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Kentucky River Kayak Trek


Monday, August 4, 2008


Dam 12 to Calloway Creek (Mile 213)



When I first paddled this pool last year I thought that there was only one put-in between dam 12 and 11 at the Riverview Restaurant under the KY52 Bridge.  Well, I ended up going 6 miles one day and 34 the next because I thought that this would be the only way to do it.  Well, I learned last year of another ramp near Bybee Pottery, so I wouldn’t have to do that again - I’d be able to break the pool up much more evenly.


I began by heading up to dam 12 from the ramp at the Riverview Restaurant (formerly Howell’s according to the charts) around 10:30.  This is a nicely paved ramp and presents no trouble.  There is a $2 fee for it though, payable to the restaurant, which is waived from what I understand if you eat there.  The amazing forgetful man, however, neglected to bring his credit card, so I was unable to eat there again as I had wanted to.  Since nobody was around when I arrived I went in and paid the $2 upon my return.


I noticed when I got up to the dam that there was, indeed, a lot of water pouring over it.  Last year it had been just a trickle, so I was glad I’d decided not to approach too closely from the other side on Friday.  I also saw that the water was not only pouring over the dam but that it was also pouring over and through the lock gate.  This had not been the case at dams 14 and 13, and I wasn’t sure that this should be happening.  I was thus more cautious than usual, if that’s even possible. 


There’s a nice beach on either side of this lock and dam, and I first stopped at the one on the dam side wanting to get a look at the Little Doe Creek, which I found to be a couple feet wide as it came in over the sand.  After this I paddled to the other side of the river to see if I could reach the top of the lock and get a picture of what the portage would be like from the upriver side corner.  I hadn’t been able to do this on Friday, and the beach here made this easier, as I was able to “park” the kayak and walk across the sand to get a better look. 


There was some undergrowth to walk through, but it wasn’t bad, and once at the top I was able to get an appreciation of just how beautiful this spot is.  Dam 12 is in an incredibly attractive location!  There are 2 fantastic old lock houses (now graffiti’d and in need of some TLC) which lie in the midst of a cornfield and a golf course. 


The potential here is amazing in my opinion, because it seems like so much more could be done with this spot (in fact, the charts indicated that the beach I’d walked across used to be Ravenna Beach – supposedly a public one which is overgrown now).  Needless to say, I went crazy snapping pictures.  The portage I was curious about, by the way, appeared to be do-able if one didn’t mind a fairly steep 7-8 foot climb through some trash and underbrush.



Starting downriver from here it immediately goes to the dogs – literally.  Apparently the beach on the lock side is part of the Dog Rock Bar on Dog Rock Bend which is the site of – what else? – Dog Rock where the Dog Branch enters the river from the left!  Wow!  Or should I say:  Woof! 


The Dog Branch wasn’t really even recognizable as it entered over a rocky shoal, but it occurred to me in seeing some more rock faces at this point that there were more and more of these becoming visible on the river – there’d only been a few prior to reaching Ravenna.  This is not yet considered the palisades area though.  That will begin somewhere around Boonesborough State Park.


There’s an interesting concrete structure of unknown (at least to me) origin and use as you pass around Dog Rock Bend, and the Chamberlain Creek comes in between mile 220 and 219.  On the charts this creek appears to separate the towns of Ravenna and Irvine, but there wasn’t much to it today - it was only a few feet wide with a half submerged boat across its mouth.  The boat didn’t seem to be totally abandoned, but the owner would probably have to wait for the next drought to be able to move it, because it was half underwater and must have been weighed down by a ton of silt and debris. 


Quick Shoals Bar should be on the left side of mile 219 with Quick Shoals on the right, but neither appeared to be in evidence on this day.  There was, however, an interesting concrete structure further down which appeared to have once been some kind of swimming platform, and down to it from the house above I observed an elaborate amalgamation of steps (or what used to be steps – some were now missing).  Some of these even formed a circular staircase.  Someone had sure gone through a lot of time and expense to build all of this, but it was now in a state of disrepair.  Things like this continue to fascinate me!  I would love to have been on this river in the first half of the 1900’s to see what it would have been like!


I was again intrigued by the next old structure I saw on top of the right side bank.  I thought it could have been the Irvine-Ravenna Municipal Water Intake because the charts indicated that it would be at about this point.  It consists of 2 old round brick structures which are connected in the middle by a wall of concrete.  The whole thing looks like a pair of binoculars would if you stood them on end.  There are little houses on top of the brick cylinders.


It was at this point on the other side of the river near the mouth of Station Camp Creek that the Indian’s Warrior Path is said to have crossed the river.  Talk about history!  I decided to paddle up Station Camp Creek.  It was similar in size to the Miller Creek at mile 226, and on the first part it (like the Miller), appeared as chocolate milk.  Chocolate Milk Creek #2!  It wasn’t quite as chocolate-y though…


There’s actually an incoming stream entering into Station Camp from the right when you get to the bridge over it a few dozen yards in.  I did paddle into this a little until I was blocked by what looked to me like a beaver dam, and when I got back to the main creek there were some cows on the other side - I tried not to disturb their peace and quiet.  


Continuing back up Station Camp, you’ll meander through some nice little walls of shale on the left side.  I unfortunately found, however, all manner of appliances and trash cascading down from these walls.  Refrigerators, stoves, ovens – you name it (although all of this could be quickly cleaned up by a work crew).  Overall there were a few deadfalls to negotiate on this creek, but I had nothing major until I got about a mile up, so this had been the longest side stream paddle yet. 


