We are currently implementing site-wide upgrades.
Some functionality may be temporarily affected.
your paddlesports destination

Kentucky River in Kentucky

Trip Overview

Kentucky River - pool between Lock 8 & 9

It's been awhile since I've written anything about my kayak adventures. Mostly because I have been at hammer and nail building me a "home port" cabin on the Kentucky River for the last 8 months. The cabin has been livable for the last 2 months and every thing else is just piddle work.

So my neighbor and I decided it was time and put in just above the cabin this past Saturday afternoon and headed towards Lock Nine. Deb had planned to go, but the overcast weather turned her away and my neighbor also thought it would be a dreary day, but was up for a paddle just the same. I knew the sun would come out and it would be a glorious day... and it was.

The lock was about a 7 mile paddle, but my goal was a cave that was about 5 miles up river. I had been taken to the face of the cave the previous year, but not in to it. So I brought several flashlights for this trip.

We hadn't been in the water a half hour before the clouds broke and it became a beautiful sun shinny day. There was no wind and the water was as smooth as glass. After the first couple miles, a Great Blue Heron started to fly ahead of us, land on the bank, then take to flight again as we got closer. He stayed close to the water and never made a sound. If you weren't looking, you wouldn't see him at all. Finally, he disappeared ahead of us. Then up in the distance, we saw a large flock of large birds circling and thought they were Turkey Vultures. But then I saw a couple lower and told Larry that I thought they were Blue Heron. He didn't think so at first, because neither of us had seen a flock of Herons in that large a number. But as we came around the next bend, we saw two Sycamore tree's that had a total of 10 Blue Heron nest in them, all full of adults and the sounds of chicks.

It was a grand sight. Again, I had not seen a flock of these large storks in that number in Kentucky, let alone nesting. We must have floated around the area of the nest's for 10 minutes in just awe of the shear number of these great birds. When we started up the river again, we came around the bend and saw a couple more Sycamore trees with THIRTY-FIVE nest in them. Incredible. The Great Blue Heron is not only surviving on the Kentucky River, he is thriving, vibrant and multiplying. What a sight to see.

Around the next bend was the cave I was paddling to. You wouldn't know a cave was there if it wasn't previous knowledge, as you can't see it from the water. A fellow paddler from the area is the only reason I knew, as he took me to the opening last fall. From the water, the area just looks like palisades, or cliff line. There is also a column and an arch that can't be seen unless you are looking for them.

We beached the boats, grabbed a couple beers and hiked up a very steep trail about a hundred feet up to the cave opening. The opening is about the size of a small two story house. Apparently this is where most stop, hang out, drink beer, have fires and camp out. It has a little graffiti on the walls, but not really over bearing. I believe though that more should practice no trace and take out the empties that are carried in full. There was at least two dozen beer cans half burnt in the fire pits.

Larry and I donned our head lamps, went to the back of the cave opening and dropped to our knees for the 50 or so foot crawl into the next chamber. After the short crawl, we came to a room that was about 30 feet wide, six to eight feet tall and over a thousand feet long. There were empty tea candles dotted all over the place. This seemed to be the next favored place to hang out in the cave, though we only saw two or three empty beer cans and about three signs of graffiti.

At the end of the corridor, the cave split in two different directions. There was a bright orange arrow on one wall that indicated the way to go. A friend told me that Marble Creek runs through the cave and evidence of it was at the next passage. It was another knee crawl that included about 2 inches of water. Larry and I decided that we would do this another time with better gear.

On our way back out, Larry mentioned that this was the first time that he had really been inside of a cave. I suggested that we turn off the flashlights so he could get the real feeling of it. We did and you could barely see light from the entrance way. But you still could not see your hand in front of your face. Even though we could see the glow from the entrance direction, Larry said it was a very uncomfortable feeling being in that amount of total darkness. The cave was a great adventure that has to be explored deeper in the near future.

Going down river, it only took us a bit over an hour to paddle the 5 miles back to the truck and 5 minutes to drive back to the cabin. To our delight, when we got there, Deb already had the grill going and tator's in the oven. We had a great cook out on the front porch.

The river had started to come alive with spring traffic and we saw a boat go by and some one yelled "Hey, there's Ledbetter's cabin", then took a picture of the place. I don't even know who it was, but I got out my big air horn that my sister got me and gave them a good blast. Apparently they had a small one and gave me about 4 toots back. In which I responded in four toots and so on till they were down the river.

The sun set too soon and the day was over. I had to be at work at 5am on Sunday, so we headed back to the city and our every day lives...


State maintained put in. No accommodations other than ramp and dirt parking


No fee's or permits required, courtesy of the state


Take hwy 39 south out of Nicholasville, turn left on 1541. turn left on Hunters Ferry Rd. (beside church). Take this straight to the river.


The Kentucky Atlas and Gazetteer is great for getting to this spot
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip