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2008 Kentucky River Kayak Trek


Sunday, September 10, 2008


Froman’s Branch to Dam 6 (Mile 96)



I paddled a rattlesnake today.  No kidding!  That’s exactly what the map looks like for this stretch!  From Froman’s Branch the river will wind all the way down to dam 6 which, on the map, will take the appearance of the rattle on the snake’s tail.  It was a fun paddle today and the ramp I used was quite a nice paved one which offered plenty of room for many vehicles. 


Kentuckians sure do come up with some imaginative names for their communities!  The ramp I used is in a town called Nonesuch, the center of which seems to be a gas station/convenience store at the intersection of KY1965 and Cummins Ferry road (a ferry must have gone across here at the ramp too).  The ramp itself is adjacent to the Non-Such Campground (Non-Such versus None Such?!) which, according to the sign here, offers RV camping as well as primitive camping.


Getting to this ramp turned out to be another pleasant drive, especially the further out from Lexington I got.  There are a lot of nice farms and farm houses out here and the area hasn’t lost much of its rustic appeal.  Of course, with the building boom, there were also a few newer houses and structures but they’d been tastefully done.   In a lot of other places I’ll notice that a new house or building has gone up in the midst of an idyllic rural scene, and that the structure is so opulent and massive that it seems to make a mockery of the quaint old structures around it.  Sadly, rural America has lost much of its charm in this way.  Not so here, although they were tearing up some land for something right before you reach the ramp.


The hills and/or cliffs begin on the left when you start the paddle downstream from Froman’s Branch at mile 106.5, and these will be on the northern or western side of the river throughout this stretch (generally enter on the outside of each curve).  The other side will be alternatively forested and cleared, with the main clearings being for the 2 campgrounds in mile 105, and for the community of Oregon close to dam 6. 


I also noticed that, as in the previous section, the palisades won’t be as visible in this stretch after the Cummins Creek enters at mile 105.5 - they’ll be there, but they’re covered by trees and foliage.  If you want fall color though, you certainly won’t mind this too much. 


The turkey buzzards I’d seen on Sunday were no longer there when I got to Fromans Branch (a.k.a. Brush Run which comes in over the Stumpy Bar), and as I started my paddle downriver I admired the color amidst the hillside trees. 


When you get to mile 105.5 the Cummins Creek enters on the right.  It’s atop a rocky cliff and it runs over a really great looking waterfall here (no chance of paddling up this one unless you bring some climbing gear!).   This is the only named stream on the river that I’m aware of which runs over a waterfall like this.  I, unfortunately, didn’t get the best picture of it.  Good thing the spot is so photogenic!


Across from this waterfall lie the Cummins Falls Campground and its’ Marina.  This business appears to cover a full mile of the riverbank on the left, and it offers what looks like a good sized general store, an RV park and some hiking trails.  There’s another nice boat ramp here too, and the marina looks to have the largest capacity of any yet on the river.  I counted only 13 boats, but there was room for at least a couple dozen more.  This marina is only ½ mile upriver from where I put in at the Cummins Ferry ramp at Non-Such Campground.


Non-Such, itself, appears to be a bit smaller and it’s more cleared out except at the shoreline where it offers some really nice shaded camping spots.  It also had a SWEET looking rope swing at the ramp, although this didn’t appear to be attached to the sturdiest of limbs or trees!



Non-Such is on the inside of Cummins Bend at mile 105 and after it, you’re in the “belly” of the snake with sharp bends interspersed with longer and straighter periods.



Wilson Branch comes in at a momentary break in the mountains on the outside of Chapman Bend (a 180 degree left curve extending from mile 104 to 103).  It was dry, although its mouth was covered by swamp-like reeds.  In fact, the floral diversification is what ended up striking me the most about the trip today.  That and the minnows again…


When I started this trip on the forks in Beattyville I noticed them in little schools, but soon they were appearing in larger and larger waves.  In the last pool they formed long lines which extended for hundreds of feet, sometimes 3 or 4 wide across the river.  Well here, all the way around Deans Bend from mile 102 to 101, these little wonders formed one gigantic tapestry of intersecting little fish highways!  You’ve got to see this to believe it!  I am, of course, very happy to be able to witness this at all; I just wish I was a little bit higher (say, standing in a power boat) to get the full effect of it.  It’s amazing!




