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2008 Kentucky River Kayak Trek

Wednesday, September 25, 2008

Bear Branch to Dam 4 in Frankfort at Mile 65

 

 

The capital city!  When I started this trip back on July 14, it was an article in the paper about Frankfort that had been a good sign.  Prior to seeing that, I had wondered whether trying to paddle this entire river again was just another crazy idea of mine.  Should I even attempt it again?  Last year was really disappointing.  The article, however, mentioned how the city was trying to reinvigorate its riverfront area – so I decided to reinvigorate my trip! A further validation occurred this past weekend when they’d had something called Paddlepalooza, another event to bring awareness to the river.

As one might expect, this area of the river would turn out to have more activity on it than would any other.  The combined quantity of boats, houses, buildings and industry here serve notice that you are, in fact, paddling by the largest city on this river.  As you might expect too, there’s history aplenty here so I decided to take a short detour by the Capitol Building on my way in.  

I should note here, since there is so much to see on this section, that I’m not used to writing about so much happening at one time.  Thus, I hope that the general flow of this journal will provide for an OK reading experience.  As I’ve mentioned before, I can’t come close to doing justice to the places I write about.  I can only hope that these journals will serve as an introduction to these areas so that the reader will want to experience them for him or herself too at some point.

Anyhow, once at the ramp I got an immediate taste of history as it relates directly to the river.  I hadn’t noticed it when I paddled a part of this section last year, but the library atop the ramp I used was named for Paul Sawyier.  He was the man I’ve mentioned before who lived for 4 years on a shanty boat (now at Shaker Landing – mile 118) in the early 1900’s painting pictures of the river.  He was from Frankfort so it’s really awesome that they’ve honored him in this way!

In fact, the spot for this particular boat ramp is perfect in many ways.  Judging from his paintings it’s apparent that Sawyier must have loved the river, so it’s appropriate that the ramp and marina are right here.  At the bottom of the ramp, too, is Frankfort’s Singing Bridge which he was also said to be quite fond of (although this is a more recent version than the one he knew).  Sawyier painted many pictures of the previous Singing Bridge and there’s an art gallery in town which features his work.  This will, without doubt, be an area I’ll come back and visit this winter as part of an effort to explore some more river history.  Maybe that exploration will help to beat the winter blahs this year!

At any rate, I made my way upriver about 9:30.  I’ll mention that although I’ve named this trip as I did above for the sake of continuity, what I actually did on this day was to paddle a little bit further up to the Little Benson Creek to start.  I wanted to get a better picture of the “little island paradise” I saw a couple days ago and described in my last entry.

 

Once at this point, I got out at the shoal to stretch and, as I was draining some of the water out of my boat, I attracted the attention of a bee.  It buzzed around me as I quickly got back into the boat.  With my legs both awkwardly over one side, I was fully ready to dive in the water if need be.  I was lucky though that the bee eventually lost interest.

Back at the beach on Mulholand Bend that I wrote about last time, I was able to confirm that this is, in fact, called Mulholand Beach.  It’s actually the port of Mulholand Beach as per a boat here!  Also on this boat was an indication that this is the “Dog Pound”.  Cleveland Browns fans?  Maybe not...  I guess it would be the “Dawg Pound” in that case.  Anyway, it looks like one of the houses here is for sale so you might have a portion of this beach as part of your property if you bought it?  I’m not sure.

There are a few more houses on this side after these and on the right side you’ll see the boat ramp that I also mentioned the last time.  In fact, in the first downriver mile there are 3 boat ramps on the right - this one, an older one in the middle (at another house for sale) and yet another at the end.  These all look to border on a street called Shore Acres which has a line of houses which extends for about a mile.  Between the second and third ramp was the first tree house I can recall seeing.  There may have been others, but this one stands out and it looks to have an oriental theme.

