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2008 Kentucky River Kayak Trek


Friday, October 10, 2008


Dam 2 in Lockport to Drennon Creek (Mile 21)



Today was a good day.  I knew exactly how to get to the put-in since I’d already scouted it on Monday, and all the people I would encounter today would be really easy-going and friendly.  I was happy too because I was getting close to Carrollton.  This pool between dam 2 and 1 is the largest pool on the river and it will take 3 days to finish.  After that I have the smallest pool which is do-able in one day.  Just 3 more paddling days after this and I could be done. 


The days from here on out will descend as far as the time it takes to complete the trips.  That’s a plus because it’s supposed get steadily colder this week; from low 80 degree highs on Monday, the longest trip to low 70 degree highs on Friday, the shortest.  I think our Indian summer may be over, but will I actually be allowed to finish this trip?!?  It’s getting exciting! 


Just a feeling but, knock on wood, I think a really good year will start with the end date of this trek.  Most people go on calendar years, companies go on fiscal years, but I may well be going on James-al years.  My year may extend from October 26th (the date I failed in my quest to finish the river last year) to October 25th.  James-al 08’ was bad.  James-al 09’good? 


The river has really been a constant friend throughout this trek.  It has calmed and soothed me in the midst of uncertainty and it has also given me some time to really think about my life and about what truly matters.  A better perspective has emerged; one which has me more confident than ever that all things have a habit of working out for the best. 


I know that the world is basically a good place because out of everything bad that happens something good always comes out of it – even if that something is to bring people together for the common good.  It doesn’t work the other way.  Something bad doesn’t always occur after something good.  Thus, it makes no sense to ever worry.  Worrying is a complete waste of time, emotion and mental energy.  Trust may well hold the key to inner peace.


I failed to mention it last time, but on the drive out I passed through the community of Gratz, Kentucky.  This town has quite a history on the river and it used to be a much larger place than it is now.  There are still some neat old downtown buildings though as you drive through, but I’m not sure there are any businesses open here anymore.  I’d see this community from the water later and be really impressed...



If you come out here, watch out as you drive down to the rocky beach on the downriver side of Lock and Dam 2.  There’s a ledge which can take out parts of the undercarriage of your vehicle if you’re not careful - I got a pretty good scrape!  Once down at the beach, I saw a couple fishermen trying their luck in the early mist of the morning, so I got my gear and stuff out as quietly as I could and parked my car as far out of the way as possible while still being fairly visible.


According to William Ellis’ Kentucky River book, there used to be a publicly run beach here in Lockport, but it’s hard to tell now which side it might have been on.  Looking downriver from the dam, there’s a sandy beach on the right that the charts refer to as Thomas Beach.  This was probably it, although it is on the other side of Lockport, so it might be more easily accessed by going through Gratz.


I’ve found out, by the way, that there’s another book coming out in December which may help to shed more light on all of this.  It’ll be all about the Kentucky River towns and I cannot wait to read it!  It should really help bring alive some of the history I’ve been seeing all along this trek.  Check out the authors’ web site at for more information about it.


The sky had been bright and sunny on the way out, but down on the water it was still foggy.  When you looked upriver you could see fairly clearly, but when you looked down it was still hazy and unclear.  There were a couple little “squiggly” curves for the first mile, and at about the mile 30 mark a grain elevator came over the water on the left side.  This was apparently part of the Lockport Quarry.  Business looked to be pretty good judging from what I saw when I drove in, but I’m not sure if the elevator on the riverbank is in use anymore.  It may be that it’s more economical now to transport by truck than by barge.  [10/8/09 update - I paddled by today and saw 4 barges linked together here, one of which had some HUGE spans on it.  As I passed by Gratz I saw why...  (See below)]



I saw something skimming along the water just before this and it aroused my curiosity.  I turned out to be a fish, but it looked like it had been gored and it was just kind of swimming around in circles as if unable to fully swim anymore.  I don’t think it had been caught by a fisherman and put back in because it was too impaired for that.  It looked more like it had been picked up by a bird and dropped because the marks on it looked like they could have been made by talons.  Maybe a turkey buzzard…  Can I feel bad for a fish?  I think that’s permissible…


From the grain elevator to about mile 26.5 is one long 3 and a half mile curve left and Gratz is on the right side at mile 28.5.  Leading up to it for maybe a mile and a half on the same side was a rocky ledge which ended at a nice looking rocky beach right in front of the town.  What struck me about this was that one could walk for about this whole mile and a half along this ledge.  While challenging at spots, it looked like it might be a nice stroll.


The beach area in Gratz was supposed to have been a stop for the old showboats, and I could definitely see now where this would have been the case because what also struck me was that there’s a rock wall at the beach above which is a little raised spot.  I could envision all the people who might have lined the shore here to watch these shows.  I could also see where a band could have played to the crowd below from the elevated spot.  Wow, do I ever wish I could have actually seen one of these shows!  Leitch’s Landing is on the other side of the river.  [10/8/09 update - Gratz is getting a brand new road bridge across the river which will probably replace the old one - hence the spans I saw on the barges back at the quarry.  They're putting it in right in the middle of the picture below so I'm glad I had a chance to snap it.  I admit to having mixed feelings about this.  The old bridge has a lot of charm and it provides for a really picturesque scene as you go over it and head into Gratz (see the first picture in this journal for what this looks like.  Even though it's the first picture in this journal, it's the last picture I took it on my way out).  I also noticed that there is now a restaurant and shop in downtown Gratz - nearly adjacent to the old bridge which didn't look to have been open last year.  It looks really nice!]



The bridge over the water at Gratz was the one for KY22 that I drove in on, and the trucks transporting to and from the quarry were really in evidence here.  Truck after truck kept going over this bridge.  I thought the construction boom was over, but apparently not here.  Things look to be going quite well! 


