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Cave Run Lake and Part of the converged North/Middle Forks of the Licking River


Thursday June 19, 2008


Warix Run ramp to ? (Near Bangor)



Having kayaked some of the Laurel Lake on Tuesday I decided to try Cave Run Lake today.  I put in at the Warix Run Boat Ramp off KY801 and got on the water a little after 12AM.  I was curious to see how far I could get before I had to start back about 5…


Last year I didn’t have my own kayak, so I rented one from an outfitter in the area.  That boat was not only longer than the one I have now (a Santee 100), but it also had a rudder, so it went pretty fast and I wound up going from the Claylick Boat Ramp to the Poppin Rock ramp that day.  I don’t know how many miles that was, but I do remember that when I got back I had pretty much expended all my strength and energy, and I had a whale of a time getting the boat back on top of my car!  Adding to the frustration was the wind that kept blowing off the little foam cushions the outfitter had given me to protect the roof of my car.  I scraped it up pretty good!


Anyway, as I started out today I noted that this lake appeared to be wider than Laurel and that it was surrounded by forested hills without many clearings.  Thus, the shoreline wasn’t one nearly constant beach-like stretch as it had been in the section of Laurel Lake that I paddled (although the beaches here are incredibly nice!).  As for the water, it was fairly clear judging from how far down into it I could see.  It had a darker hue though – not the awesome turquoise color of Laurel.  So too, it appeared that the bottom of Cave Run had a more gradual slope.


I didn’t use the Warix ramp directly as a put-in today.  I opted for a spot off in a grassy area to the west side of the parking lot to avoid the power boats (I’ll use such an option if it’s available and convenient).  I’ve never had much of a problem at the ramps in this regard, I just like to have a little more space sometimes – and especially on days when the ramps are busy, like weekends.


Once on the water the first area I passed through was a part of the lake where there was algae floating right on top of the water.  It was so dense that it would get wrapped up in my paddle as I worked my way through.  The shoreline here had some interesting rock formations as well amid the deadfalls and foliage on the banks, and straight ahead - way across the lake - I could see what the map indicated was the Zilpo Recreation Area.  From past trips I know that there’s a nice beach and another boat ramp at Zilpo.  In fact, there are quite a few ramps out here if you include both Cave Run Lake and the Licking River - it’s sometimes hard to distinguish when one begins and the other ends.



I was following the shoreline around to the left on this trip, and as I rounded the first bend there was quite a large open area.  This was the Claylick location that I’d set off from last year and it, too, has a boat ramp along with a boat-in campground.  There were several tents in evidence when I passed, and the whole area – a grassy, cleared out one – is on one side of Wilson Hill according to the map.  This area provided an interesting contrast to the wooded hills of the rest of the shoreline. 


As I rounded the next left curve in the lake, I reached the spot where the Licking River apparently begins.  There’s another grassy area across the lake here with a house on top.  This looked like a prime spot!  Imagine being surrounded by the Daniel Boone National Forest in a house on a hill overlooking Cave Run Lake!  Must be nice…



Anyway, I kept curving left and was soon on the Licking.  Following the shoreline contours, I navigated around the little coves of Long Branch, Ham Branch, and Charity Branch, all of which I found to be very pleasant save for the amount of trash that clogged them up.  In fact, it was at this point that I realized just how much trash there is here compared to the other lakes (and rivers) I’ve been on.  It’s a bit disappointing.  Among the general debris on the shoreline today I counted no less than 9 refrigerators and 2 hot water heaters.  I didn’t get an exact count of the propane tanks, but there were several.


Be wary out here among the “graveyard trees”.  This is my term for trees which were apparently swamped under when a dam was put in.  They’re dead now, but are still firmly rooted under the lake.  Some jut way above the surface of the water, while others lie only just underneath, and if you hit them just right, they could tip you over.  Thus, it’s best to keep a mind on your balance when you’re out here and follow the shoreline fairly closely in case of a flip.


If you decide to take this trip too, you’re apt to see a ton of boats on the lake section, but once you get to the river there will be far fewer - I only saw 2 power boats and 2 jet-skis.  More wildlife will probably be visible as well – I got a nice turkey buzzard picture where several of them were hanging out onshore, and I also took some more dragonfly shots.  I couldn’t help it...  I really love these colorful insects!  Interestingly, my blue boat seems to attract the blue ones!


I don’t know exactly how far I got while following the meanders of the river on this day - I don’t bring a personal navigation system with me, just a map - but I ended up heading back about 5.  When I did, I was across from a point where there was a dirt road heading down to the lake, and there was a boat putting in here.  I also noticed a red brick structure on that side which was pretty tall and square shaped.  I don’t know what this was, but I am curious if anyone could tell me.  Anyway, my best guess is that I was across from the mouth of Cave Branch.


Either way, I was disappointed because I definitely wanted to make it to Bangor like I did last year in the rental boat.  My smaller kayak does have advantages, however, as it’s much easier to store in an apartment and it is much lighter.  I’m also kind of a “stop and smell the roses” type.  When I go out I’m not usually looking for distance per se, but for a good workout and a de-stressing experience.  Trying to quickly cover as much ground as possible tends to add stress back into the mix and, for me, it defeats the whole purpose of being out - unless, of course, I’m on whitewater – a totally different experience.


On the way back I crossed diagonally over the meanders of the river so that I could paddle at a more leisurely pace while still cutting off some of the distance in order to make it back to the ramp before dark.  I did this, of course, while keeping a sharp eye out for the power boats!  They’ve always seen me (so far!), but I never take any chances. 


Presently I noticed a helicopter circling overhead along with some police boats.  One of them stopped and I was asked if I’d seen anyone along the shoreline.  Apparently someone had gotten lost (there are numerous hiking trails out here).  I encountered another police boat when I got back to the lake.  This time I was asked a question that I couldn’t quite hear over the sound of the motor – did I have a lifejacket on?  I pointed to the one I was wearing!  Just about all my gear is bluegrass blue at this point, so I guess it sometimes blends together.  He told me that they’d found the people they were looking for, by the way.  Between the helicopter and all the boats they’d made very quick work of this.


After cutting across the wide section of lake around Claylick, I returned to Warix a little after 8, taking the sunset picture below.



My general impression of the Cave Run area today was that there’s a lot to offer out here, but while the lake is perfect for jet-skiing, waterskiing and that type of activity, I wouldn’t say it’s the best I’ve seen for kayaking because of the trash.  The designated beaches are incredibly nice though – I visited Twin Knobs with a group last year, and found it to be well worth the trip. 




I64 to KY801 South.  Pass the M.E. Clark Fish Hatchery and Twin Knobs Campground and keep a sharp eye out for the Warix Run sign.  It will be on the left side of the road pointing to the right side.  I’ll rephrase that...  The boat ramp is on the right side but the sign in on the left.  It’s confusing so don’t let this throw you.  Never mind the person tailgating you – go slow to make sure you don’t miss it.  Even if you do though, there are so many ramps out here that you’ll be able to find one relatively easily should you miss this one.