This first mile is part of a long and straight 2 mile stretch and after the ramps I noticed a bird house on a tree with a sign under it that I couldn’t quite read.  This would be somewhat unremarkable but for the fact that I began to wonder exactly where the Buckley Wildlife Sanctuary and Audubon Center was.  I thought that it might have been around here because I know that this sanctuary borders on the river in this section.  I’ll have to find out, but I can tell you that this is a great place to visit and especially if you’ve got kids.  Whilst on a hike there (there is a fee) I was introduced to all kinds of critters living in the old house which serves as the office/wildlife center.  There’s a lot of interesting things to see here.

As you enter a curve right at mile 72 a hill crops in and you can just make out a palisade atop this.  Another hill becomes visible in the distance at mile 71 on a curve left once you can see around this one.  The hills have switched sides on this “S” curve.  Glenn's Creek enters from the right in the middle of this.  I got in a little more than 200 feet and found that the shad minnows rule here.  They scattered in myriad directions as I paddled in trying to avoid me - first out of the branch as I paddled in and then back in as I paddled out.  Appropriately, Glenns Creek Road runs right up against the river from this creek down to Vaughan Branch at mile 70 where the river finally veers away from it.

As I exited the creek, I noticed some old equipment on the right.  The charts indicate that the Jim Beam distillery intake is here, but there’s no sign of life that I can tell.  When a friend and I visited the Jim Beam distillery a couple years ago it wasn't located anywhere near here.  It was in Shepherdsville.  Maybe this was an old intake for a former branch of that distillery that used to here? A mystery…

And another…  Nearing the end of the mile 71 curve, there is what apparently used to be a Kentucky Department of Transportation Bridge, but the only bridges visible here are for those of I64 - one for northbound traffic and one for southbound.  There is a concrete platform here with some stone steps and an iron railing leading down to it...

Then, just past the I64 bridges, you'll find something a little odd.  There’s some old electric equipment at the water’s edge, part of which is on the water, yet it’s got a “Danger High Voltage” sign on it! 

At any rate, you'll next reach the community of Big Eddy around the Big Eddy Bend.  It extends for about a mile and there are houses all through here - just about every one has a boat.  There's another little beach-like area here too while a very small Vaughan Branch (mentioned before) enters from the opposite side through a little concrete viaduct under Glenn's Creek Road. 

As for the next bend it cuts sharply right for another mile just as the Big Eddy Bend had cut sharply left.  Within this mile are more things to see.  The first is the Frankfort Electric and Water Company intake on the right.  It has what looks to have been a nice boat ramp at one time, but there’s a pile of rocks at the end which effectively neutralizes it now (that, and the chain link fence at the top!). 

Next up are the pair of East-West connector bridges for KY676 followed by Cedar Run which enters under a midsized concrete viaduct bridge.  I could have paddled under this but I could tell that the stream ended at the end.  It wouldn’t have been worth all the spider webs I would have had to go through.

There’s a boat ramp of the public variety right here at the Cedar Run Bar.  I had, in fact, considered using this one but given my luck lately with finding ramps, I decided to just stick with one I was familiar with.  Besides, the days are getting shorter.  I don’t need to be searching for ramps.  I need all the time I can get on the water.

It’s at Cedar Run where I got the feeling that Frankfort really began.  I could see some houses atop a large hill over the river and there was a road right along the bank on the left side too (KY420).  This made for an interesting 2 tiered landscape with more and more houses becoming visible the further downriver you go.  This is on the left side.  The right side begins with a nice park-like setting followed by woods and then a cleared out area.  I couldn’t see much from my vantage point down on the river but it looks like most of this area is farmland.

Once at mile 68 (where some power lines go over the river) you’ll be able to glimpse the top of the Capitol Building over the trees on the left.  Welcome to Frankfort!  From here it’s one thing to see after another.  Frankfort Electric & Water Company is on the left according to the charts (oddly, its water intake was a full mile and a half down on the other side of the river across from Big Eddy).  This is followed by the intake for State Air Conditioning. 

