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Licking River:  Falmouth Downriver To?


Wednesday July 24, 2008


Licking River:  Falmouth to ? (Thaxtons 12 Mile Trip)



I decided to do something different today (I’d been in the midst of kayaking the entire Kentucky River) and go kayaking on some moving water.  I was also scouting for a group trip I had planned for the weekend.  The outfitter I chose for this trip was Thaxton’s ( off KY27 between Lexington and Cincinnati.  I visited them last year and was fascinated by their operation. 


First of all, the people at Thaxtons are possibly the most down to earth of the outfitters that I’ve met.  When I paddle with them I genuinely feel as though they want me to have a good time.  They also have the most intriguing setup you will ever see.  Not only do they offer kayaking trips, but they also have what they call a “Paddlers Inn”, a series of cabins that are interspersed all around their property (which itself has all kinds of kayaks, canoes and paddles which have been used to adorn it).  It’s really quite interesting.


Getting to Thaxtons from Lexington took me a little over an hour and a half.  I generally don’t go too fast on KY27 because otherwise it’ll be a “hurry up and wait” kind of thing.  There are a lot of trucks that use this road which skirts around Paris, Kentucky before going directly through Cynthiana and around Falmouth.  Thus, not only do you have the trucks but you’ll also have a few traffic lights as well. 


I didn’t mind taking my time through here though, since it was a really scenic drive.  This was especially so from Lexington to Paris with all the horse farms.  In fact, I noticed for the first time that that particular stretch of road has been named the Simon Kenton Parkway (Kenton was a fascinating pioneer!  Check out Thomas D. Clark’s book on him as well as The Frontiersmen by Allan Eckert if interested).


Thaxtons offers 3 regular trips along with some others that you can check out on their website.  There’s a 6 mile, a 12 mile and an 18 mile.  I chose the 12 mile for today.  For this trip you’ll follow them out in your car to your take out point, a little wooden dock.  You’ll then leave your car at this point and then drive with them down to the city of Falmouth where you’ll put in at a boat ramp there. 


This is a nice concrete ramp just outside the downtown area and it’s on the converged North and Middle Forks of the Licking.  This river looked similar in width to the Kentucky River to me, and once I’d gotten my boat and all my stuff down to the water, I said goodbye to the driver and headed off. 


You’ll paddle under the KY22 bridge as you immediately go into a “C” curve and at one point in this curve the South Fork of the Licking entered.  It struck me that this river was again displaying similar attributes to the Kentucky at the point where the forks meet in Beattyville. 


Here, the boat ramp is on the converged North and Middle Forks as it was there, and here the South Fork enters the converged North and Middle shortly after the ramp as it does there.  I hadn’t planned it, but in this way my trip on the Licking was mirroring my trip on the Kentucky.  Anyway…just throwing that out there…


The area all around the fully converged Licking is almost one large shoal.  In fact, you’ll have a shoal on both sides or on either side almost continuously for about the first quarter of this trip.  Even after this though there are plenty of places to stop and rest as the shoals continue intermittently.



Through the shoals at this spot though, there were little riffles of water which will present an interesting challenge as you try to pick the best path to proceed.  Another thing I noticed on the Licking is that it’s much more shallow (and certainly at this part of it) than the Kentucky.  The water moved quickly enough though that the shoals were negotiable in this area; further down it would be more challenging...


After this first “C”, the shape of the river takes kind of a funny form - at least on the map of it I have in the book “A Canoeing and Kayaking Guide to Kentucky” (I know, I mention this book a lot but it really is invaluable).  The shape was that of a cartoon caricature looking to the right – the bottom half of a face with parted lips.  I was approaching the section which formed the chin at this point, but there would be long and slow inverted “C” curves which would form the lips of the face further up.  Yeah, I guess I have kind of a crazy imagination at times, but it really does look like this!  Honest! 


Just as I was coming to the bottom of the lower lip I spotted a fox on the right shoal.  I’d never seen a fox this close up, and the picture didn’t turn out very well, but I’ve just got to include it below.  My first fox shot!  You can kinda see it in the middle of the picture.



I actually saw quite a few different animals on this day.  I saw a deer down by the water at one point and I also saw geese, heron, and, of course, a ton of fish!  In fact, the water is so shallow that at many points on this trip the fish will nearly jump right into your boat!  You can see their dorsal fins above the water at these shallow points as they appear to be trying to swim upstream.  I was thinking that if I’d brought even just a net I could possibly have caught a fish!


This shallow water did present a challenge and a bit more work though.  You’ll have to kind of weave your way through it, and this will add a bit more distance to the trip.  In fact, I found that I’d expended about as much energy on this trip as I would have on about 15 miles of flat water.  It’s not that hard for me to get through this shallow water since I only weigh about 160 pounds, but for a larger person it might be a bit more frustrating - a better chance of getting grounded on the rocks. 


This, in combination with the long stretches of flat water, has Thaxons recommending that people new to their trips start out with the 6 mile so they can get an idea of how the river runs before doing a longer trip.  I did this the first time I paddled with them.


On one curve at the first lip there’s a nice hilltop which has one tree standing off by itself.  It reminded me of the television show I’ve heard about called One Tree Hill.  On the second (upper) lip I met up with quite a few geese which flew off in formation as I paddled up to them.  This was pretty cool.



At another curve too, I saw a solo goose which tried to hide from me in some tall underbrush.  I laughed as it tried to avoid me because I could still see just its head bobbing back and forth as it moved.  It was a funny sight to me.


After what seemed like a couple more miles I reached the takeout point at the little dock I mentioned before.  It comes down at a slight angle to the water but is a couple feet above the actual water level.  Being more accustomed to putting in and taking out at boat ramps, I kept the boat steady as I put the things I had in the cockpit of my boat up onto the dock.  I then moved a little further down to avoid these items and, as I keep the boat steady, I put my forearms up on the dock and kind of pushed myself up onto it. 


I then grabbed the front handle of the boat and pulled it up onto the dock while keeping a mind on my footing (the dock is grooved though so this is fairly easy to do).   Having done all this, I moved my gear and boat up to the car and headed out.  The drive back was pleasant as I reminisced about the trip I’d just taken. 




Please see Thaxton’s website noted above.  I came in on KY27 though and they were on the left just after a bridge 10 miles up from where KY22 meets KY27 in Falmouth