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Ohio River

 

Carrollton, Kentucky (545.5) to Vevay, Indiana (Mile 537.5)

 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

 

 

 

One thing I’ve discovered in my travels is that the larger the body of water you paddle, the more crucial it is to plan around the weather – especially if you have a long drive.  For example, since my commutes are now running around 2 hours, I want the days I choose to paddle to be optimal.  I don’t want to get all the way out to a put-in only to be disappointed that I wasn’t able to get as far as I wanted.  So, in order to get the most out of my days I thoroughly check the weather reports.  While we’ve been lucky to have had some very warm and sunny days well into the fall this year, I could still wind up picking a great day only to find that it wasn’t the temperature that held me back – it was the wind.

 

Here’s my thing:  I generally like to get at least 8 hours out on the water in order to fully experience it and make a proper documentation.  With the added burden of much shorter fall days, however, any sizeable amount of wind threatens to curtail the distance I can cover.  That happens consistently, and it’ll take me forever to finish the Ohio.  So, when checking the weather I look at three things:  the temperature, the chance of precipitation, and the wind conditions.  As long as the temperature is OK, there’s little chance of rain and the wind gusts are less than 10 – 15 miles per hour, I’ll go ahead and head on out.  Otherwise, I’ll stay put. 

 

That said, the water started out really calm today (as expected with only 8 to 10 mph gusts forecast) but by the time I got up to Vevay, Indiana I was paddling against wind induced 1 – 2 foot waves and gusts of what seemed like 25-30 mph.  I did end up getting my time in, but I certainly didn’t expect this.  Now I know what it’s like to kayak-surf though!  It’s exhilarating, but also a little nerve-wracking while having to do it across the Ohio with a barge coming…

 

My paddle began today from the Point Park ramp in Carrollton, Kentucky (http://www.carrolltontourism.com), and I couldn’t recommend this spot more highly as a put-in point.  This is where the Kentucky River meets the Ohio and it’s a beautiful place to see.  (…and speaking of the Kentucky River, I also paddled its length in 2008 and found it to be a great place to kayak too.  Please see my other entries if interested for these photo-journals along with detailed directions to a majority of the put-ins.)

 

 

 

Today I began paddling the Ohio upstream on the Kentucky side and I found myself right alongside the city of Carrollton for about the first mile or so with US Route 42 running close to the shoreline.  Meanwhile, the Indiana side was a near continuous and seemingly single line of dwellings that began with a very pleasant line of farmland homes off Indiana Route 56 and continued all the way up to Vevay.  These homes were also accompanied by a beautiful backdrop of fall color in the forests behind.  In fact, I’ve got believe that both of these routes (42 and 56) would make for awesome scenic drives.  As for the shape of the river here, it’ll be making a long, slow left curve before it straightens out a bit and heads into Vevay.

 

 

 

As for Carrollton, you’ll soon pass a second ramp which extends down from the heart of the city, and if you were to get out and walk up you’d find that the building just to the left is a nice restaurant that I’ve eaten at a couple times.  Forgive me for I’ve forgotten the name, but I believe it’s called Welch’s Riverside Restaurant.

 

 

 

At one point after passing this ramp my reverie was interrupted by loud cracks of fireworks which were clearly meant just for me - the prankster was otherwise completely silent and gave no indication that he was there until I got very close.  Then he set them off.  Kids would have been in school at this time, so this was a bit odd, and I never saw any sign of my would-be startler as I paddled on.

 

Once past downtown Carrollton you’ll notice that the Kentucky shoreline is fairly steep at first with houses at the top that don’t become clearly visible until you’re on the opposite side of the river.  The shores here don’t ascend right away, though.  There are beaches at the very bottom.  Then, at about mile 543 there will be a cleared out area where a couple private ramps descend to the water just before a red day marker which indicates mile 542.3.

 

Meanwhile, in Indiana it looks like there might be an RV park across from this marker which has a couple ramps.  The charts indicate that this is a campground called Liberty Hill Haven, and here you’ll also be likely to catch your first glimpses of some smokestacks in the distance.  I continued to find the Indiana shores really beautiful for the next couple miles.

 

Two little creeks soon enter the river on the Kentucky side at about mile 542; one comes before and one comes after some machinery down by the water that looks like a conveyor.  The first stream was indicated on the charts as being Four Mile Creek, but it was dry over a shoal.  I did encounter a little deer here though…

 

 

 

Next came South Fork at mile 541.  “South Fork of what?”  You ask…  I can’t tell, to be honest, but if you go in about 150 yards you’ll discover a really interesting old bridge…

 

 

 

 

Now back to that conveyor…  It’s apparently part of a Dow Corning facility that lies further back from the shoreline here (http://www.dowcorning.com/content/about/aboutlocn/locations.aspx?lg=FNYAM), and according to their website they’ve been operating at this location since 1966.  In that time, this facility has become one of the world’s largest silicon production plants, making silicates that go into products like sealants, lotions, polishes, and antiperspirants.  Oddly, I didn’t see any particular signs for Dow Corning, but I could see some for Airgas, Inc.  Airgas apparently built their facility right here on the Dow Corning property in 2008, specifically to supply them with liquefied gasses for their operation.

 

 

 

The Indian Creek now enters the river at mile 540 in Indiana.  I got into this one almost a mile on my way back before I had to prematurely paddle out due to time constraints.

 

Now by this time I’d been seeing a towboat in the distance.  Not once or twice, but three or four times.  I believed it to be the same boat at first, but what in the heck was he doing?  What’s going on up there???  Turns out, once the river straightened a bit I could more clearly see a couple boats (one of which was the Eddie B. Marsh) moving barges around the location of Gallatin Steel at mile 539.5.  Check out Gallatin's website at https://www.gallatinsteel.com/Company/Tour/shippingorders/tabid/113/Default.aspx.  It's exceptional and it takes you through their entire steel making process).