Across from these an unnamed creek enters.  This creek is an oddity in that it is unnamed, yet it is paddleable – for about 100 feet anyway.  Pass this and the bank quickly ascends after the clearing to form another tree-lined hillside/mountainside on the right.  It was at the top of this that I spotted what might be Daniel Boone’s gravesite – or at least a graveyard that contains this gravesite which is supposed to be at about this spot.  There are a couple flags and a yellow ball visible on top of some kind of marker on the side of the hill here.  This is on the outside of the left curve of mile 67.  The inside of this curve is all South Frankfort with a hillside in the background.

It’s close to 4PM now and I’m seeing a lot more boats.  Jet-ski’s too.  In fact, they’re moving pretty quickly with one doing circles around the river.  You’ll have to watch out here.  They don’t slow down and I get the feeling that this is something of a party pool.  There’s a lot of fun to be had, but if you’re new to paddling or even a bit unsure of your balance in your boat you might want to perfect your “A” game before paddling here.  On my last visit I saw a boat just FLY into Benson Creek even though there was a “No Wake” sign up.  I had seen another boat do the same thing back by Shore Acres Road today and all the boats and docks on the bank were really being buffeted around.

2 more bridges become visible as you round the bend.  The one further down is the Singing Bridge and the other is the Capital Avenue Bridge (which effectively serves as a divider for KY60 on the north and KY420 on the south).  Between these two on the right you'll note a really well made and nice looking stone wall which appears to stretch all the way between the 2 bridges (maybe a quarter mile) along with a nice old brick building at the top of a hill.  I’ve seen historical markers on the road outside it.  There's a little marina on the other side.

Next we have the Singing Bridge.  Now honestly…singing?  OK, maybe wailing/moaning…  All right, singing!  Every car that goes over this bridge seems to make a different sound because the bottom of it is grated and the different kinds of tires on the cars going across make different noises - hence the name.  Like the Capital Bridge, it separates Frankfort from South Frankfort with Bridge Road on the north and St. Clair Street on the south.  Also, and as mentioned in the beginning, the boat ramp and the Frankfort Boat Club and Marina are right here too.  The marina contains about 40 boats so this is the most boats I’ve seen at a marina since back at Boonesborough at mile 175.

As you curve right at mile 66 the hills will crop back in.  There’s a road which has been cut through, so you’ll see another rock face here with more houses visible on the top of it.  That’s on the outside of the bend.  On the inside is an area the charts indicate as the “Corner in Celebrities” and, sure enough, there are some really nice looking houses to see here.  Quite a few people of note lived in this area.

3 more bridges enter into view as you near the end of this bend.  The first is the CSX Railroad Bridge (which appears as a bridge on top of a bridge) and the second 2 are for a combination of KY127 and KY421.  There’s a park which looks to extend on either side of these on the right.  This is Riverview Park and it includes a fishing pier and boat dock (visible after the bridges).

Benson Creek enters just past the railroad bridge from the left and yet a couple more bridges pass over this stream at the beginning.  One of these bridges is for KY1211/Taylor Avenue while the other might be an old railroad bridge.  Also of interest here and to the right side of the creek mouth you'll find another of those old round stone structures with “windows”.  I’ve mentioned in previous entries that I’m not exactly sure what these were.  I’ve been guessing that they’re remnants of old water intakes.  This one has been incorporated into what looks like a house. 

Then, if you continue up the creek you'll find a boat ramp on the first right curve.

After this I passed another bridge (another for KY127) and found an incoming stream on the left.  I’ll check this out…

Wait...

Avast ye matey! (Always wanted to either say or write that!) 

Lurking back in here is what could be a veritable pirate’s cove; something that I had not unexpected as it’s kind of hidden back here.  This is the Benson Creek Marina and it looks like a cul-de-sac of boats.  I’d seen this on the charts but had assumed it was the little marina immediately downriver from Benson Creek.  Surprise!  There’s a store here, a bar and (total guess) about 30-40 boats 

As for the Benson Creek itself, it seems to get larger after this.  In fact, I wondered if I would be able to get this in today and still reach dam 4.  To my mind, Benson must be the size of any of the forks above Beattyville at this point.  I decided to chance it and continue on, but do you know that this creek ends incredibly abruptly?  Just when I though I'd have to turn back it ended at a large shoal.  Still, I had gotten in for a 900 paddle count, or about a mile and a quarter – roughly the longest distance of any side stream yet (keeping in mind that I passed over the option of paddling into the Red River in order to explore it separately later).

