisades in full splendor on either side of the river. They’ll tease you, coming in on one side and then the other as the river meanders through them.
You’re entering into a long
“C” curve at mile 134.5, and from this point on these palisades will be constant
companions. You’ll be able to see them at every point, and if they’re not
visible right alongside you, they’ll be visible in the distance or through the
trees. They made me feel small and insignificant, and even though the
wildness of this river has been tamed by the lock and dams, these palisades
provided testament to the power and grandeur of this underappreciated river.
The palisade on the right in
mile 134 reminded me a lot of the one which contained the Devil’s Pulpit back in
the last pool, and the White Oak Creek comes in just before mile 133 over
another large shoal. This creek was several feet wide, and its’ shoal was
another one which was quite nearly an island. There were markers on the
other side of the river that warned me to keep out, although I didn’t really
notice them too much as I was gaping at the beautiful palisades on the opposite
side after White Oak Creek (these stretch for another couple miles).
When you get to mile 131.5
look closely on the left for the Candle Stick rock formation. It’s free
standing and has its own marker down by the water (look for the orange).
There’s a picture of it in the boating guide and there are guys standing under
it and on top of it in the picture! It must have taken them quite an
effort to get up there. The rock looks pretty precarious and they couldn’t
have known whether or not it would topple right down on them as they were
climbing up. Who says there weren’t any daredevils back in the 18 and
1900’s! This is the formation right in the middle of the picture below
with a little bush on the very top edge.
You’re entering into a long “C” curve at mile 134.5, and from this point on these palisades will be constant companions. You’ll be able to see them at every point, and if they’re not visible right alongside you, they’ll be visible in the distance or through the trees. They made me feel small and insignificant, and even though the wildness of this river has been tamed by the lock and dams, these palisades provided testament to the power and grandeur of this underappreciated river.
The palisade on the right in mile 134 reminded me a lot of the one which contained the Devil’s Pulpit back in the last pool, and the White Oak Creek comes in just before mile 133 over another large shoal. This creek was several feet wide, and its’ shoal was another one which was quite nearly an island. There were markers on the other side of the river that warned me to keep out, although I didn’t really notice them too much as I was gaping at the beautiful palisades on the opposite side after White Oak Creek (these stretch for another couple miles).
When you get to mile 131.5 look closely on the left for the Candle Stick rock formation. It’s free standing and has its own marker down by the water (look for the orange). There’s a picture of it in the boating guide and there are guys standing under it and on top of it in the picture! It must have taken them quite an effort to get up there. The rock looks pretty precarious and they couldn’t have known whether or not it would topple right down on them as they were climbing up. Who says there weren’t any daredevils back in the 18 and 1900’s! This is the formation right in the middle of the picture below with a little bush on the very top edge.
Right after Candle Stick the palisades will switch back to the right side again and, even though it was still August, it looked like fall here. It was absolutely glorious with the palisade AND all the color!
Here at mile 130 on this (right) side was the historical marker for the
I got a little
confused at this point. The navigation charts indicate that either 2 rock
formations, 2 caves or a combination of these lie here - Swallow Rock and the
I made it to about mile 129, and I’ll describe the spot as best I can. It was at a seeming break point between the palisades on the right – a point where the rocks at the very bottom of the bank had given way to a muddy/sandy bank, and on the left side was a spot where several cow paths had converged at the river. I was a bit dismayed that I had not made it quite to Jessamine Creek but hey, as my Uncle puts it: “Into each life a little rain must fall!”
All the way on this trip I noticed that the buzzing insects had gotten more aggressive. Even when I was out in the very center of the river they still buzzed around me, and they were now the most persistent they’d been to this point. I imagined some of these to just be flies, but it was still a bit disconcerting not knowing for sure whether or not I’d get stung. I really nailed one, in particular, a couple times with my paddle - unintentionally. I never found out what it was, but I felt it and I heard the “bap!” when it hit.
One of these was a bee though. I annoyed it somehow and was just able to duck my hand into the water before it stung me. I then drenched myself with water (bees supposedly don’t like water even though they’re on the river now!). Bees seem like drivers. Irritate them, even unintentionally, and they’ll risk their lives to teach you a lesson. Bees die after they sting you. Drivers risk their lives in the process of trying to “put you in your place” - and worse - they could even kill you via car crash in the process! Sticking up for yourself is one thing, but others always seem willing to go to greater lengths to get their way - and for what? To defend their right to be rude in order to gain a few seconds of time? And now that I’ve ensured myself of a mess of hate mail…
When I got back to the ramp I had another dog barking at me. Great! I didn’t have a problem here, but this was getting annoying. It seemed that I was encountering a dog at every ramp. The dog was the only sign of life, though, and I hoped that the Otter Outpost would get some business over the Labor Day weekend so that people can see all this!
Access to this ramp is right near the US27 Bridge going across the river at the
top of the southern hill. If you’re coming from the north, it’s the first
left after you cross. If you’re coming from the south it’s the last right
before the bridge. Unfortunately, the road sign (