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 Little Sandy River


Bruin Creek Upstream to Caney Creek


Tuesday, August 10, 2010 and Thursday, August 12, 2010




Does it bother you to see others being taken advantage of?  Sometimes I’ll be composing one of these journals and I’ll see someone come into whatever coffee shop I’m working at, sit in a choice place, plug into the electrical outlet with their computer, and stay for hours without ever ordering anything.  Having a very strict conscience I just can’t stomach this, and I have to either move or leave.  I dearly wish this didn’t bother me so much!  It’s not my problem!  My problem was finishing this section of the Little Sandy this week… 


I woke up early the first day, drove the 2 hours it takes to get me out here, and then paddled a couple miles upriver before the memory in my camera went out!  Well, I couldn’t continue without the camera – I wanted to document the area for others who might be interested in visiting - so I decided to shelve my frustration and experience a new perspective by floating back.  It took about 5 hours.  5 pleasant hours, however!


I wasn’t going to stay upset, you see.  I was determined to get my “money’s worth” out here – about $20 in gas, I supposed.  When it says in the Bible something to the effect that:  “much is demanded of those to whom much is given” I don’t think that the “much is given” part refers, necessarily, to good things.  I think that in my case it refers to adversity, so I try to bear with the situations that this life presents me as best I can and hope that my responses will be acceptable.


Today I used the Bruin Creek Ramp (which on a map of the lake looks more like it’s on the Greenbrier Creek).  This put-in is right in the Grayson Lake State Park (, and it’s a very nice and well maintained one.  The first day I got on the water about 11, and the second I got out earlier – about 10.   I ended up needing the time.  This is a long section.  It took me about 10 ½ hours the second day (7 hours out while taking pictures and exploring the coves and 3 ½ back) even though I’d already paddled the first couple miles of the stretch on the previous trip.  [A nice way to paddle this might be to plan a day or overnight trip via shuttle between the Caney Creek Ramp and this one, leaving a vehicle at each put-in.]


Anyway, from the bottom of the ramp I headed left and then made a sharp left curve to emerge onto the Little Sandy.  This area could well mark the transition from river to lake (or vice versa), and I mention this having previously paddled the river further upstream.  One of the most notable things (and it could even be called a defining characteristic) is that the Little Sandy is marked by rocky landscapes.  Palisades will be near constant companions on any paddle, and sometimes on both sides of the river. 


Thus, when I saw a sign indicating that there was to be no swimming on this curve due to the drop-offs just offshore, it struck a chord.  This was Herrington Lake all over again!  Herrington is a dammed Dix River, the dam having been installed at a point just before the Dix merges with the Kentucky River near where the Kentucky has all its palisades. 


Well, as you paddle Herrington Lake you can tell that the palisades on the Dix River before it was dammed must have been just as spectacular – if not more so – than those on the Kentucky.  Herrington is the state’s deepest lake, and while there are still rock walls visible on the shorelines, their heights must pale in comparison to what they once were --- and this Little Sandy River is quite similar.  In fact, at this particular point the palisade could very well be totally underwater! 


Anyway, as I reached the end of the curve I was looking at a very long straight section where the KY7 Bridge went over the water, and it was here that I first noticed a fair amount of trash on the shorelines (particularly on the left).  While this was more than I’d seen further upstream, it would get better the further I got.  I wouldn’t say it’s too bad out here, but it could get that way.  Later in the day I heard a “ting  -  ting  -  ting” and thought:  “That doesn’t sound right…”  It turned out to be a soda can under a waterfall drip (and yes, I did rectify the situation).


Also of note as you first start out, though, are all the little “coves”.  Many of these are simply waterfall carved “indentations” in the rock, the falls of which were just trickling or dripping today, although I must have passed a couple dozen.  After a rain it would really be sweet to paddle out here! 


That not to say, however, that there aren’t any paddle-able coves!  In fact, there’s one which comes in along the first straight and I got into it about 250 yards.  Emerging, I had an encounter with the frog below who’d been hanging out in the back of a little rock overhang.  I noticed some movement as I went by, you see, and then saw a pair of eyes…



After making a right curve back on the river you’ll emerge onto another, less lengthy, straight and in the center of this lies another paddle-able cove (also roughly 250 yards).  This one was carved by the Bowling Brook according to the map (available on the above website) and in back was one of those trickling waterfalls I mentioned.  Above this I saw what looked like a trail fence (for the Lick Falls Loop, it seems).  I understand, by the way, that the Api-Su-Ahts Trails are also out here – a set of 4 circuits which provide some 25 miles of hiking!


Coming out of this and curving left this time on the river, I met a salamander posing for me on the rocks.  Either this is a great place for wildlife viewing or I’m becoming more observant (it’s gotta be the former!).  I must mention, however, that what truly shocked me was the seeming lack of birds out here.  I heard very few and only noticed a couple of them (besides heron and vultures) over the course of the 2 days!



