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2008 Kentucky River Kayak Trek


Monday, October 6, 2008


Dam 3 in Monterey to Dam 2 in Lockport (Mile 31)



I had been looking forward to seeing what Monterey was like but I had held the suspense until I actually got a chance paddle down to it.  Thus, I didn’t know how big it was or really much about it at all.  I did, however, have the directions to the ramp down pretty well because I’d checked 4 different sources.  I set out at 7 and got to Monterey a little after 8.  On the way there on US127 I was greeted with some great views of the foggy countryside along with an incredible horizon painted orange by the morning sun and complete with white vapor trails over a blue sky.  What a way to start!



When I got to Monterey, though, it was apparent that the Mr. Hyde part of my persona, “the incredibly hapless forgetful man-klutz”, had returned.  I hadn’t seen this persona in evidence for quite a while, but today would change that.  Monterey turned out to be a very frustrating place.  First of all, the directions I got were apparently all out of date, and I could not find the ramp.  I ended up driving just about every road in town and some on the outskirts thinking that I’d have to find it eventually in such a small town.  There was no one around to ask about it though…


What I eventually found out, after driving around for 45 minutes, was that the ramp which USED to be public is now private.  Access to it was off Point of Rock Road on a little lane which looked more like a large driveway than it did KY561 as per the directions I had.  In fact, I wouldn’t be able to so much as drive down this road.  There was a sign which, had I not seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it.  You need written permission to enter.  I might have expected such a sign in Monterey, California; not Monterey, Kentucky!  Something must have happened for them to have made this ramp private.


All this makes me think of Charles Grodin in the movie Midnight Run when he says:  “C’mon…don’t do this…” in a plea to change the mindset of Robert DiNiro’s character.  The problem with doing things like this (like putting up such signs) is that while they may have justification, such actions generally lead to a cool attitude towards others.  The action is brought into play by the attitude and the attitude is perpetuated as long as the action is maintained.  Can this begin to affect a person in a deeper way?  Another movie comes to mind…


I don’t plan to see the latest Batman movie because I’ve heard it’s about as dark as any film ever made.  Look at what happened to the 2 leading actors in that film:  Heath Ledger died under somewhat mysterious circumstances and Christian Bale was arrested for assault (as yet unproven in court as far as I know though).  Did the darkness necessary to play their roles affect them at the deepest level?  Cause and effect?  Perhaps not, but it does make me think…


One of the boaters I would meet with today, having apparently put-in in at Monterrey, gave me a bit of concern later.  I was paddling back downriver and he was coming right at me – and to his left center of the river – a little too close for comfort.  I, of course, got way over to the bank as he simply zipped right by.  I waved anyway but he didn’t budge, seeming to just stare me down.  This was the same boater I had moved all the way over to the other side of the river for so I wouldn’t disturb his fishing.  One of the kids in the boat did wave back.  The kids were all nice today.


Anyway, the situation at the ramp made me angry and not because of the owners.  They have a right to do whatever they want with their property.  What made me angry was that my bad luck had returned and that I had wasted all this time.  I needed all the time I could get – 10 hours on the water to complete the pool (which I’d have to do in one day because of the relative lack of access) – and now I’d either have to go home and come back the next day or try to quickly find the next ramp down in Lockport.  Frustrated by maps though, I doubted them all and wondered whether or not the put-in in Lockport would even exist.


Well, as it turned out, my drives around Monterey had not been entirely unproductive.  On them, I had noticed a road which meandered right down by the river along with a sign which contained the mileages for both Gratz and Carrollton, Kentucky - both communities along the river at points further down.  Thus, I decided to try this road and see if I could somehow stumble onto the community of Lockport...


Luckily enough, I found it after about another 45 minutes.  Seeing the Lockport quarry sign off the main road I had taken had really helped me out, and what I found when I arrived was that the Lock and Dam here (#2) is immediately next to the road on KY389.  Neither lock house remains, however, for this road would have to go right through them if they did. 


The put in here looks a lot like the one out near Bybee Pottery in Waco.  That ramp entered right at the confluence of the Drowning Creek and the Kentucky River at mile 205.  This one enters at the confluence of the Six Mile Creek and the Kentucky.  It’s not as remote, however, being right outside the town of Lockport.


When I got on the water at 9:30 I didn’t think it would be possible to return before dark, and I felt that this was confirmed when I found that the first creek I explored, the Six Mile, was the longest paddle-able stream so far on the river (with the possible exception of the Red River which I didn’t go into).  This would be OK, however, since I did bring my headlamp.  What I’d forgotten was my sponge which I use to bail out my boat.  I would also lose another towel today.  This really wasn’t starting well…



I headed up to Lock and Dam 3, exploring all the side streams on my way up.  This dam (#3) is in a really wide open area with very large beach-like areas on both sides - it’s beautiful.




I quickly climbed up the beach to get a look at the top of the lock.  Both lock houses remain (at least I think these are the old houses, they’re not identical though as all pairs of lock houses were supposed to be).  Like the ones in Irvine it looks like these, too, are in need of some TLC.  They lie amidst the small community of Gest, Kentucky and a portage of this lock would be pretty easy.  This side is a sandy/rocky beach which is easy to climb and the other (upriver) side is also an easy climb albeit through some vegetation.



Across the river from me here (downriver from the dam) was a family fishing at the Monterey ramp as I paddled over.  The kids waved at me and I said “hi”.  The lady told me that the ramp was, in fact, on a private road.  I sure hope they eventually put in a public ramp around here, but further downriver I would find another spot which would be perfect for a paddler put-in… 


The Cedar Creek enters right here at this ramp so I ventured in.  It was a bit of a challenge to negotiate as it was quite shallow and it had several shoals in a short span before it ended at one.  I got in about 100 yards, and when I paddled out it was 3:30 - I had done much better than I thought as far as time, and I had to consider that I might just make it back before dark after all.  If I really paddled I could make it back around 8 or a little after.  


