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Kentucky River Kayak Trek


July 16, 2008

Middle Fork


To get to the Middle Fork today I paddled upriver about 3 miles.  As I’ve mentioned before, the ramp in Beattyville comes in at a point on the river at which the North and Middle Forks have already converged.  Thus, I’ll be re-paddling some of the area I covered on the North Fork trip Monday.  That’s OK with me, although not much was new to observe on this section today.  I did wonder, however,  if I’d be able to get a picture of a train going over the bridge like I had last year (unfortunately, I didn’t get another chance).


When you get to the convergence of the North and Middle Forks you’ll notice that the one on the left (North Fork) is a bit larger than the one on the right (Middle Fork), and as you enter the Middle Fork you’ll have farmland on each side. 


It was upon reaching a right curve near the end of mile one that I met with my first sight of cattle near the river.  The first was actually a bull which seemed to take no notice of me as it walked on along.  There were also quite a few cows in front of it and they likewise moved away in the direction the bull is going – upriver and away from the shoreline.



I stopped last year out of concern that if a bull (or dog for that matter) charged me, it might be able to get to my kayak in the shallow water that was on this fork at that time.  The water today seemed a bit higher, but that thought was still in the back of my mind.  This might be something that shouldn’t concern me at all – I don’t know. 


In fact, I’ll have to ask some whitewater paddlers.  They’re used to paddling the side steams so they might have some advice for me on this.  (I’d love to whitewater kayak too, but last year I couldn’t even get lessons because the water level was so low.  This year I can’t afford the lessons!)


The deadfalls on the Middle Fork made me start to wonder again how far I’d get.  They began just after the first mile (near where Dunigan Branch enters – dry today), and they can stretch all the way over the stream at times.  As you first see some of them you wouldn’t believe there’s any way to get through, but on closer inspection you may just find that you’re able to weave your way past them as you avoid branches.  I’d encounter these deadfalls at multiple locations today and they can be really fun to meander through.  They can also get quite interesting!


Last year as I was negotiating a fairly tricky deadfall and hitting the most difficult part, a part where I had to duck my head under the base of a fallen tree, 2 things happened at the same time.  I got snagged by a branch which completely halted my progress right at that point and a moighty spoida (Steve Irwin accent) fell right into my lap! I waved my hand over the spider hoping to catch the web and was able to do so - it lifted right off and I was able to get it out of the boat.  The rest was dealt with in a less hectic fashion and I was off again.

Back to the present:  At mile 1.5 there’s a bridge over the river for KY52, and after it crosses this road will follow close to the fork for a mile or two on the left.  There were some interesting nests under this bridge. 


A dry Double Cabin Creek meets the fork at mile 2 and I noticed some interesting machines up on the right bank.  Some men appeared to working on something up there that I guessed was a railroad track.  Apparently this is the same CSX line I crossed under at the bridge spanning mile 3 of converged North/Middle forks.  Thus, it seems that the road and the railroad have caught back up with the river on the Middle Fork.


After curving a little bend I came to my first shoal of the day.  It was just a short portage and a good place to rest a bit (this was at mile 2.5 where the Long Shoal Branch entered).  On my return trip there was a nice family with 4 kids playing in the water and a couple of adults watching them.  I could hear them from almost all the way back in the stream.  They were having a lot of fun. 


As I got closer one of the kids saw my boat:  “Look!  It’s a boat!  Hello boat-y!”  As I got closer though, they were a bit more shy - as kids will be.  These were nice people as I greeted them and kept going, not wanting to interrupt their time together any more than I already had.  It must be nice to experience things like this as a family in an environment like this – definitely time well spent.


After this shoal on my way upstream the water became really shallow in places and I had to kind of pick my way across and through it.  There was a hay bale in the middle at one point which must have rolled off the bank from one of the farms, and at mile 3.5 the river made a 90 degree curve away from the road and to the right.  This is where it gets really peaceful. 


I could probably just laze around in places like this for a few hours!  It’s so nice just hearing the birds and the wind through the trees (along with the sounds of farm machinery, of course, but this just adds to the whole aura of the experience for me).


½ mile further and you’ll curve sharply to the left at Horse Shoe Bend (mile 3.5 to mile 5 is one long “C” for this bend), and the entire inside of this curve appears to consist of one farm on the left.  After this bend the river caught back up with the road (or vice versa).


It would be a combination of shallow water, deadfall, current and a shoal which would halt my progress at about the 5.5 mile mark upstream.  Through the deadfall I could see an iron bridge in the distance and on the shoal there were all kinds of zigzagging lines across the sand.  I wondered if these tracks had been made by those little beetle-like bugs I’d seen on the water in places.  Also, the wavy lines of sand on the shallow water bottom reminded me of being at the beach!



I took my time getting back because I had plenty of it.  In fact, I floated all the way around horseshoe bend and past mile 4 before I even started to paddle.  With the current as slow as it was, this took me an extra couple of hours.



I’d meet some interesting people on the way back.  Besides the family at the shoal, I also paddled by some pretty friendly fishermen at the mouth of the fork.  Later on they ended up passing me on the converged forks and they actually asked me if I’d like them to pull me back.  This would have been fun, but I had to politely decline.  They would have had to stop, throw me a rope and wait for me to tie up my boat up to theirs.  This would have been an inconvenience for them, so I thought it was quite kind of them to ask.


When I got back to the dock I also met a fisherman there who informed me that the dirt and rock ramp I passed on Monday on the North Fork is, indeed, a public ramp.  You wouldn’t be able to get your car all the way down though - you’d have to carry your boat and gear down.  I will, however, try this sometime to see how far I can actually get up that fork.  For now, though, I headed back home.  The South Fork awaited me on Friday!






At the junction of KY 11 and KY 52 in Beattyville turn East on East Main Street.  Go to the second street (the aptly named Water Street) and take a right.  The street dead ends at the boat ramp.  There’s plenty of room for many vehicles.  There’s no charge to use the ramp.