On my return I stopped and tried to finally get some good cow pictures, but it was in taking my first picture of one down by the water that I quickly came to realize that it wasn’t a cow I was taking a picture of.  It was a bull!  He was coming down to confront me apparently.  “Hmmm… those horns… kinda sharp looking…yeah, maybe I’ll move on!”  So I decided to be the bigger man/male and not escalate the situation.  I moved VERY quietly and peacefully on my way – well on the opposite side of the bank!  


When I emerged from the creek, I paddled down to the point where the ramp (the one I put in from) comes in right under the KY52 Bridge, and it’s here on the left that you’ll see your first marina on the river (assuming you’re paddling downstream like I am and not up, of course).  12 house boats and 6 power boats were docked here when I went by.  The charts indicate that this is the River City Marina, although it might have changed names like the Riverview Restaurant – I didn’t see a name on it.  The restaurant itself is on the same side (in West Irvine), and it has a nice deck overlooking the river which is visible from down on the water. The city of Irvine is on the right.


Making a curve right after mile 218 I saw more of those old bridge piers.  I’d now seen them along mile 236 at Evelyn, along mile 248 at Heidelberg, and now here.  The book I’m reading on the Kentucky River helped to finally shed some light on these for me.  I knew that there were more of these piers near dam 9 in Valley View.  Well, there was a picture in the book from the early days showing a train going over a bridge at the site of these piers in Valley View, and from this picture I could now infer that the piers I’d been seeing were for old rail bridges. 


[UPDATE 2013:  I've just received an email from an interesting gentleman who states:


"Near the town of Irvine you made note of old bridge piers that were still there, located downriver from the current bridge. There used to be a toll bridge in that location which was run by my family many years ago. My great-grandparents lived in a house that is located in West Irvine at the foot of the bridge and they operated the toll bridge (house is still there). William Ellis interviewed by grandfather about it in his book on the river."


My many thanks to David in Carrollton for this intersting information!]


Something else which interested me here was that there were many stone slabs which looked a bit out of place in their relative symmetry to the other rocks, and upon closer inspection I noticed that they also had indentations in them like they’d been drilled into.  I guessed that they had just left the ruins of another old bridge here when they took it down.


Thus far the scenery for this trip had been that of a city in the midst of farmland, and this doesn’t really change except that when you get past mile 217 and the city of West Irvine, the banks will become a little more forested.  The train track was also still with me (2 trains today) on the right but I could barely even see the trains through the foliage in this section.  At first I couldn’t see them at all until I realized that they were a bit higher up than I thought, and as I adjusted my sight further upward I could see them.  Past mile 214 it’ll really clear out on the left and it looks like some kind of grass has taken hold to the exclusion of all else at some points.


I’m getting ahead of myself though.  After passing under a fairly modern-looking highway bridge (which is not on the charts, by the way) at mile 216.5, the White Oak Branch comes in.  I paddled into this less than 100 yards before stopping at a bridge for the railroad track.  This one seemed similar to the one I stopped at upon entering Buck Creek in the last section and I would’ve had to duck under it, which wasn’t worth the trouble at this water level. 


Instead of a rectangular underside like the Buck Creek Bridge had, this one had an arch.  In fact, it looked like the branch had cut right through a shale rock outcrop and that they’d reinforced from underneath with concrete in order to make it sturdier for the train - an interesting bit of architectural design.


Upon reaching mile 216 you’ll begin to see signs of grain elevators above the trees.  Somewhat incongruous, they do look pretty cool.  They’re physically located closer to mile 215 just before some power lines cross the river - the location of Cubbard Rock.  The charts also indicate that the community of Calloway Crossing is up there somewhere. 


The rock was oddly rust colored as water dripped down from it, and the hum of machinery was all that I could hear from what I guessed was a quarry.  This was odd because it looked like this could have once been (it could still be for that matter, I just don’t know) quite an operation, but now the equipment just seemed rusted and possibly out of use, while the whole place appeared to be abandoned.  It gave me a strange feeling as if I was in some kind of doomsday scenario in which I was the last person on earth.   This was really weird because I didn’t think I’d ever experienced anything that had given me a feeling like that!  Anyway…



Upon rounding a bend at mile 215 another odd sight caught my eye.  A little unnamed stream had completely eroded through an outcropping of shale - right down the middle – so it was like a sand bar but made of shale.  Really interesting!  This would have been a good place to stretch, but I noticed quite a few bees, so I didn’t chance getting out.



I went up another mile; made a curve left, and then passed through another mile long straight until I reached what I decided would be my stopping point - the Calloway Creek at mile 213.  A few hundred feet up this creek I met with another rail bridge, this one extending well in the air above, and just ahead of this was another jam-up - I headed back out.


On my trip back to the ramp I noticed at least 3 different kinds of wildflowers.  Some were colored red and looked like they had 3 leaves.  Some looked like pink roses but they didn’t bloom from the same kind of plant (they looked like the poppies I’ve seen pictures of in Afghanistan actually); and some more were smaller with a purple/pink hue with multiple little flowers emanating from each stem.  I know these descriptions are woefully inaccurate but they’re the best I can do without better knowledge.  In fact, I’d like to take a botanist, an expert fisherman and a bird watcher with me sometime so I can learn more about these things.  Until then I’m left with my naivety.  I have pictures of each for anyone who might be interested.




KY 52 to KY 89.  There’s a bridge at this intersection.  The put in is on the Southeast side of this bridge.  You’ll see a road going down the side of it.  This will lead you straight to the ramp.