Next up comes the Little Gimlet Creek.  This was a real beauty which entered from the right side, and I paddled back into it not quite ½ mile --- on the second day!  This was the spot where my camera went out on Tuesday near this particularly picturesque rock wall/formation…


On to Thursday now…




Rounding the first curve into Little Gimlet I - startled? - a black vulture.  I put a question mark on that because this bird didn’t seem the least bit fazed by my being there!  The picture below shows just how close it let me get…



Your entry into this cove is a particularly beautiful one, by the way, with palisades that just seem to envelop you.  I felt pretty small.  Of interest, too, is that this cove is formed from the merging of 2 streams.  The Little Gimlet is the main one, but the Lick Branch and its falls are back here too…



The Little Gimlet had a nice scene at the back as well (although I adjusted for - among other things - a rock in the center of the stream with a bed sheet over it)!  


Paddling out of this area the river forms a backward “C” pattern and the nice rock walls continue (they’ll get taller and taller the further upstream you go).


Complete this “C” and you’ll launch into a very slow and very long left arc, into the middle of which drains the Big Gimlet Creek.  I got in a solid ½ mile before reaching a road embankment and, looking to my left, there was an area that looked perfect as a camping spot (although I’m not certain as to the permissibility of it).


Cove exploration complete, you’ll next encounter what looks like an “M” on the river with what a sign refers to as the “Twin Bays” extending upward from the second top in a kind of “pincer” movement.  I got 1/3 mile into the first of these and not quite 1/3 mile into the second.



The first was particularly “gnatty”, but in it I encountered some of the most gently sloping shorelines since the ramp.  The second was particularly trash strewn at the back.  It struck me as sad that the beautiful heron back here had to fish amongst garbage – as if society was aware of nature’s beauty, but was nevertheless callously rejecting that gift of spirit which it represents.  It’s not pathetic sad, so much as just sad sad.


The “M” in the river ended with a left curve, at the tip of which was what looked like a path descending to the water from above.  This might have been another good camping spot although, once again, I’m not quite sure as to the permissibility of it.  I’d note, too, that you’ll probably want to be careful near the rocks out here – there were quite a few honeycomb nests among them.  I wouldn’t want you to get stung, you see...  I haven’t been yet, but I did have a bee somehow negotiate its way into my lap today.  I suddenly saw something there, immediately recognized that it was some kind of bug, and instinctively threw it overboard.  Paddling back to make certain it was what I thought it was, I found that it was!!!


Paddle another straight, and 2 more coves will enter from the right in the midst of a left curve.  I got about 300 yards into the first and about 200 into the second, but a trickling little waterfall in the first might have been the one spot that I had the most trouble leaving today.  Funny how the simplest things can be the most meaningful…  In the midst of all this beauty today, it was a little trickle of water that might have made the biggest impression on me! 


The last portion of my trip on the river today took the shape of a 2-tined comb...  Or a dental floss pick…  Anyway, the first of the points might have been among the sharpest I’ve seen on any body of water I’ve explored (although the one toward the northern end of Wood Creek Lake is comparable).  In fact, it took the appearance of a rocky jetty…



This jetty “pointed to” yet another waterfall across from it, and there’s also a large boulder in the water which forms a little island between these.  All of this makes for a very intriguing spot, indeed!



Making the second curve toward tine #2, there was a little grassy patch along the left side at the bottom of a cliff.  Not knowing if this was an island or a little incoming stream I paddled in and found it to be a little cove with a duck in the back.  By this point I’d also noticed that I was getting a little loco from the energy expenditure (something that happens frequently) and I found myself talking to the fish (something that happens frequently!):  “Any fishies back here?  Fiiiiiii – sheeeeees…”  No fishies.



A rock wall and overhang was at the tip of the second tine, and from here to the mouth of Caney Creek the rock palisades were near constant companions on both sides.  The area, however, looked disappointingly littered with all the plastic bottles floating on the water.  I think it was just someone marking their fishing locations, but I sure do wish they’d use duck decoys or something natural-looking instead…  Nothing against what they’re doing, you understand.  I’m just sayin’…  Stunning beauty.  Plastic bottles…  One of these things doesn’t belong ( Sesame Street)…



Arriving at the mouth of Caney Creek I decided I’d have to do one more thing for the sake of completion and paddle the little grassy cove I saw.  This one looked like the last – you couldn’t tell whether it was an island or a cove – but I made it in about 150 yards before turning back.  It was about 4 o’clock now and I’d just passed the mile 13 mark (yes, they do have sign posts marking the river miles out here and according to these I’d traveled 7 miles on the main river).



On the way back I wanted to get in the cove on the left just before the Big Gimlet Creek, but there were some people swimming there and I decided to pass it up.  Another thing – while I’d encountered only a couple power boats on the way out, I came upon no less than 15 on the way back – all in the area between Twin Bays and the ramp.  One even cut me off prior to my entering a tiny cove – power boat vs. kayak?  Whatever dude… 


This is a great place to paddle nevertheless – especially on the upstream sections.




I took the KY7 Exit off of I64 and went south just over 12 miles.  You’ll see a sign on your right that has boat launch and beach indications on it.  Take a left here and you’ll wind up in a very large ramp parking lot.  You’ll have crossed over the lake a couple times on KY7.