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Licking River: Falmouth Ramp and Upriver about 7 Miles


Tuesday, June 16, 2009




It had been on my agenda to explore upriver from this ramp, but when I reached it, I saw that the water was moving much more quickly than I had prepared for.  Having driven an hour and a half to reach it, however, I was at least going to try.  This would be a pretty intense workout, albeit a rewarding one, and during it I would find a personal answer to an important question – at least for today...  To what point should you persevere in the midst of adversity before you give in - if you do at all - and to what degree?


The drive out to this area from Lexington is extremely pleasant.  Some of the most impressive horse farms in the state must be out here on the Simon Kenton Parkway (Paris Pike) which forms part of US27, one of the original U. S. highways.  It’s hard to tell just how much of the current road travels along the original, and I’ll have to look into buying an old road atlas from the 50’s to find out, but there are a few old businesses still visible – especially on the section from Paris to Falmouth.


The road doesn’t go directly through it, but on the outskirts of Paris is a nice older restaurant called Jerry’s which I usually stop at when the finances are better.  I think it dates back to the early 1960’s, and just north of Cynthiana you’ll see a trio of interesting spots.  The first is the Evergreen Motel (, an incredibly nice looking one which appears to have been kept up to look just like it might have done in the 50’s – very nice!  Past this is an old restaurant, long closed, and then what looks like an original gas station behind a chain link fence.


I should also note a couple areas of interest.  I just noticed in researching this journal that there’s a park called Quiet Trails State Nature Preserve ( between Cynthiana and Falmouth which, according to their website, has 3 miles of hiking trails.  Also of note is Kinkaid Lake State Park ( which is just outside of Falmouth and contains a couple miles of trails along with its’ 183 acre namesake lake.


Once I’d driven through downtown Falmouth I reached the ramp on the right side just after crossing over the KY22 Bridge.  My first glimpse of the water, however, was enough to tell me that I’d be paddling in more of current than I’d seen out here before - the last time it was totally calm (this, incidently, is the ramp that the Thaxton’s - - use for one of their trips).  I decided to put-in and try the water since it didn't look that bad, but if it proved to be too fast, then there was another ramp back in Cynthiana that I could try.



Well, upon entering the water I almost immediately found myself on the other side of the river – and moving downward pretty fast!  This could get bad if I didn’t take hold of the situation – and quickly!  I hammered it and very slowly got back to the other side where I found the going a little better, although I was still just inching along, and once back up to the ramp I had a decision to make.   Should I continue and see how far I could get, or should I quit and go try the Cynthiana ramp?  Well, I’d already spent a good deal of money on gas just to get out here and gone through all the time to unload my boat and gear.  Also, what if the water had just as much of a current from that ramp - or even more?  I figured I’d go ahead.



I usually like to describe rivers as if I was paddling down them, since that’s what most people do, but I was not able to reach a definitive landmark on my trip today.  Therefore, I’ll describe things as I went upriver and once I can paddle the rest of the way to the next upriver put-in from the spot where I ended today (supposedly an entry point off McKenneysburg Road in Pendleton County) I’ll describe the whole thing in downriver fashion.  So…


You’ll round a little left curve heading upriver just after the ramp and will then find yourself on a very long straight section of river.  In fact, I paddled the entire Kentucky River last year and don’t think I found a longer straight shot.  This one has to be at least a mile long, and it seemed to take me an ETERNITY against the current.  It wouldn’t get any easier.


This whole section seems as remote as any I’ve seen in Kentucky because once you get out of Falmouth there isn’t really much to note, besides an occasional power line going over the river.  You can just concentrate on paddling and on taking in the atmosphere.  For me today this was good, because I wouldn’t be able to take many pictures (especially on the trip upriver) without being floated immediately backwards a few yards with each one I took!   


When you reach the end of the straight the river will venture right.  It’s been following along KY22, the road I came in on, to this point but here the river veers away from it (or vice versa).  In this next section you’ll be on a long, slow curve left, and it’s about in the middle that there’s a little stream incoming from the left which I paddled in maybe 50 yards on my way back.



I noticed a couple interesting things moving in the water today.  The first was near this point and it surely looked like a fish swimming upstream.  The second was further up and it looked like the upper portion of a snake bobbing up and down as it made its way upstream.  Both of these turned out to be the fallen limbs of tree branches in the water!  Check it out...


A second incoming stream on the right ushered in the last third of the trip, and there was some grass protruding up from its’ submerged shoal, which was probably the shallowest point in the river today.  I again paddled into this stream maybe about 50 yards.  It’s split in 2 right as you enter with the left side being the longest – though both are only a matter of yards.



Back at the river I had the most difficult time paddling since back at the ramp as I crossed over the stream of water going around the shoal.  At this point I could now begin to feel my right shoulder, and I knew I’d have to start looking for a place to end today, although I wasn’t quite ready to do it yet.  I like to expend almost every ounce of energy on these trips so as to let a fresh, renewed energy fill me up.  Also, if I quit too early I feel like I haven’t made the most of the day.


Well, this last portion turned out to be on what I’ll now call the “never ending C curve”.  It seemed to go on forever, and I was thinking with each paddle stroke that I’d see the end around the very next corner, for I was ready to turn around at the first sign of a straightening.  My strength beginning to wane, however, there were points where I wanted to just give in.  This conflicted with my desire to reach the end of the curve.



What I did was to make compromises.  I’d relent a bit at times to see what happened, and each time I did, I found myself on the inside (left bank) of the curve, where the paddling seemed a bit easier.  I’d mostly (but not consciously) found myself paddling from the middle of the river most of the day. 


The thought then occurred to me that in life in general, as well as on the river; that it’s sometimes in relenting that you’re able to see a better, clearer path forward.  Knowing exactly when to relent can be the toughest part, though, when you’re so caught up in what you’re doing, but maybe in the process of letting go you’ll find yourself at a point where you’re soon able to travel DOWN the river of your life instead of up!


…and that’s EXACTLY what happened on the river today!  Having thus given in a bit and discovered an easier upriver path, I was finally able to reach the end of the never ending “C” curve and enjoy a leisurely float back downriver at a speed which I guessed was about 4 m.p.h. based on how quickly the scenery passed by relative to how quickly it passes when I’m paddling on flat water.  The trip upriver had taken 5 hours while the trip back took 2.



I’ll plan to paddle more of this river later in the summer when the water level might be lower and it’ll have less of a flow, but on this particular night, I slept incredibly well!




From the intersection of US27 and KY22 in Falmouth, head east on KY22, and after you cross the bridge over the river, take a right immediately after the first house.  There’ll be a sign for the Falmouth Boat Ramp, but it’s not exactly facing in the most opportune direction.  You may end up passing it and have to turn back once you’ve realized this.  The drive down is dirt/gravel while the ramp, itself is paved.