As I paddled out I got just about my clearest view of what must be the tallest building (state government related, I assume) in Frankfort along Wilkinson Avenue next to a large hotel.  I wondered if this was where the Kentucky River Authority was housed.  The charts indicate that this is about the spot where it would be.

I also noticed as I paddled down to the dam that the dock at River View Park is really nice and some people are taking advantage of it.  It’s got another old boat hulk next to it.   I haven’t seen any interesting ones in quite a while.  This looks like it was probably a barge since the Central Kentucky Sand Barge Facility used to be just downriver from this spot.  The barge is about 2/3 submerged.  It’s angled down, so when boats power by it they spray a wave of water which cascades powerfully up and over the wall of it.  If you were somehow behind this you’d get soaked!

The barge facility itself looks like it might have been quite an operation when it was going.  It’s got, as part of its construction, some of those large metal canisters filled with concrete that I’ve seen before at some of the dams.  These must be commonplace on the lower sections of the river but I didn’t notice any above dam 5 besides the new ones they put in at dam 9.

 

Lock and dam 4 is unique in that, as you look down the river to it, there are houses atop a hill just beyond.  All the other ones had been in rural areas.  The lock for this one is right in the community of Bellepoint just across from downtown Frankfort.  I didn’t climb up the bank at the lock corner but it would have been fairly easy to do so.  I saw what I think was one of the old lock houses right in the center of a neighborhood.

From here it was time to make my return to the ramp, but oftentimes I get to these dams and I don't feel like I've stayed to enjoy them long enough.   This time I wanted to savor the experience just a little longer by paddling backwards so as to keep an eye on the scene just a little longer while at the same time making some time on the way back.  Well, as I did this I fought a little against the wind and at the last point, a gust caught me and my boat came around to the front with a fair deal of force, as if insistent that I turn around.

Well, wouldn’t you know that when this happened I was looking at a jet-skier coming right at me?  “Oh, great!  I should have been paying more attention!  Now I’m going to be chastised for not watching where I’m going and for being right in the middle of the river while I’m doing so!”  I braced myself as the man slowed... 

“You’re doing a good job!”    

?!?

The guy told me he had seen me further up and just wanted to tell me that I was doing a good job.  I figured this could have been the guy that I mentioned earlier who was doing the circles.  Well, I’m not sure how good of a job I was doing, but I thought it was very kind of him to take away from his fun to stop and greet me.  He confirmed that this area was the most utilized of any on this river - and that that held for any other river in the state as well!  We also talked about Paddlepalooza and he said that they’d had what seemed like 100 paddlers out here.

As the conversation ended, he departed in style.  He was directly in front of me and pointing away so that I was looking right at the back of his jet-ski, and as he departed he did so at an extremely rapid pace directly in my line of vision, getting smaller and smaller the farther he got.  It was cool.  I knew jet-ski’s could be pretty fast (his went 60 miles per hour, he had said), but I didn’t know that they could go 0-60 that fast!

I got back to the ramp and out without a problem.  You’ll definitely want to bring a map of Frankfort along with you besides just the directions though because some of the downtown streets are one way.  The system of roads around the city can be quite confusing as well, so the directions you used coming in may not be the same directions you can use going out.  Therefore, I’ll have to be a little vague when describing…

 

DIRECTIONS:

 

The ramp is behind the Paul Sawyier Library at 319 Wapping Street in Frankfort.  This is between the Singing Bridge and the Good Shephard Chruch.  If you travel northwest from the intersection of Wapping Street and Washington Street you’ll drive right back into the library parking lot.  Take a left at the end (this borders the river) and if you go straight after taking this left, you’ll drive right down the ramp.