There are some shoals from miles 101 to 99 where you can stop and rest, and at mile 99 on the inside of the next unnamed curve left, is the location of the Carr Cabin according to the charts.  I couldn’t see this from either side of the river, however. 


There’s another ramp at mile 98 on the left about where Captain Preston’s Landing is supposed to have been.  It looks private, and appears to be made of poured concrete.  It isn’t listed on the charts.


Another ½ mile down is a historic spot!  It’s where the Harrod party landed en route to establishing Harrodsburg, Kentucky!  This is at the point just upriver from where Landing Run (presumably named in reference to said party) enters at about 10 yards wide.  Someone had the misfortune of having their boat crushed by a fallen tree about 30 yards in.



Coming out of this stream, the sight which greeted me at the Oregon boat ramp at mile 97.5 was an absolute GIFT!  A man was at the bottom of the ramp atop a really nice looking John Deere tractor/backhoe.  The fact that I did not ask permission and take a picture of this timelessly classic scene will brutally haunt me for quite a long time.  I did think to compliment the man on his tractor, and he said that he had just come down to the water to take a quick break and admire the river.  He, too, had taken notice of the minnows and thought that they might be shad fish.


It’s funny that when I encounter people on the river I have a ton of questions to ask them, yet I’m either too reluctant to bother them, can’t think of anything to say, or I just plain forget the darn questions!  The last is like being in a record/cd store (an unfortunately dying breed although there’s a great new and used one in Lexington called CD Depot  I adore going to these to see what I can find.  Problem is, I always forget absolutely everything on my “buy” list as soon as I walk in the door!  Maybe it’s the enthusiasm of just being there to see what I can find, or some kind of sensory overload, I don’t know...  I digress!


The ramp in the community of Oregon, Kentucky is another nice paved one with room for many vehicles.  I used it last year when I paddled this section.  Access to it is off US127 (as is access to the Cummins Ferry Marina, by the way), but the roads leading right down to it are extremely narrow and there was one intersection, in particular, where it didn’t seem quite clear as to who had the “right of way”.  You’ll need to be quite cautious here.  This community was alternatively known as Harrod’s Landing and Warwick before becoming Oregon.  The town was a stop for the showboats and there used to be another ferry here.


Another mile down at mile 96 is lock and dam 6 - another beautiful park-like spot.  In fact, this one looks almost exactly like dam 7 believe it or not.  It, too, lies against a short rock wall and is no longer graced with lock houses (there’s only a shed left here).  It, too, can be accessed from a road on the upriver side (though this is chained off right before entering the grounds), and it, too, has grounds which end on the downriver side in a forest with what could be another hiking trail through it.



It was pretty easy to get out and walk around at this dam (on the lock side) so I did, and once at the top I encountered a couple turkey buzzards who were in clear violation of the “no trespassing” signs!  The nerve!



I think I’m OK, by the way, being up here.  I certainly hope so!  I just walk around the grounds - never directly onto the lock or dam.  I never take any chances.  Its been said that when these locks were in operation that there were people who just walked right off the edge and died sometimes when it was foggy out or the lights blinded them - they couldn’t see the edge.


I’ve started to notice at this point, that the dams are now more gently sloped than the others further upstream, and that this makes them lower.  That and the fact that at this one there’s a line of large rocks in the water at the bottom of the chute which might be intended to form a barrier to keep the boats from peril. 


Taking advantage of this were a couple more power boat fishermen.  There were also some people downriver on the lock side fishing, and it was nice to see that the spot was being taken advantage of.  In fact, you’ll usually see people fishing at or near just about every dam, and especially on weekends. 


Once I’d explored and seen all this I headed back upriver and out without incident.  I’ll try to get another paddle in Monday and check out Tyrone, Kentucky!





KY33 into the town of Nonesuch, Kentucky.  Head southwest (opposite side from gas station/convenience store at the intersection) on Cummins Ferry Road and take it all the way to the end.