I conversed with a fisherman and his son not long after this.  He stopped his boat and we passed the time of day for a while.  He confirmed that there were no more stores in Gratz, but I forgot to ask him about the put-in points further downriver.  I had made a mental note at the beginning of the day to do this if I ran across any boaters.  I would NOT forget again.


The incoming creeks along this long curve in the river were all pretty much dry:  Claylick Creek at Gratz, Leitch’s Creek at mile 27.5 and Rocky Point Creek just past mile 27.  At mile 27 the navigation charts indicate that there is or was a lead mine, and I now see from the maps that this mine has its own road which leads down to the river off KY355 called Lead Mine Road.  Kentuckians sure got right to the point when naming their roads!


The left curve ends at Rock Bar Landing, possibly another old ferry location.  It looked like there were a couple dwellings here.  Mile 26 is a slight right curve, and looking at the left shoreline I thought of Laurel Lake.  I think that’s because of the gently sloping rocky banks.


The next mile was a fairly straight one with farmland on both sides, and it was in this section that Mother Nature showed me some natural Halloween decorations.  That’s because on the right side there were some perfectly woven spider webs that made me look forward to coming Halloween parties.



The next spot on the outside bend of the sharp curve left at mile 24.5 really had me wanting to just stop and laze, because here was another Laurel Lake-like rocky beach.  It’s a great location, and just past it I saw some more wildlife.



I first saw a fox just standing on the bank and it lingered for several seconds before it did something which I’ve seen domesticated dogs do – it playfully rolled around on its back in the dirt before jumping up and running away back up the same zigzag path that it probably wound down on.   


The other thing I saw was a large fish that dove up above the water.  It was an odd looking sort, maybe about 2 ½ feet long by 2 feet with a gar-like snout.  It looked like a paddle fish although it could have been just a chubby gar.  There are certainly a lot of minnows to fill them up!  I saw what looked like the same fish jump over the water on the way back.  Was it the same fish?  I decided to pretend it was and give it a name – Buddy!  Buddy the paddlefish/gar!  What can I say; I’m often prone to whimsical thoughts when I paddle!


Mile 24 to mile 21.5 is actually a slow left curve made up of small straight stretches.  Marshall Bottom is in here between mile 23 and 22.  The charts have it on the left, but I think it’s on the right.  There were also some houses here where a power line crossed, and there may also be an RV park/campground here too.  The only thing on the left was some farmland, but I did get one of the clearest views of the fields that I’d seen on the river in quite a while.  In that regard, this area again reminded me of the points above Irvine.



A curve right was the final one I would paddle today – from about mile 21.5 to mile 21.  More gently sloping rocky banks are on the left and then the Drennon Creek comes in on the left just at mile 21.  I got in nearly 1/3 mile.  This used to quite a place from what I’ve read.  There was a mineral spring resort here back in the 1800’s, and it supposedly attracted people of great prominence from all over the country.  There was also another showboat stop here. 


I took time to stop and envision all this as I gazed up at the bridge going over this creek.  The little patterns made by the breeze on the water were reflected by the sun off the water and up onto the bottom of this bridge.  This produced an incredibly pleasant kaleidoscope of quietly moving patterns - a tranquil sight to think back on what used to be…



It’s at times like this when the river seems truly alive and it produces in me a strange state of mind in which I envision the river gently trying to relate its story to me.  I wish I could describe this better, but it’s truly an ethereal experience.  In fact, I can think back on it now and still be soothed by the memory.  Crazy?  Maybe so, but most certainly an incredible thing – yet another gift offered by the river at no cost to the beholder.


Back in the Drennon Creek the water seemed to take on a green hue - about a mid-level shade - and there was more of the dense green alphabet soup as well.  I watched it swallow up my path this time.  It looks like the little green plants are attracted to each other like magnets and they come back together whenever you go through them.  I don’t know how else to describe this, but “cool”!


On the way back I did run into a couple of guys in a boat who took the time to speak to me.  I’d noticed these 2 guys and the boat they were in when they first passed me - before they stopped at this point to fish.  They had a dog in the front of the boat that was barking all the way up the river – and not at me – it was barking at things on the other side of me!  When I talked to the guys, I mentioned that I thought they had quite a nice watch-dog, and it was then that one of them informed me that the dog barks at anything that’s out of place on the water.  At that particular moment it was barking at a milk bottle (or something like that) near the bank!


We conversed for a while and I did remember to ask him about the put-ins.  The next one (in Perry Park) is public, but the one after that (at Eagle Creek) is not.  Thus I know that I’ll be OK on the next trip, but the one after that will be more of a challenge.  What it looks like I’ll have to do is put in above Lock and Dam 1 somewhere in the General Butler State Park.  I’ll call them to check if I can do this, but if I can’t I’ll need to go from Perry Park to this dam – a 27 mile circuit paddle not counting any side streams.  We’ll see…


Also of note on the way back:  another optical headache!  This one was worse than the one I got on the Steele Branch to dam 3 trip, so when I got back to the ramp I went straight to the general store in Lockport to see if they had Excedrin – the only aspirin that offers any relief for these.  They had them and you know what?  They didn’t gouge me as I would have expected elsewhere - just 39 cents for a pair of them.  This is a really nice little place with just about everything you’d need in a convenience store.  They really saved me a lot of pain because the aspirin worked fairly quickly. 




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 (past the quarry) you’ll see the lock and dam down and to your left.  You really can’t miss this - even I didn’t!  The put-in I used was immediately before it on the left if you come in this way.  Watch out for the drop off as you come off the road – really steep!  Drive on down this dirt/rocky road through the trees and onto a rocky beach.  You can put in anywhere here.