 

 

 

 

Gallatin is apparently a joint venture between ArcelorMittal Steel and Gerdau Ameristeel, and this is the location of their Compact Strip Production Facility which produces some 1.4 million tons of hot band coils per year.  Well, I can tell you that this operation was a real hub of activity - the most I’d yet seen on the river.  Add to that another towboat approaching in the distance with a separate set of barges and you can see why I decided to paddle all the way over to the other side of the river to avoid this nautical traffic jam!

 

 

 

So, figuring that I had just enough time to cross, I headed on over and in the process found myself being uplifted by the waves - surfing - as I paddled.  Quite honestly, this startled me at first.  The waves hadn’t seemed that large while I was paddling along the shoreline, but once I’d gotten out to the middle of the river they were much larger.  At one point I could feel my boat being lifted almost completely out of the water.  Nevertheless, I steeled my nerve as I paddled along with them and at a slight upriver angle - both to increase my speed and also to reduce the possibility of being swept over.  It was all quite an experience for someone who hadn’t done it before and I found it to be quite exhilarating!

 

Getting to the other side, however, I soon discovered that the oncoming towboat (the James G. Hines of American Commerical Lines LLC http://www.aclines.com/site/aboutus/about-us.html) was also hugging this side with his barges.  “Hmm…  OK.  I’ll stop and wait while he passes.”  No luck...  He was apparently waiting too - for the other towboats at Gallatin Steel to cease their activity and I’d have to very carefully paddle right beside him along the shoreline.  I hoped that in his eyes I was doing the right thing.  I don’t want to be an added inconvenience for these guys.  I mean, do they wonder who this lunatic kayaker is or are they content to suffer my company?

 

 

 

Anyway, there were some really great rocky beaches at this point and as I paddled I was able to get some nice close-up shots of the James G. Hines.  According to their website American Commercial Lines (“ACL”) began their operation on the Kentucky River transporting coal, but they’re now much more fully diversified and own some 2,500 barges and 125 towboats.

 

Meanwhile, up ahead around mile 538.5 there was one interesting area in Kentucky where the slope of the bank was so slight that I could see all the way up onshore.  I thought it was nice to finally be able to get an unobstructed view of some farmland.

 

 

 

Then, directly across the water in Indiana, there was another daymarker (green this time) right at the point of the Ogle Haus Inn.  This was a nice looking Bavarian style structure which might have once been a “free standing” hotel, but it’s now apparently operated by Best Western.  Either way, I’d say that this is definitely a place where a paddler might be able to get out and stay - you’d just have to walk your stuff up.

 

 

 

This inn also seems to usher in the town of Vevay which runs from here on down to the point at which I stopped today - the community ramp just after mile 538.  Vevay really looks like a nice little town and it has some great looking old homes.  Its ramp, too, is the sight of a very nice - and large - community park.  In fact, it looks like there might even be an amphitheatre up there!  Yep!  Just looked it up...  This is the Paul Ogle Riverfront Park Amphitheater!

 

 

Also interesting is that down by the end of the ramp there are 3 conical structures which, in turn, designate the names “Vevay”, “Indiana” and “Switzerland” (the county).  They looked to need a little paint or you might clearly be able to read them for miles, but I thought they were a great expression of community pride!

 

Not to be outdone however, Ghent, Kentucky also had a couple ramps here directly across from Vevay and one of them looked to extend down from a stop light.  I guessed it to be public.  Not sure about the other one…  There’s also another industrial plant in the distance here, but I’ll wait until next time to explore that area.  Given the wind conditions I felt it best to begin starting back at this point. 

 

I did pass another towboat (the Gail Ann) on my return and also got in the aforementioned Indian Creek.

 

 

 

Would I meet some more interesting people back at the Point Park ramp in Carrollton like I did last time?  No, but I did catch another set of barges being pushed upriver in the semi darkness.  It was a pleasant scene which was witnessed by quite a few passers by in their vehicles.  Carrollton really is a great place to visit.  It’s just so darned peaceful out here!

 

 

 

(Alas, as I complete this journal on November 9, I find that both the weather and the length of the days have become such that this will have to be my last paddling trip of the year.  Should fate and finances allow me to continue, I’ll look forward to doing more of the Ohio in 2011.  So far I’ve gone a little over 60 of the Ohio’s 980 miles, so it’ll probably take me another couple years to finish.  My goal is to begin paddling more sections once the spring rains have settled out next year – possibly in May or June – and then continue paddling through next October. 

 

As I see it, I’ve got at least 5 good months (June, July, August, September and October) to paddle; then figuring that there are about 4 weeks per month that’s 20 total weeks.  At 2 -3 trips per week, that means I’d get about 50 trips in.  8 – 10 miles per trip, and I’m left with the conclusion that I might be able to get 400 – 500 miles on the Ohio next year and another 400 – 500 the next.  We’ll see what happens…)

 

DIRECTIONS:

 

Carrollton is directly accessible from Louisville or Cincinnati via Interstate 71.  Just take the KY227 exit and head north.  Then, once you hit the dead-end you'll take a left on US42.  The park with the ramp ( Point Park) will be on the far side of town on the right just before you go over a bridge.  You'll see a sign for it.

 

Scenic Drive from Lexington:

 

As far as what I did from Lexington, I first went to Frankfort and then headed north on US127.  Then, just past Monterrey, Kentucky I took a left onto KY355 and followed it and the signs to the General Butler State Park (they indicate that it’s 25 miles up ahead) in Carrollton.  The farms in here will stun you in the fall with their beauty, and you’ll also go through the communities of Gratz and Fairview (you can stop at the News Café in Gratz or the Fairview Restaurant in Fairview if you’re hungry).