I pondered this as I looked down the straightaway which comprised the first 2 downriver miles of the trip.  This stretch would be farmland on both sides, and then the banks would alternate farmland with forested hills for the rest of the trip afterward.  The Dry Branch at mile 41 (I think it’s the 3rd stream with that name so far) and the Raccoon Branch just after mile 40 were barely noticeable as they entered from the left.   


Mile 38.5 to about mile 34 is one large loop - almost a complete circle.  Pond Creek, which came in at about mile 37.5, was only about a foot wide.  According to the charts the right bank in this arc of the loop (from Pond Creek to the Severn) is referred to as the Sliding Bank, and the road I drove in on (US355), follows close to the river for this stretch as well. 


There’s an area here at river mile 37 on the right which is REALLY interesting.  It looks like one of those places you see on a highway which offers a turnoff for a scenic view.  When I passed by this on my drive in I noticed that it’s blocked off by a fence now, but looking at it from the river it calls to mind all sorts of possibilities.  I wondered this was closed?  Had both they and the community of Monterey experienced problems which caused them to close these access points to the river?



The spot consists of a nice stone wall which has been made to support a river overlook; and winding down the side, all in the same stonework, were some rocky steps leading down to the riverbank.  What a place!  Paddlers would be able to bring their boats and gear down fairly easily too.  Of interest to me as I look at the picture now, I see that someone was at the top of the hill when I paddled past.  I wish I’d noticed this person when I took it, as I might have been able to find out more about why this place was closed off.


Across the river from this was a huge beehive on a tree branch right over the water.  I got the best picture I could without getting too close, but I know what some are saying:  “Paddle right up under that hive and take a close-up picture, you pansy!”  That’s fine, but I’m starting to get close to finishing this river and I’d really like to live to see Carrollton!



Right after mile 36, and just upriver from where the Severn Creek entered, there were some remnants of another really old ramp.  The charts indicated that Clemmons Landing was here, and I guessed that this was the spot of another ferry at one time.  There’s a bridge over Severn Creek right at its mouth for US355 and I got into the creek about 1/2 mile.  At the end there was more of that green alphabet soup like there’d been at the back of every creek after the Elkhorn.  Also in this creek was a structure that seemed a bit out of place since it was so far back.  It actually looked like a water intake.



From this creek all the way back I was paddling for all I was worth trying to take certain angles in order to use the curves of the river to my best advantage and cut some of the time and distance.  I don’t like to have to do this, but that was the way it was meant to be today.  It gets darker on the water much more quickly too because you’re so low - the trees block the sun, and this can make it appear to be much later than it really is.   


I did notice one little shoal at mile 35 that looked like it might be used as either a ramp or just a path.  There was a wooden wall still partly standing that came down to it from above.  The community of Fallis, Kentucky is on the left at mile 33.  A dog barking at me there could be heard for a couple river miles.  The Pot Ripple Creek enters here too (also on the left), and I got in 100 yards before it ended at a bridge.  The shoal for this creek was being used as a ramp, and there was what looked like a campground at the top.


The last part of the trip was a slow right curve all the way down to Lock and Dam 2 at mile 31, and immediately before this on the left was the Six Mile Creek I mentioned before.  I got more than a mile into it, and whilst I was doing so, it seemed to me that someone was up to some mailbox pranks.  There was one down on the right bank as I paddled a little way in, so if anyone in Lockport or the vicinity  is looking for their box, #421, it’s back here and it looks like it’s still in great shape.  I caught a glimpse of an otter at the end of this stream.  It quickly peered over a downed tree at me before performing a vanishing act.


Dam 2, like I mentioned, has no lock houses.  It would be an easy port but a long walk.  You’d need to take out at the ramp I used and walk your boat and gear all the way up, then walk down a section of road, and then walk back down on the other side.  I noticed that here was a drive leading down there when I came in and I may use this as a put-in on the next leg of this journey.


Quite a few people were back at the ramp when I returned (I got back, to my total surprise, about 7PM and before dark).  The people were young; a little younger than me, I think, and they were just having some liquid refreshment and relaxing.  I’m always wary of people who are drinking, however, because it makes them unpredictable (unless, of course, you happen to be a friend drinking with them).  I was surprised when one of them asked me if I wanted something, but I said no, even though I appreciated the offer.  A stranger willing to share what he had - a great kindness.


A girl ended up betting that one of the guys couldn’t get into my kayak.  They asked if they could try, and I agreed, but once the guy got down to my boat it was apparent that the girl who had made the bet had lost interest.  He helped me carry it back up the ramp, and mentioned that he enjoyed kayaking too but hadn’t been out much.  He was from Munfordville near the Green River, and actually said he’d like to go out with me sometime, but I wasn’t sure how serious he was






Don’t do what I did.


I could leave it there and that would probably suffice, but I’ll explain in more detail.  Get to Lockport and you really can’t miss the lock and dam.  It’s off KY389.  If you follow KY22 southwest of Owenton you’ll hit 389.  Take a left and soon after you’ll see the lock and dam down and to your left.  You really can’t miss this (even I didn’t!). 


The ramp I used is immediately past this on the left at the bottom of the parking lot if you come in this way.  You can actually drive down on the other (downriver) side of the lock too, but I’m not sure if there’s a ramp there or just a beach.  I’ll find out next time and relay that info.